The Doldrums

In the months after my debut marathon I was affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, and the wind had all but disappeared from my running sails. That’s not to say that I stopped running altogether – every week I was putting in doldrumsmore miles than an average year’s worth of running from ages 0-39…but I didn’t feel remotely like a runner.

By way of consolation I figured it would be interesting to write about the doldrums while I was experiencing them. The thing about the doldrums though is that the wind powering my running motivation was necessary even to think about running. I stopped devouring Running Times and Runner’s World, and I had no interest in writing about not running – the very idea of it just made me feel bad.

My peak months in training for Disney were October and November when I hit 160 miles. December 2014 was 141, marathon-month was 114 and then February…66. March was an improvement at 96.5, but nowhere near what it needed to be to get ready for my next half-marathon. I had been training for Disney since June although obviously it didn’t get ramped up fully until October, and I underestimated how tough it would be to really get going again.

One thing I’ve tried to make sure of since I started running was that before competing in a race, I had the next one lined up to avoid the kind of motivational shortfall that I found myself in. I figured that as long as there was a big event on the horizon I could keep getting out there, waking up early, doing the speedwork, doing the long runs on Saturday or Sunday mornings.

Before I did Disney I’d settled on the Singer Island Half Marathon in April for my first big race after Disney. Back in December it seemed like the kind of thing that would get me out there, but having run the marathon in mid-January, I had absolutely no interest in training for anything else. I gave myself the two-week guilt-free, easy short runs only break and figured my previous motivation would come back…but it didn’t.

Several factors played into this:

  • A “half” marathon? Really? Is that ALL??

This was galling: 15 months previously anything over a few hundred yards was a major achievement, and here I was giving a half-marathon the big shrug. Someone’s really got to lead the charge in changing the name to something energising. Something that sounds like a completion rather than the…y’know…half completion of something.

  • No-one I knew would be there

I don’t primarily run for anyone other than myself, and yet there’s something completing about having your family and/or friend(s) at the finish. If there’s no-one to greet or say “YAY!” to it just feels kinda sad.

  • It wasn’t going to be a PB

I would be returning to fitness rather than peaking, so for the first time ever I knew I had no chance of challenging my best time. In the continuum between goal-orientated and process-orientated, I’m the puddle off the edge of the goal-orientated cliff. I don’t do running – I do training.

  • It was small

Small is fine, so long as the scenery is distractingly beautiful. The race mentioned going along the length of Singer Island on the Atlantic coast so maybe it would be OK, but I don’t like being on my own for stretches of a race – I get more than enough of that in training.

And yet, when the alarm would off at 4.00a.m. to tell me I had a 14 mile training run to do that day, the ship of my motivation – that…thing…which makes me get up even though I want to sleep, wasn’t there. So I slept, put on another pound in weight, and my fitness continued to tail off as race day approached.

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