Author Archives: Scott Martin

Blah, blah, blah … running is blah

Screen Shot 2020-06-27 at 7.39.08 PMSaturday morning I went through my usual morning routine. I fixed a cup of coffee and grabbed a protein bar from the fridge (yes, I keep them in the fridge, they are better cold), picked up my journals, and wrote for about half an hour. When I closed my journal, my coffee cup empty and my protein bar gone, I stood up and told myself it was time to go for a run.

I did not want to.

The training plan I’m following, which is structured for the Beach to Beacon (even if it isn’t happening), called for me to do a progression run. Nothing too daunting, just 20 seconds per mile faster every 5 minutes until I reach a pace I can’t hold for the full 5 minutes. The workout itself didn’t worry me, even if I crashed pretty hard the last time I tried it (that’s kind of the point, I think, find out where you crash), I just didn’t want to do, well, anything.

It’s not all that surprising. I haven’t been particularly motivated to run, or do much else, lately. I’m not sleeping well, and the heat and humidity doesn’t agree with me. My diet has been trash. My fitness, and my overall health, is not exactly where I would like it to be lately.

I did get out the door and do that progression run. It wasn’t great, but I’m able to write in my training log and move on. I made it through 25 minutes, working my way down to 5 minutes at 7:47 pace and called it a day. Well, I had to jog home, which was an additional 2 miles, but I tapped out on the workout after 25 minutes and less than 3 miles. I was pooped by the time I finished my 5-mile day.

I’m not bumming too hard about my lack of motivation right now. I mean, I’m not training for anything. I’m pretty sure this pandemic is going to keep me (and everyone else) from racing for at least the rest of the year. I just hate feeling lazy, sluggish and unmotivated.

I’m not really sure how to snap out of this. I’ve heard that mood follows action, but I’ve tried to get myself going by getting going and my mood hasn’t changed lately.

I just don’t wanna.

One friend suggested I just run every day, easy. No workouts. No time trials. Nothing other than jogging. It’s worth a shot, but I usually have a hard time getting out the door every day if all I’m doing is going out for a jog. I’ve tried to mix things up, hitting the trails on occasion, but I’m not really a trail runner and spend more time worrying about falling flat on my face, then enjoying the views and the effort. The gym is open, which always makes it easier to do the little things like PT and maintenance, but I will not be going to the gym anytime soon, not in the middle of a pandemic, thanks.

I’ve tossed around a few ideas in my own head as well:

• The 4x4x48 challenge but I haven’t run 48 miles in a week since October, much less in 48 hours.

• A 1-mile time trial, then train to try to run one faster in a month, then again in two months. Great idea, but the last time I ran a mile,

• Train like the Beach to Beacon is actually happening, then run a time trial on the day the race was supposed to happen. This is sort of what I’m doing, but, as I’ve written here, my motivation is … blah.

I don’t have the answer to find my missing motivation. I guess the answer for now is to keep slogging alone. Maybe I’ll try one of the challenges above. Maybe I’ll convince myself to act like a runner who gives a shit, or at least like the runner I was last summer when I trained just hard enough to PR by 27 seconds in the marathon. Maybe I’ll start sleeping better and eating better, and that will help.

Maybe this blah feeling will just continue until it’s time to do my next progression run.

The story of wasting quarantine

IMG_4324When the coronavirus started to shut down life as we know it and we were told to stay home as much as possible, I read a bunch articles, received a handful of email newsletters and watched a crapload of videos warning me not to waste this time. One author/philosopher actually created a course to help you make sure you took advantage of all this free time. 

You can’t go anywhere, you’ll be locked in your house, you’ll have plenty of time to be productive, they said. Use it wisely. Study. Learn. Start that business. Work on that novel. Learn to cook. Get swole.

On March 15 I worked my last shift in the office and have been home, in my apartment, for about four months. 101 days exactly.

For the first month, I left only to go running. I had groceries delivered. I didn’t visit anyone, even at a social distance. I didn’t have anywhere to go. Honestly, I didn’t want to go anywhere. My anxiety was on blast.

Four months later, I leave the house a little more often. I’m still working from home, but I will go to the grocery store and run necessary errands. I’ll also visit my parents, my brother, my sisters, and their families, outside and socially distanced. I run six days a week and no longer freak out when I cross paths with walkers, joggers and bikers. Today I met up with my brother and nephew to go mountain biking.

And you know what I have accomplished?

• I rewatched all 22 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

• I watched 10 two-hour episodes of The Last Dance, five one-hour episodes of The Last Ride, two nights of WrestleMania 36, The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever (it was good, but not the greatest ever), two seasons of The Wire, two seasons of Marvel’s Agents of Shield, the sixth season of Bosch, and more YouTube than I care to admit.

• I’ve read or listened to 10 books.

• I’ve spent way too much time in my social media feeds and following the news cycle, which has caused more anxiety and depression and anger and imposter syndrome than I’m OK with.

• I work five days a week (thank goodness for that).

In other words, nothing, I’ve accomplished nothing. All that “free time” I have in quarantine/work from home, I’m wasting it.

I have tried to write, but my heart and head isn’t in it. Thankfully, I’m still working and my schedule is pretty much the same as it was before the pandemic, even without any sports to cover (I can’t express how grateful I am for that). I haven’t learned to cook or developed any new skills. I don’t want to start a business and I haven’t started “that novel.” I certainly haven’t gotten swole. Whatever the opposite of swole is, I’ve gone further in that direction during work-from-home.

I still run. I’m not running the type of mileage I was at this time last year when I was preparing for the Chicago Marathon, but after spending November and December not running, and January and February doing the run/walk thing, 30-35 miles is a win. 

Otherwise, yeah, I’ve left a lot on the table. I’ve wasted a lot of time. I’m not real happy about that, but I’m also not going to keep beating myself up about it. Nothing about what we are going through is normal and nothing is going to be normal for a while. It has taken time to adjust and honestly, I’m still adjusting. 

I want to do better, I want to be more productive. What have I done to change my momentum? Well, I’m trying to spend less time on social media. It’s a time suck that makes me feel bad about myself (comparison is the thief of joy, especially when you suffer from imposter syndrome) and makes me angry with people I don’t care enough about to be mad at. I’m also sitting down to write. As bad as this post is, it’s more than I’ve written when I wasn’t on the clock for work, in more than a month. I’m trying to read more, with varying degrees of success, and I’m trying to keep up with my physical therapy so I can continue to run, with a little less success than I would like to admit. 

No one knows when life will get back to normal. I’m not sure it will ever get back to “normal.” I won’t be going back to the office and getting back into those routines until at least September. So, maybe now after 101 days at home, living in this “new normal,” I can start to make better use of this time. Maybe not. 

It’s worth a shot to try, but it’s not worth hating myself if I end up watching all 22 Marvel movies again, either. 

Trying to get moving

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Social distance runner

I never made any firm goals for 2020. I toyed around with signing up for this race or that race, and training for it. I thought running the Maine Track Club Grand Prix series might be kind of fun. I never did put anything on the schedule, though, I decided to just focus on getting healthy and enjoying running again.

That decision has since been taken out of my hands. In the midst of a global pandemic, races everywhere have been postponed or outright canceled, as we deal with the fallout. I’m super fortunate that I still have a job and can work from home, and that I am able to, and encouraged to, get out and run on most days.

But without anything to train for, with gyms closed and my training class canceled, motivation has been a little bit hard to come by. I’ve fallen into bad habits, like skipping physical therapy and strength work, not warming up or cooling down properly. I rarely have a plan when I leave the house to go for a run. And my running has suffered. I’ve been sore and feeling beat up, my knee aches, my calf is tight, my hamstrings a little blah.

If this is the worst thing I have to deal with during this pandemic (it’s not, not being able to see my family and friends as much as usual is), then I’m in a pretty good spot. I understand that and I am grateful.

Still, running and training help me feel better about myself. Having those routines I try to stick to while training for a race, a series of races or while chasing a goal, helps me stay in a positive frame of mind. It gives me something to focus on, rather than sitting around stewing in all the thoughts in my head.

With no race to train for, I’m forced to find some other form of motivation, and I’ve been struggling with that.

I’ve been playing around with the idea of following a training plan for a race (the Beach to Beacon) that isn’t happening. Maybe getting on a plan and preparing to run a time trial on the day I was supposed to run a race will help me get back into those good habits. I don’t know if it will actually work, but right now, I think it is probably worth a shot.

And I’m going to give it a shot. I haven’t settled on a plan yet, but I have a few options. To get the ball rolling, I’ve done most of my physical therapy and some strength work the last two days, and this evening I’m planning to do some hill repeats, just a little something to work on the things I would if I was actually preparing for a race.

I figure I need to do something because who knows when we will be able to get together and race again. I’m not expecting to race again this year, so I’m going to come up with my own challenges, something to get me out the door doing the right type of work.

A little kick in the ass to get myself going again and to give myself something else to focus on. That’s all I’m looking for.

 

Nine years later, feeling especially grateful

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9 years a runner, and more grateful than ever.

Note: I was confused earlier this month and posted this on the wrong day. May 29, not May 11, is the anniversary of my first run. Everything else in this post stands.

I haven’t felt much like writing lately, and writing about running right now seems silly and unimportant. There are a thousand other things running through my mind –

The world is falling apart. People are dying. People are sick. Am I going to get sick? I need to wash my hands. Don’t touch your face. Oh shit, people are losing jobs, people I know. How long will I have a job? I’ve survived 20-plus years in the newspaper business, which feels like a miracle at this time in this business, will this be the thing that pushes us over the edge? I need groceries, is it safe to go to the store? I’m freaking out. Do I need a mask to go out for a run? Is it OK to go for a run? Why are people arguing so damn much? Can’t we all be grownups for once?

– and writing about running is pretty low on the list. Writing period is pretty low on the list. With all that noise in my head, and the anxiety I’ve been feeling, I have zero motivation and even less brain space to be creative.

And I have it relatively easy. I still have that job, I can stay home and work from home, and I didn’t suddenly have to become a teacher while also trying to do my job and keep from freaking out.

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Still running, still grateful, looking forward to a little normal.

Still, none of this is easy. This pandemic has impacted all of us, even if we never get sick. It’s hard to deal with not seeing family or friends, having our routines completely disrupted and dealing with the anxiety that comes with this.

Not to mention all the arguing.

But today I reached a milestone that is worth celebrating and worth spending a few minutes thinking about and writing about. It’s a story I’ve told at least seven other times (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) and frankly, I don’t know how else to tell it.

Nine years ago today, I became a runner. I am thankful now, more than ever, to be able to get out the door every day for a few miles.

The only constant in all of this has been running. Five or six days a week, I head out the door to log some miles, just like I was before the coronavirus reached the States and forced us all to completely change the way we live. This is the only one of my routines that hasn’t completely changed.

For that, I am extremely grateful.

It’s not that running serves as any kind of therapy for me because I’ve never really bought into that. Yes, it does allow me some time to think things through, but that’s not why I run. I run to be better physically, to chase goals, and to not feel like such a lazy slug, not to clear my head, not to work through my issues. Those may be side effects, but it is definitely not my focus when I run, so I don’t treat it that way.

Right now, running is giving me something to look forward to. I’m not training for any race because who knows when we will be able to race again, and I’m slacking off on all the things I need to be as healthy and fast as possible. I’m just searching for a little bit of normal and at a time when nothing is normal. That’s what running is to me right now. I miss training for races. I miss doing the work to try to get better, to get as fast as I possibly can be by race day, but right now, a little bit of normal is all I care to get out of running.

Nine years after that first “run,” I feel extremely lucky to be healthy enough to continue this habit. I am grateful to be generally healthy enough to spend 30 minutes, an hour, 2 hours outside jogging around my neighborhood, spending time doing something other than freaking out about all that is going on.

Thank you running, for giving me a little bit of normal.

Creatively become a better runner

IMG_0170The past few years have been a battle to keep myself healthy and running. My knees have not always cooperated and during the down times, when I am not able to log the type of miles I want to, I have tried to find other outlets. I’ve dabbled in photography. I’ve done a little bit of writing. I’ve picked up a couple of sketch books but hardly cracked them open, much less drawn anything.

In an effort to find my muse, to understand what it takes to find my voice and do the type of creative work I want to, I’ve searched out a few highly recommended books. I re-read Stephen King’s On Writing for the fourth of fifth time, as much because I am entertained by the way he tells his own story as for tips on being a productive writer. I picked up photographer/podcaster Chase Jarvis’ book “Creative Calling,” after listening to him make the rounds promoting the book. I read, and re-read Austin Kleon’s triology, “Steal Like an Artist,” “Show Your Work,” and “Keep Going.” Lastly, I just finished reading Stephen Pressfield’s book, “The War of Art,” which defines that thing that keeps most of us from doing the work, THE RESISTANCE, and tries to give us the tools to overcome it.

Interestingly enough, the things I learned have helped my fitness routine more than they have helped my creative routines. In fairness, the back cover of “The War of Art,” does ask if you ever, among other things, “wish you could start dieting or exercising today?”, “hope to run a marathon someday?” But my goal was not to find tips on how to be a better runner. My goal was simply to break out of this cycle of saying, “I want to write,” “I want to create art,” “I want to make photos,” and instead, actually do those things.

The No. 1 takeaway from all of these books is to create a routine, a habit. Jarvis writes that “creativity is not a skill, it’s a habit.” Stephen King writes about his goal of writing 2,000 words a day, and staying in his office until he has reached that goal every day. Austin Kleon talks about creating a bliss station, a place you go or a time of day (or both) you set aside to create your art. Pressfield stresses that to ignore your muse is to spite The Almighty (that seems a little drastic to me, but I get the point).

This has proven to be 100 percent applicable to running for me. Being fit, doing the things I need to do to be a good runner, is all about habit. If I stick to a routine of running at a certain time (my bliss station), do my dynamic warmup before my miles and my physical therapy, stretching and rolling immediately after, those routines become habits. I was on quite a roll with all of this too until the current situation with the coronavirus ramped up my anxiety and forced me to take a step back.

For me, getting in miles and doing the necessary things to keep myself on the roads is all about setting routines and showing up for myself, and my muse, every day. Of course, as an athlete, it’s not all about going all out all the time. I don’t think any of these creative types are encouraging that either, but as an athlete (it feels pretty arrogant to call myself that, but I have a running blog, which is kind of the height of arrogance, isn’t it?) that is something I have to remember and stick with.

Another important thing I learned in my research that applies to running is to avoid comparison. It is the thief of joy, as Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saying. “Your goal should always be to become the best you, not a pretty good — or even damn good — version of someone else,” Jarvis writes. Scrolling through Strava and feeling like everyone is kicking more ass than I am is a recipe for bad things to happen. Ignore the noise, these guys say, and focus on the work you need to do.

I’m in a good stop with running right now. I’m running more and more every week and feeling better and better. I will, however, continue to explore ways to flex my creative muscles and being a better writing, artist … whatever it is that strike gets my creative juices going.

Hopefully, the things I read, watch and listen to help me become a better runner, too.

Longfellow Frostbite 2.5K 1.0

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Racing down Congress Street was pretty fun, if it wasn’t so cold. (Photo by Maine Running Photos)

In the weeks after the Chicago Marathon I wasn’t feeling great but I wanted something to motivate me to get back to work. I signed up for the Jimmy the Greeks Frozen 4-Miler, the Mid Winter Classic 10-miler and the Longfellow Frostbite 2.5K.

Well, my knee ended up being a much bigger pain in the ass then I anticipated and I didn’t run for about 4 week. When I did start running again, it wasn’t terribly comfortable and I wasn’t doing very much of it. The 10-miler was off the table within a few weeks of signing up for it. I could have done the 4-miler but it would have been a super slow slog (I was only running for 15 minutes at a time at that point) and the timing just wasn’t going to work out because I had to work that afternoon.

So, I started 2020 with two Did Not Starts. I’m OK with that, it’s just not exactly what I had in mind after running Chicago.

I’m happy to report I was able to finally start and finish a race in 2020, the Longfellow 2.5K on Sunday, and it was actually quite a bit of fun.

I didn’t have very high expectations for this race. I’m still only running three or four days a week and I have just started to add some strength/speed stuff into my routine. The hill workout I did the Wednesday before the 2.5K was really the first and only workout I’ve done since Chicago, so my fitness is pretty much non-existent.

Despite that, I’m pretty happy with how the race went. I finished in 11:21, which translates to about a 7:18 per mile pace. Not super fast, especially when you consider the only time I raced the mile I finished in 6:36 and my last 5K I averaged 6:52. But what little running I have been doing since Chicago has been super slow, so to hold onto 7:18 pace for a little more than a mile and a half … I’ll take it.

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My form is a little sloppy, I’m really out of shape, and I’m not very fast, but it was super fun to pin on a bib and race. (Photo by Maine Running Photos)

There is not really much to say about the race. It was just a quick run from Lincoln Park on Congress Street to Longfellow Square and back. I figured I’d run at a comfortably hard effort, just enough to feel like I was actually putting in work, and be happy to feel good. Racing on Sunday was way more about getting in the arena, toeing a starting line and feeling that rush again. It was a chance to see a few friends and do something other than jog my mileages. I accomplished each of those things.

I took off with the crowd, running faster than I thought I would, but it felt all right, so I just tried to keep running that pace. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel nearly as bad as I thought it would. It didn’t feel great, but it didn’t feel awful either. That’s a win, no doubt about that.

Sunday was a start. A nice reminder of why I’m doing all the work I have to do. It was the fuel I need right now to keep going to the gym to do my physical therapy, as tedious and boring as it sometimes is. I’ve made huge strides since jacking up my knee again running Chicago. I’m still not 100 percent – if I stand for too long or if I sit the wrong way at work for too long (which I always do), my knee starts to ache. I am in a much better place than I was and I’m excited to do more, not so excited that I’m going to rush into anything stupid, but excited to keep doing the work, to continue making progress, and to step into the arena again sometime soon.

Missing out … and that’s OK

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The 2017 Mid Winter Classic. This is one of the best races I’ve ever had, one of those days where I didn’t leave anything on the table and far exceeded my expectations.

My favorite race is a week away and I will not be running in it. This is not a new development. I signed up for the Mid Winter Classic in November with the hope that, with physical therapy and treatment, I’d be running enough in December and January to toe the line on Feb. 2. It didn’t take long to realize that I wouldn’t be ready to run the 10-miler on Super Bowl Sunday. I’ve known I wouldn’t run the race since early December.

I’m not here to piss and moan about it. Yeah, I’d really like to be healthy enough to run the race on Sunday, but I’m not there yet. I haven’t run more than 6 1/2 miles since the Chicago Marathon. I’m definitely not in a place where I would even attempt to jog 10 miles.

But, I am running and I am feeling a lot better than I was in October, November and December. My knee still gets tired and a little sore, but the constant ache is gone, and the sharp pain I felt during the marathon and in those few runs the week following is gone. My hamstring is still also a little sore, but it doesn’t constantly hurt while I run, and I’m working out those kinks.

I’m heading in the right direction and that is why I’m not pissing and moaning about not racing on Super Bowl Sunday.

I have loads of work left to do. I’m only jogging for 20 minutes at a time. Saturday I jogged for 20 minutes, walked for 3 minutes, jogged for 20 minutes, walked for 3 minutes, then jogged for 10 more minutes. That’s about all I can handle right now. Well, I probably could run longer, but it’s not smart to push it yet, and for once in my life, I’m trying to be smart.

In the months since the marathon I have spent much more time in the gym then I have on the roads. Every day, I spent 30-45 minutes going through my physical therapy routine. It’s not terribly extensive and the exercises are not very taxing, but I am rebuilding the muscles that will allow me to run without constant pain in my knees. At some point, I will have to start doing more strength work, but my routine right now has me heading in the right direction, so I will keep it up.

And at some point I will start running more, but I will not rush it. I have no goal races on my schedule, I have no times I am chasing, no mileage numbers I want to hit. I would like to have a goal to chase later this year, but right now my only goal is to run pain free. My only focus is on doing the work to be able to enjoy running.

Races can wait, even if that mean I have to miss my one my favorites.

No second guessing, 2019 was a win

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The Mother’s Day 5K was my favorite race of 2019. I wasn’t expecting much from myself but ran as hard as I possibly could, felt awesome (in a brutally painful kind of way) while doing it and just missed a PR. I can’t wait to have more days like this. (Photo by Maine Running Photos)

It is easy right now to look at 2019 as kind of a shitshow in terms of running. My knee problems from 2017 reared their ugly head, I strained a hip flexor, and my left hamstring hasn’t really been right since the last month of marathon training.

 

My aches and pains are on the mend thanks to a lot of physical therapy, a lot of rest, a lot of trying to do things the right away.

That being said, I’m only running for 5 minutes at a time right now (5 minute jog, 2 minute walk, repeat). I’m feeling better every day, but it is hard not to be frustrated that I am not training for the Mid Winter Classic the way I want to be.

It would be easy to look at that, to focus on my body falling apart when I pushed toward my big audacious goals, and think of 2019 as a failure. After all, the biggest race of my year broke me.

2019 was far from a failure.

2019 was a year of huge wins.

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Riding the pain train at the Chicago Marathon. I was in a world of hurt right here. My right knee and left hamstring were screaming at me. I didn’t totally quit, though, and while I didn’t reach my ultimate goal of 3:47, I did set a marathon PR. You can never be upset with a marathon PR, especially when your body is revolting on you so much.

Yeah, it wasn’t perfect and I’m dealing with the fallout, but I met all but one of the goals I set for myself this year. I proved to myself that I can train harder enough to run another marathon. I figured out what my body is capable of and what goals I really want to chase in the future.

 

How can that be considered anything but a huge success?

That list of goals I set for myself in 2019 was geared toward one big goal, the one goal I didn’t meet this year. Running high-for-me mileage (a 50-mile week and a 200-mile month), running a sort-of-fast-for-me half marathon (sub 1:45), running a decent effort in the 5K (sub 23 minutes), losing 20 pounds, were all part of the process of preparing to run a 3:47 at the Chicago Marathon.

I met each of the goals I set leading up to the Chicago Marathon.

• I ran 1:44:59 at the Lake Auburn Half.

• I just missed my 5K PR, running 21:36 at the Mother’s Day 5K.

• By giving up beer and cleaning up my diet a bit, I lost 20 pounds (I’ve gained some of that back since the marathon).

• I ran 50 miles in a week and 200 miles in a month.

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The Lake Auburn Half was another huge win. I started off easily, pushed myself harder than I ever have in the second half of the race, and gained a ton of confidence. Days like this are why I love running so much. (Photo by Maine Running Photos)

If you have followed along at all, you know the only goal I didn’t meet in 2019 was finally running that 3:47 marathon. I was on pace for a long time at the Chicago Marathon, but the second half of the race was a painfest thanks to those hamstring and knee injuries, and I wasn’t quite tough enough in the last 5 miles (oh, and I had two bathroom breaks before that and that cost me some time) to finally run 3:47.

 

But I did fight my ass off to set a PR at Chicago, finishing in 3:49:45. I wish I had been a little tougher and hadn’t quit on myself a few times in that race, but I’m extremely proud that I handled the pain in those last 5 miles much better than I did at the end of the Sugarloaf Marathon in 2017. I stuck my nose in it, I didn’t allow myself to completely quit, and I proved to myself I could do hard things.

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Chicago hurt, A LOT, and I’m still dealing with the fall out, but WHAT A DAY. It was such a huge win. It was probably my last marathon and I’m OK going out on this note.

If that’s not a win, my standards are way too fucking high.

 

As I reflect on 2019 I will think about all of those successes. I will also think about the things that went wrong. The wins show me that if I put in the work I can accomplish the things I want to. The losses show me that I have to work that much harder to continue to be able to accomplish the things I want to.

Moving forward, I have no big audacious goals for 2020. All I want to do is get myself to a spot both physically and mentally where I can enjoy running again. The goal is to do the work to make my body better, to get stronger and fitter to try to prevent these injuries that keep putting me on the shelf from putting me on the shelf. I have started doing that work, but I have also cut myself some slack. I worked hard for a lot of 2019, it’s OK to step back and refresh a little bit.

At some point in the future, I will set some goals to chase after. I will probably never run another marathon, but I will set some lofty goals. I will try to run some fast races. If I learned anything in 2019 it is that I am capable of reaching those high standards I set for myself and I enjoy doing the work I have to do to get there.

Small progress is better than no progress

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Woodway jogs at Starting Line Run Studio on Sunday morning. This felt like progress.

All the ways we have as runners to measure progress – more miles on a daily and weekly basis; faster intervals during the mid-week workout; a faster 5K PR; a few more miles tacked onto that Sunday long run – none of them are relevant to me right now. Sure, I want to get faster, I want to be running for more than 3 minutes at a time. I’m a competitor, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about that stuff.

But right now, the only measure of progress I’m worried about is feeling better. Was my knee not quite so sore and did the soreness hold off for longer? Did that achy hamstring just feel tired or was it crampy and pulling? Did I feel like I could keep running at the end of each 3 minute rep without increasing the level of pain or the level of my breathing?

As I work my way back from an achy left hamstring and a case of patellofemoral pain syndrome (i.e. runner’s knee) in my right knee, the only thing I’m worried about is feeling better. Sunday morning as I jogged for 3 minutes at time on the treadmill at 10 minute per mile pace, I wasn’t worried about how slow it was or how many miles I was going to cover. No, instead I was checking in on my knee and my hamstring. I was thinking about my form, making sure not to over stride and heal strike, and monitoring the situation in my legs.

Sunday was a good step in the right direction. Last Wednesday, after an hour of physical therapy in the morning, I did my jog/walk along the East End Trail in the evening. It didn’t take long for my knee to hurt and my hamstring to cramp. I was already bummed out watching everyone else in the Mid-Winter Classic training group take off for their “beat your last interval” workout, so the pain in my legs put me in a pretty foul mood.

Things turned around slightly on Friday, when I took my “run” to the treadmill. I wasn’t nearly as sore or crampy and almost felt like a runner. Sunday was even better.

It’s hard not to feel discouraged when I’ve lost so much fitness and jogging/walking for 50 minutes is the most I’m able to handle right now. It’s hard not to get discouraged watching other people do the type of workouts you want to be doing, but am not quite physically able to do right now.

Sometimes though, you have to put things into perspective. Someone much smarter than I am recently told me that instead of comparing myself to others and trying to compete with them, I have to accept where I am at. Their journey is not my journey. That is not where I am at in my life, I shouldn’t feel bad about it, just accept it and do what I can. 

So, that has been my plan of attack. I’m not always as motivated as I would like to be, but right now my only goal is to do what I am capable of and feel good about it. I do my physical therapy every day. I run every other day. If I feel up to it, and my legs aren’t telling me to lay off, I’ll do some body weight exercises. Whatever I can do is what I can do. Whatever anyone else can do doesn’t matter. 

I feel like I’m moving in the right direction. I know I have a long way to go, and I will most definitely get discouraged by the process sometimes, but all I can do right now is stick my nose in it and do the work I am capable of doing.

Small progress is better than no progress. No matter how you measure it.

Symbols of excellence … or of just being better

img_4664When I stepped on the treadmill Monday morning I pulled off my hoodie. Underneath, I was wearing a blue and black singlet with a huge Chicago Marathon logo on the chest.

I felt a little silly wearing a singlet on the treadmill when I was going to be doing less than 40 minutes of work. I wore a singlet a lot in training this summer, but for me putting on a singlet is like putting on a game jersey, a uniform. Putting on a singlet means, it’s race day. It’s a signal to my brain that this is different than every other day. It’s time to perform, to put all that training to use.

In other words, it’s symbolic of the significance of the day.

Monday morning was nothing special. Heck, I was going to be walking more than I was going to be running. I planned to be on the treadmill for 38 minutes and cover about 3.1 miles. In other words, I was going to do 5K about a minute faster than it took me to “race” the distance 8 1/2 years ago when I “ran” my first race.

Like I said, nothing special.

But I wore that singlet for a reason. Just like race day, it was symbolic. I wore that singlet to remind myself that I am capable of big things, despite the way my body feels right now. Less than three months ago, I ran a freakin’ marathon. Yes, it chewed me up and spit me out, left me broken and bruised, but I ran a marathon. And I ran it faster than I’ve ever run 26.2 miles before.

So yeah, I’m a little broken and not quite feeling like the dude who ran a marathon on Oct. 13, but that singlet was a reminder that I am indeed able to do the things I want to do. If I stick my nose in it, do the work I’m supposed to do, the work I need to do to prepare for those things, I am capable. I am able to do the work. I have done it before. And big things can happen when I am willing and able.

That singlet was a reminder to get to work doing those things.

Running is not a heck of a lot of fun right now. Actually, I’m not even running that much. I hop on the treadmill every other day, walk for 5 minutes, then do about six intervals of 3 minutes jogging, 2 minutes walking. I’m actually spending a lot more time doing physical therapy, trying to repair my body and strengthen it to hold up to doing the type of running I want to be doing.

That’s fine. I’m OK with that … for now. I had a great year of running and a couple of stellar races, it’s actually a good time to give myself a break, assess where I am at, and fix the things that are broken. It’s a great time for me to create new routines, new habits related to fitness and running. If it was forced upon me because I got so banged up running the marathon, then that is a blessing.

I may not feel like the guy who ran the Chicago Marathon a little over two months ago, I may have felt silly wearing that singlet on the treadmill for a run/walk Monday morning, but right now I’m just focused on doing the right things. I can’t compare myself to where I was, I can only do the work to get back to where I was – no, scratch that, I can only do the work to be better than I was.

That singlet was a reminder of what I’m capable of, but also a kick in the ass to be even better.