Woes of the Forever Novice

6 May


In the last three years, I have run two half-marathons, one 10-miler, and a handful of 5k’s. At the start of each I have only two goals: 1.) Finish (obviously) 2.) Run straight through without walk breaks (Not as easy, but usually doable with the exception of bathroom and water breaks). It’s always seemed just a little too risky to add any other goals. I’m in good enough shape that finishing the race in any mount of time is not just low-risk, it’s no-risk. While this mindset saves me from any possible disappointment on race day, (after all, who wants to feel disappointed after running 13 miles?!) it also has become a barrier to progress. Every so often, I buy Runner’s World magazine (I really should just give in a get a subscription), and I immediately flip to the novice section. I could skim the experienced runner articles but there are always weird words/phrases like “fartlek”, and “tempo runs”, I mean how am I supposed to know if I’ve run 400 meters if I’m not on a track? These articles usually discuss time splits, which is a slippery slope into the world of racing for a time. No, no, I’ll stay in my safe beginner’s zone, thank you very much. You can keep your hoity toity heart rate watches, I’ll just keep jogging over here.

The problem is, the novice articles focus on just “getting out there”; there are countless “Work Your Way Up to a 3-Mile Run” plans with a 2 minute run/1 minute walk format. I’m not fast and I don’t have great stamina, but I can run 3 miles straight with no problem. And so I find myself in an uncomfortable position. After running 4 days this week, including a 5 miler with Blair yesterday, I’ve come to realize that I want more. Maybe it’s time to make a race goal beyond just completing the race. I want to be fast. But mostly, I want progress, improvement. At a time in my life when I’m desperately searching for a career I want with little success, this could be my time to step it up, train harder, take a risk. I could apply for a hundred jobs over the next couple of months and not get so much as an interview, and there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it. However, I’m willing to make a bet on myself that if I focus and push for the next month, I can speed up and increase my stamina. I don’t have to rely on outside factors, it’s all me. I still plan on reading the novice section, but I’m not going to let advanced training techniques intimidate me any more. It’s pretty scary, especially given that I’m not feeling so hot about my professional life, to think of trying and failing, but I’m hopeful for a big pay-off. It’s like when you lose some weight, and your clothes are starting to feel loose, but you can’t decide if you’re ready to take the plunge and buy the smaller size. It should be a no-brainer that you will sustain this weight loss, and maybe even lose more, but there’s always that mean little voice in your head that says you’re going to start eating badly and not working out. It’s time to tell that mean voice to get lost.

One of the articles I read this month focused on the mental aspect of running, and how pessimistic thinking is a top roadblock for runners of all levels. I myself struggle with this every single time I run. An interesting idea I picked up from the article is to rate each day as a win/loss, fitness-wise. A win could be running 5 out of the 5 miles you planned on running, and a loss may be a day that you were supposed to rest but you couldn’t help getting in a 30 minute cross training session (If my plan says rest, I have no trouble resting, so this is not an issue for me!). The point is to look back on your week and realize that the individual days don’t matter as much as the collective effort. Coming off a loss one day, doesn’t mean the next day can’t be a win, and the goal is to have more wins than losses. I plan on rating each of my days this week and I’ll see if it boosts my positive thinking juices while I run. The next step will be signing up for a race so I can put myself out there and see how my training pays off. Any suggestions?



4 Responses to “Woes of the Forever Novice”

  1. Tracy May 7, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    I’m in the same boat!! I stay at the exact same point and never go any further 😦 my goal is to just start running outside instead of on my treadmill as much as possible.

    • nicolemichael87 May 7, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

      Try to set distance goals too, or pick an amount of time you want to run for, and ignore the distance. That way you can track when you get better. If you run 30 minutes outside three days out of a week, the next week try to run 35 minutes each time. If you can’t tell when you’re progressing, it’s easy to feel like you’re standing still

  2. Tracy May 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    I’ve run outside the past 2 days!!

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