What No One Tells You About Running Faster

You guys. I have to talk about something...ready? RUNNING FASTER REALLY HURTS!

It's impossible to be a runner and not want to run faster. Even when you run solely for the love of running, like I've done for years, it's inevitable that you'll find yourself wanting to improve your time, run stronger, and see what you're capable of.

I knew when I set a goal to BQ (qualify for the Boston Marathon) by taking my marathon time from 3 hours and 59 minutes to 3 hours and 32 minutes that it wasn't going to be easy. I knew I was going to have to work harder than I've ever worked before and push myself through hundreds of miles filled with doubt and discomfort. But what I didn't know was how much it was going to hurt! I never heard my faster friends talk about how painful it is to run faster! They talked about tough and exhausting workouts were, but they never failed to me in on their painful little secret! That it hurts to run fast AF.

This past weekend were the NYRR Team Championships in Central Park, an incredibly fast 5 mile race thrown by the New York Road Runners. When my coach Josh Maio called on Friday to discuss my time goal and race strategy, he gave me a goal time of 37 minutes and 30 seconds. In order for me to do that, I needed to run an average pace of 7 minutes and 31 seconds...for 5 miles. So, understandably, I panicked.

What really sucks is that my initial reaction was I can't do that. Running that fast for that long is TERRIFYING even though I know that I can do it. I've done it in practice (kind of) with Josh and Gotham City Runners, and I've done it before in races (kind of). But for some reason, my self imposed limits stopped me from just accepting that I've done the work and 7 minute 30 second miles aren't impossible anymore. They just aren't easy.  

My goal this race was to prove to myself that I can get uncomfortable and not give up. We took off and I ran the first mile a little faster than I had anticipated. Totally OK because that either meant that I was going to crush my goal or that I could afford to catch my breath if I needed it in the miles ahead. Mile 2 was right on track and it was during mile 3 that the head games began.

Running for time is all about staying in the moment and not letting your mind wander. Being ultra present is the only way I can compartmentalize and rationalize being that uncomfortable. Every single step, I kept repeating to myself I CAN DO THIS. When my legs burned, I told myself that I could do it. When my brain started to wander and tell me to catch my breath, I told myself I could do it. When we climbed a hill that wouldn't end, I told myself I could do it. I thought of Josh and how I wanted to show him that I cared. That all his hard work and patience weren't for nothing. And most importantly, I wanted to show myself that I wasn't going to give up when it stopped being easy like I've done a billion times before.

Miles 3 and 4 were, without a doubt, the hardest miles of the race both mentally and physically. There was a point when we got to the west side of Central Park that I started asking myself why I was pushing myself to be in pain to begin with. Running for fun is infinitely more enjoyable, why was I pushing through pain so that I could run faster? At what cost was I willing to BQ? When that happened, I tried to turn my brain off altogether and I alternated between get to that light pole and I can do this.

But after I finished, I realized I needed to redraw my target. I have my goal, now I need to figure out what I'm running for. BQ'ing for the sake of BQ'ing isn't enough for me. Running as fast as I did during the NYRR Team Championships was really, really hard and painful. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about how fast I ran! I mean my god, 37 minutes and 50 seconds! FINALLY! IT'S HAPPENING! I just need to figure out what's going to motivate me through the next 68 days until the Chicago Marathon.