From time to time, I listen to the Marathon Training Academy podcast ( *** ) while working out at the gym. The episode, “Finding Your ‘Why’ as a Long-Distance Runner,” really hit home for me. After March’s NYC Half-Marathon, I found myself questioning why do I even bother with this sport. Or, what’s the point?
One of the things that the episode talks about is having a “sticky why” – something that will continue to drive your interest in long-distance running (or anything in life). I will say that over the last couple of years my why has not really adapted/evolved.
Originally, my why was all about commuting to work. I mentioned this before, but I got into running by chance. Back in 2010, I used to ride my bicycle to work pretty much every day. One morning, both of the bicycle’s tires were flat, and I did not feel like changing them. Since I already had my athletic clothes on, I decided to run to work (to the Upper East Side from Roosevelt Island). The original distance was about 3.5 miles, but I started adding more distance to my commute, mainly by doing one or two loops around Roosevelt Island, then running through Queens, and over the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. Depending on the day (and the experiments I had to run . . . no pun), I was running either ~3.5mi, 7.0mi, or 10mi to work. At that point, I was not really training for anything. I was running because I enjoyed it.
My postdoctoral lab had a couple of runners who told me about NYRR’s races. Then, my “why” changed from random running to let’s run some races. Once I learned about NYRR’s 9+1 program for guaranteed entry into the NYC Marathon, my why changed to let’s run some half- and full-marathons.
Believe it or not, I used to hate the NYC marathon. Since my postdoc lab was near the route of the marathon, I would have to go out of my way to arrive at work. Also, when I was in graduate school (also in NYC), I never paid attention to the NYC Marathon. Don’t even get me started on how I felt about people wearing their marathon medals days after the marathon. As I was training and running races, my times were getting better and better – my best pace for a half was 7:15min/mi. Then I was like if they can run marathons so can I. Ever race that I ran, I wanted to run better than the previous . . . I guess that my why became competitive and sassy in nature.
Then, I had a couple of big injuries (kind of back to back) – a stress fracture in my tibia and a herniated disc in my lower back. The latter injury still bothers me to time to time.
After those injuries, my why changed to let’s see if I can actually run long distances again, which kind of happened. BUUUUUUUUUT, over the past couple of years, I have not really been able to improve my times. I’m pretty much at a plateau – A LONG TWO-YEAR PLATEAU.
- Yes, age may play a role.
- Yes, for fear of injury, I do not push myself as hard I probably should.
- Yes, my social lifestyle is not conducive to a runner’s lifestyle. However, I think that I was drinking/smoking/sloring/eating crappy food way more back then than I do now.
- For example, I cannot remember the last time I had a liquid lunch . . . by liquid lunch, I mean drinking a crap ton of margaritas/gin & sodas, then going back to work to get our stuff to go back out for happy hour.
Now, I guess that I need to change my why again or make it more sticky. I have run just because; I have completed several half- and full-marathons; and I have improved my times. I would love to get faster again. Maybe not a 7:15 min/mi half-marathon pace, but I definitely would like to be in the 8:00 – 8:30 min/mi range. However, I do not think that will happen . . . anytime soon. I definitely need a better why for this round of NYC Marathon training (and other races) besides, I might as well run it because I paid a lot of money to do so.