The greatest gifts running has given me this year are important lessons that helped me learn more who I am as a runner. It wasn’t a year for big races or personal bests. It was more about learning how to balance running with life, what works for me, and who I am as a runner. Given that, it was a great year!
2017 in Numbers
- Total miles: 1,068.88
- Highest mileage month: 158.72 in October
- Lowest mileage month: 38.67 in December
- Number of months above 100 miles: 4
- Number of races: 5 (1 5K; 1 trail 10K; 2 ten-milers; 1 half marathon)
2017 in Pictures
2017 marked the end of my 3-year stint of using the Hansons’ method to train for races. While I had a lot of success with it at first in 2015, this year it just didn’t work. Twice, in winter half marathon training and in summer marathon training, I quit training and didn’t run those races. If I can’t get through training, then the training method isn’t working for me.
I found something that works much better for me: the 80/20 training method as promoted by Matt Fitzgerald, in which 80% of training is done at a very easy effort and just 20% at moderate to hard effort. I followed his 5K plan and really loved it. I was easily able to fit in the workouts with the more demanding work schedule of my new job. I also much preferred running by minutes instead of miles, which evens the playing field so that slower runners like me don’t have to put in significantly more time than faster runners to hit mile targets. And I loved running by effort–whether by heart rate or perceived effort–instead of trying to hit too-fast paces and being frustrated and upset with myself when I couldn’t. Here’s my full review of the training method.
Attitude Toward Pace
I started running in 2011, and each year until last year my goal was to get faster. Last year, my goal was to go longer for my first marathon.
This year was the first year since I’ve been running that I wasn’t trying to go faster or longer. I think I was simply burnt out from years of trying to run faster and longer. This year my focus was really about running for the fun of it, without it taking over my life.
The 80/20 method helped me get there, and in doing so presented a surprise benefit: not caring about pace. I ran by heart rate zones and/or effort. Pace was something I only looked at afterwards. Running in my easy heart rate zone meant slowing down a lot. My easy zone was 1.5-2 minutes/mile slower than what I thought my easy run pace was. I was frustrated and embarrassed at first to be running so slowly. I mean, I’m a slow runner to begin with, and to slow down instead of speed up took a lot of getting used to. But over time, it was just what I needed. I learned to leave my ego at home when I stepped out the door to run. I felt proud of myself for completing a hard workout at whatever pace ended up being hard that day. I ran in the moment, enjoying being outside with the quiet mornings all to myself.
It was transformative. I can’t imagine going back to the mindset of thrashing my body day in and out to shave a few minutes off a time. I learned that I just don’t care a lot about my time and pace. Earlier this year I bought the book How Bad Do You Want It? This year I learned my answer: I don’t. Running for the fun of it is so much more gratifying to me.
That’s not to say I don’t want to ever challenge myself again. I do! But I want to focus on challenging myself in ways other than simply running a faster pace.
Attitude Toward Races
This was the year when I’d had enough. I’ve just never liked races. In past years I made it a goal to reduce my race anxiety. I tried running more races. I tried running races for fun. I tried running different races (see Trail Running below). But you know what? I still don’t like races. And you know my personal motto is, Life is too short to not do what you love!
I guess I’ve always felt that to call myself a runner, I had to run races. Running blogs and Instagram feeds are always filled with race recaps and expo reviews and starting line photos and finish line photos and medal photos. While a number of you have commented on this blog that you don’t love races either, it’s not very fashionable to admit that. I think in all the years I’ve been running, I’ve only seen a single media article (in Runner’s World) that acknowledged that some runners don’t like to run races.
If I’m not like other runners, then I’m not like other runners. This year I accepted that. I get a lot of gratification in the day-to-day routine of training and a lot of enjoyment out of just running. That’s enough for me.
So this year I scaled way back on races. I didn’t run either my spring half marathon or my fall marathon. And no one’s come to take away my runner ID card.
My favorite race of the year was the Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler. What I liked about this race was exploring a new city with a friend. I think that exploring new places is one reason I might run future races.
Another thing I got more into and really loved this year was trail running. One of my favorite running memories of the year was seeing a group of baby turkeys on a spring trail run. The biggest reason I love running is to be outside, so running in the woods and being completely surrounded by trees, plants, and animals is my absolute favorite.
I ran my first trail race–a 10K–this summer. With extremely muddy conditions, it was a disaster and probably one of my worst running experiences. I’m not swearing off trail races forever, but right now I don’t see a good reason to do a trail race in awful conditions when I know I’ll be miserable. Calling myself a badass just doesn’t do it for me. I’d rather run in good conditions when I’ll enjoy it.
I stopped trail running once I started marathon training. Though I planned to continue, it just took too long on trails to get my miles in. I’d like to try some winter trail runs, but I look forward to doing more trail running after winter.
So, 2017 was a good year for me, though in ways much different from most runners. I used the lessons I learned this year to build my plan for next year. I’m finalizing a few things before I post about it, but I’m really excited about it!
Until then, have an awesome New Year’s weekend! See you in 2018!