Running on a Plan

I looked forward to my run yesterday. I was downright eager to run.

But why? I chose the name of this blog for a reason and even have a hashtag to go with it (the simple but understated #ihaterunning).

I’m not running faster. I’m actually running slower. I’m not running much farther. And I’m not feeling much better after my runs.

So what’s the deal?

At first I thought it was just me exercising control (Get it? Exercising?). Maybe it was just some existential crisis and this was the one place I could (mostly) have control over what happened.

That kind of made sense, but it doesn’t seem to fully gel. Kind of like those shoes you try on in the store: They fit ok, but something doesn’t seem quite right.

Maybe it’s because I’m dropping weight. Seeing the scale show a slightly smaller number can work wonders for the ego (and not hearing it scream every time I step on it; someone really should invent a scale that screams if you weigh too much). It’s hard not to see a difference in how I’m feeling when I know that I’m dropping weight with running and (vaguely) good eating habits.

While this all makes me feel good, it doesn’t explain why I would enjoy running (unless I’m finally starting to enjoy the process as opposed to just appreciating it).

Of course, it could be the endorphins. Endorphins are a drug that make you happy after all.

And then it kind of hit. The previous points felt like partial explanations because they were impacted by the real reason, but they’re just outcomes.

I have a goal, which means I have a plan.

That’s the real trick. I was reflecting on my history with 5Ks and such, and I realized that was the real thing that was bringing enjoyment (and nervousness). I’m running a 10K for the first time, so I’m having to do some actually planning.

For my first 5K 2012, I did it on a whim. I had some friends signing up for one that supported Habitat for Humanity, and they asked if I wanted to join. I hadn’t run in months. I had an issue that freaked me out and a useless MD who gave me nothing advice, and I wasn’t good about forcing the issue then.

I went 4 or 5 months with no running, though I lost a lot of weight (relatively speaking. I dropped from about 187 to 172 in that time frame with just light yoga and no other working out.

Told my friend I would think about it, and so I went on a couple of light runs to see if I could hold up ok. I did, so I agreed and started prepping in earnest. I hit my familiar loop and kept trying to push my distance to see if I could run the whole 3.1. Spoiler alert: I couldn’t. But unlike a few years prior when I’d considered a 5K but backed out when I knew I couldn’t run the whole thing, this time I was already committed and just didn’t give a crap about running the whole thing. I prepped as best as I could (I even bought those running shorts with the liner in them that are asking for something embarrassing to happen). I was going to do it.

And I did. I finished slightly above a 10-minute pace with a lot of walking.

After that, there were some folks who wanted to do a mud run for work, so I signed up for my first (and only) mud run at the Rugged Maniac 3-4 months later. While I knew I could cover 3.1 without dying, I didn’t know how I’d fare on obstacles, so I joined some friends who ran stadiums and did other bodyweight exercises. It wasn’t much, but it was enough that I started putting muscle back on.

And once again, I survived.

At this point, running was just something I did to stay in shape, along with stadiums and light yoga at home. I wasn’t making real progress (and I was recovering from my first foot injury), but I was still running. I signed up for another 5K in late 2013 and once again started pushing my running.

The 5K was on my usual loop, so I knew the route and walked off with a sub-28 run. A week later I got sick and then a couple of weeks later I injured cartilage in my chest that would take 2 months to properly diagnose (I’d since started seeing MDs that were contributors to society). In the recuperating process (and the moving process), I fell off the running wagon. I did some light running now and then, but I didn’t have anything I was prepping for.

Essentially, for a year I was not really running, and it was becoming very detrimental. Until I decided to embark on the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.

And this is the first time I had a real plan, not just a goal that forced haphazard planning. I was doing a real couch to 5K training plan. With zombies.


The app did a good job of starting me slow and ramping up the running and total mileage. Slowly but surely, I upped my mileage just in time to be unprepared for my first 5K. My sincerest hope was to break 35 minutes. And then I finished just above 31 and the year was ruined. I would only crack that time a couple of more times, but I was running.

Once the 5K training app for Zombies, Run! was done, I was in a little bit of a mess. I knew I needed a plan, but I wasn’t enthused about a regular training app, and the full Zombies, Run! app cost more money. I opted for the latter and was disappointed to find out there was no real plan. You set the times or distance, and you ran with a story. No more, no less.

And that was a problem. I stopped pushing myself and crested (and possibly regressed). My mileage tanked, and then I got injured again in the fall. Looking at the logs, my total mileage dropped and my mileage per run was dropping. I was wandering aimlessly through the backend of the year.

But I wasn’t done. I’d been mulling a new goal to either go after a sub-25 5K or go after a 10K. I honestly thought the 25-minute goal was more feasible before I learned I can’t run far and fast, just one or the other. 10K it was, but I needed to prep.

And from the great digital beyond, Zombies, Run! had put in training plans without me knowing it.

I’ve signed up for the beginner 10K training plan, and I’ve been hoofing it ever since. My previous best in the app for a month was just under 21 miles, and I’m pretty sure that I did that in the 5K app, not the even the full app when I should have been able to log more miles. I’ve got 2 more weeks in the month, and I’m already at my highest total.

Plans win.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.46.21 PM
This is the total distance by month in Zombies, Run! You can tack on 3.1 each month last year plus some rogue runs on treadmills and a couple in the rain where I didn’t use the app, but this is a pretty good picture of what’s been going on. Either way, barring injury, I’ll crush my monthly best with the addition of this week alone.

I’m doing things the right way, at least. I’m following what the plan says, and I’m slowly upping my mileage. If everything goes as planned, I should finish the training plan a week or two before my planned 10K, and then we’ll see what happens. I’ll either need to go after another 10K or I’ll need to go after that 25-minute 5K after all.

If my feet hold up and I can get all my working shoes back in the mix, I won’t even need new shoes for a long, long time. And that would be magical (especially after buying 3 pairs in 14 months).

But maybe I need a plan for my shoes. Oh well.


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