Square One

One glance at my miles/month counter and you know there hasn’t been much action in the running department. In fact, I haven’t been motivated to do much of anything these days. Things have cooled (literally and figuratively). I am attributing the slump to having too much time. My days are easy and unstructured. There is no more rushing to class after work, late nights of research, or stress at the office. Everything is fine just as it should be. But for a person who finds rhythm in chaos, things are anything but. When I have too much time, I sit around instead of being productive. I eat and watch rubbish on TV. I buy unnecessary things. And worst of all, I sit and brood.

In an effort to turn things around, I’ve made an attempt to stay away from my apartment as much as possible. If I’m out, it means I’m doing something; staying on my feet; not watching TV (can’t say much about not eating though). I spend weekends in DC seeing new exhibits, checking out the market, or simply just walking around and taking pictures. But inspiration has been hard to come by. I can’t shake off the sloth.

To make matters worse, yesterday I become cognizant of the fact that my running has no purpose. I am getting tired of aimlessly running. Miles per month means nothing. It doesn’t mean I am getting better. It doesn’t mean I am getting faster. It doesn’t mean much of anything really. So, I read a few articles, tinkered with my pace goals, and finally came up with a game plan to run my fastest 5k in the next few months. This past summer, I knew if I tried I could have run a sub 22 minute 5k. I was lighter, faster, and more dedicated. Yesterday, I came up with a more modest goal of 24 minute; a pace of 8 minutes per mile. This isn’t crazy. This isn’t even fast. But it’s a start to get back on track.

After working semi late, I proceeded to the gym (it was almost dark outside), eager to try my new modest pace plan. This is what it looked like:
1 mile warm-up
5 X 1k at goal pace with 400-meter recovery
1 mile cool-down
I warmed up slower than my usual 9:50 minute/mile pace, and then jumped right into the 8:00 minute/mile pace for the first 1k (about a 7.5 speed on most treadmills). I am pretty sure I saw Death at the end of that first go around. My legs felt so heavy; I felt so heavy. I looked like a beat up mess during that first 400-meter recovery. I was on my second 1k when I realized I couldn’t keep going. I was just way too out of shape. So for the next 3 miles I switched between a 1 minute walk (18 minutes/mile), 1 minute jog (9:50minute/mile), and 1 minute run at goal pace (8:00 minute/mile). I got off that treadmill feeling so defeated. I was mad that I had let my running go. Snub it long enough and you pretty much start back from square one.

My Square one was over 8 years ago in my parents’ neighborhood on an extremely hot summer afternoon as I jogged past mailboxes and garage doors basting in my own sweat. It sucked. It was awful. It was painful.
Except, it is what got me out of that slump and I’m hoping for the same this time around.

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