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To Train, Or Not To Train?

July 8, 2011

That is the question!

So as I’ve mentioned before, the last (and first!) big race I ran was the Baltimore Half Marathon last October. Before the half, I had only ever run 5ks, and before I started training, I had never run more than five consecutive miles.

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My friend Kristine convinced me to train with her via the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, a cause that I support 100%, especially since both my dad and grandma had non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The training began in May and went right up until the week before the race, and I felt that it was very well-structured, easy to follow, and totally effective. I went from never having run more than five consecutive miles to running 13.1 in Baltimore in under two and a half hours.

I cannot put into words what it felt like to cross that finish line. Running this race allowed me to prove to myself that I was stronger and more capable than I ever believed I was. It’s nearly a year later, and I still feel a surge of pride when I see my race day medal.

(psyched…and sweaty)

So it should come as no surprise that I would love to recreate that feeling and run another race. Several people have told me that I should go all out and train for a full marathon or an IronGirl triathalon, which is tempting except for one, slightly problematic fact:

I hated training for my first half marathon, and training for another (or bigger) race scares the crap out of me.

As I just said, there was nothing about the training plan that I felt was off, nor did I ever feel like I bit off more than I could chew on my long runs. The problem was that all the forced, paced, timed running made me kind of hate, well, running. And I mean I really hated it.

By the time training ended and I crossed the finish line, the mere thought of running exhausted (and bored) me. I had absolutely burned myself out, and it was a shame. It was a shame because, ever since I started running a few years ago, running has become this incredible outlet for me: not only was it a huge catalyst in my weight loss, but it was also like free therapy for me.

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Runs were times that I could be by myself, with my own thoughts, to work things out. I could turn up my music, or just listen to my feet hit the pavement. I rarely tracked my pace or paid attention to how many miles I was logging each week. I just ran until I was tired or satisfied, and I called it a day.

Training for my half definitely made me a better runner: over the course of those four months, I became faster, stronger, and I certainly built on my endurance. But what’s the sense of becoming a better runner if you no longer enjoy running?

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I still run, even though I’m not training for a race. I don’t have long distance days or hill practice days or speed days. I just run, following the method that I used to: depending on my mood, I maintain a steady pace or I run sprints; I run hills or I jog flats. Un-structuring my runs has made me enjoy the process of running again, and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s still my favorite (and most effective) stress reliever, and it’s the most accessible form of exercise out there.

So I go back to the question: to train or not to train? In order to effectively run another race (which I do want!), I need to train for it. And there are races that I would LOVE to run (Disney Princess Half Marathon, anyone?!) I’m just stuck in limbo, trying to figure out if the benefits that come from running a race (strength, pride, ambition) outweigh the cons (boredom, burnout, 6am Saturday morning wake-up calls).

If you’re a runner, do you run for fun, or do you run to train for races?

Or are you one of those people I’d love to be that trains FOR fun?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2011 10:55 am

    Wow I cannot agree more with this post! I trained for a 10-miler last year and while I had a blast running it and did really well, it completely burned me out. I used to love going out for morning runs, but found that I HATED running when I had to go out for a scheduled 8 mile run. Running was my outlet and my me time, and I had turned it into “work”. Since then I have just focused on 5k runs because I really don’t want to start hating one of my favorite things!

    • July 9, 2011 11:02 am

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one! I know tons of people who thrive on training for races, just as much (if not more) than they enjoy running the race itself. While I felt like I got so much out of my training, I couldn’t wait until training was over so I could STOP running. Kind of counter-intuitive, right? Something to consider before signing up for another big race, that’s for sure!

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  1. The Second Half: Final Thoughts « Go With the Dough

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