Running Rut

Man Sitting In ValleyI’m in a running rut, and I’m not sure how to break out.

Some of these issues, I wrote about earlier. But they’ve been at the forefront of my mind lately, and they’re impacting my runs. These issues are frustrating me, and since a good percentage of difficult runs is mental rather than physical, this means my runs are suffering.

Self-doubt is a big one. Last year, I felt like I was in the best shape that I could be. I was running regularly and enjoying it. I was finding new challenges in marathons and a 50k, and I was signing up for new races. This year, there aren’t many new races. And in running the old ones again, I see my times are worse and the struggle greater. Shouldn’t I be in better shape at this point?

Seven weeks into marathon training, it isn’t supposed to be easy. The mileage is increasing every week, and the body is tired. So is the mind, I suppose. But knowing this does not alleviate my frustration. I’m sure last year at this point, I was equally tired and frustrated.

I think running in the winter is a major cause of my mental difficulty. I hate running in the cold. It’s uncomfortable, the conditions are treacherous, and the recovery is harder. Although getting out and running in the winter is a good remedy for gray old New York’s yearly bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s not fun and often nearly unbearable. I’m wearing multiple layers, so I’m already loaded down and uncomfortable. Sweating and warming up just means you never feel properly acclimated. And when you stop, you get out of there and warmed up as quickly as possible.

This past weekend, we ran 10 miles in 15-degree weather (with a -2 feel-like) and then warmed up inside before a traditional 5-mile St. Patrick’s Day race. I felt like I couldn’t get my breath, and I had to walk pieces of the last two miles of the race, which always gets me down. (Later, I always question if I HAD to walk or if I psyched myself out of running.) I come up with excuses: I’m still fighting this residual cold, and I’m worn down from a crazy week of work and dealing with weather issues. But excuses are unimportant, and I’m only making them to seem like I’m not weak.

Now, in mid-March, I’m looking forward to spring, but it never seemed further away. Over a foot of snow is expected this week, and temperatures aren’t predicted above 35 for the next two weeks at least. I can’t stop running to get over the cold or wait out the temperatures. I have to keep going.

Have you been in a running rut, and how do you break out of it? I’m hoping one 50-degree long run through a spring Saturday morning will do the trick. I hope it comes soon.