Yesterday, for the first time in a very long time, I headed out for a run in my neighborhood. As much as I love my neighborhood, running in it can be a little bit daunting, because it’s just constant hills no matter where I go. Plus, since I live right on the middle of a long big hill, it means that either the beginning or the end of my run is always pretty tiring. But every time I actually make it out and go for a run, I’m so glad that I did… and yesterday was no exception.
Unlike today’s blizzard, yesterday was a beautiful spring morning. (Oh, Colorado weather, how fickle you are!) On my run, I was really excited to see tons of trees in bloom. Are these cherry trees with the white blossoms? I don’t know. I’m definitely not a horticulturalist; I save everything garden-related for my mom. So: name that tree!
While running around the hills of the open space behind my neighborhood, I was especially excited to see that a lot of green everywhere. There was a big fire about two months ago that destroyed a lot of the vegetation in this area, and while a lot of people told me that it would eventually be good for the natural habitat, I didn’t quite believe it. (See also: I’m not a horticulturalist.) But it’s already green again – yay!
My big takeaway from my run yesterday morning was not how great it is to get out and run… because really I already know that. (Well, at least most of the time – a reminder of how fun it can be sure doesn’t hurt.) Instead, I learned about how much of a difference my effort makes in my speed.
After PRing in the 5K two weeks ago, I thought that my natural pace without effort had now graduated to speedy. Yesterday morning I set out with podcast (but no watch) and I assumed my time would still be pretty fast, like it had been in the race. I wasn’t going hard, necessarily, but didn’t running a fast 5k mean that I am now part of that group that can go out and run 7 minute miles all the time? The answer to that is a big fat NO.
In order to be fast, I have to fix my mind on it and and focus my efforts on running fast – and then I can do it without a problem. Yesterday, though, I was zoning out and listening to podcasts – and as a result of that inattention, my paces were in the 9 to 10 minute range (particularly when I was on the hills I mentioned earlier). But I really love listening to podcasts while I’m running; sometimes, the promise of great podcast content is what gets me out the door. So I’m not going to give that up either!
So in short, I discovered that if a workout is an easy run meant for recovery, it’s fine to listen to a podcast. But if I’m actually trying to train to go fast, I need to either put on music so that my mind can focus on going fast instead of on digesting content, or I need to be at the gym, where an instructor will push me and a treadmill won’t lie. Relaxing miles aren’t going to get me anywhere when it comes to improving my race times. However, they’re a lot of fun, so there’s a place for those as well, and I’m not going to stop taking photo-filled runs anytime soon.
And of course, the flip side is that running a fast time (whether in a race or in training) is also really fun. I started running to surprise everyone, and myself, with what I could achieve. Now, looking down at my watch at the end of a hard workout and seeing how fast I ran is what gets me surprised and excited. I love hitting crazy speeds on the treadmill (11mph on all my sprints at a tread class this week, even on an incline!), and I love seeing my watch register a finish time or a pace that I didn’t think I could achieve. While the work to get me there might not be easy and might not even be all that fun in the moment, it is really fun when you get to the end result in the form of a time you never thought possible.