Six of one, half a dozen of the other

The first six are the hardest.  Half a dozen of the other parts are also pretty challenging.

Kilometers, I mean.

Unless I am running less than 10 km – and I’m not in a race – I always find the first six kilometers the hardest. If it is under 10 km or a short race, then it’s the ‘half dozen of the other’ that are hard. I make my ‘half-dozen other’ qualifier whatever I want — time, hills, length of intervals, number of intervals.

I distinctly remember my first and second half-marathon races. Coming up to the 6 km mark I was almost hyperventilating. I didn’t start too fast (I’m not prone to that mistake) but I felt so emotional. Excited and scared, I worried that I *was* actually doing it. So much of me wanting to stop, but how do you justify stopping after only running less than one-third of a run? Nothing broke, there was no blood; I just hadn’t yet learned that it takes me 6 km to warm up and calm down.

I still get that panicky feeling when we go out and do our long runs. I distinctly hit a point in each run (usually around 6 km) where I think I’m not able to continue, that the pace is too fast, and that I was stupid enough to even consider that I could do this run. I run a few more minutes, usually with a very fast heart rate, and then realize I’m finally warmed up and I can start to run. I’m not speedy, and provided there are no injuries, I’m definitely more prone to the endurance side of this sport. But I need to remember that it takes me a long time to warm up.

I think we need to warm up in most things in life. Anything that challenges us is a test of some aspect of our ability: physical, emotional, or mental ability, or mixed aspects. The parts that have adapted and are stronger we don’t tend to focus on. The parts that aren’t as comfortable are the most apparent.

new beginnings

Starting is often the challenge.  (Photo credit: withrow)

When we start something new the process can overwhelm us. As we get more familiar with the flow we pay less attention to each detail. We start to understand how things are done and we assume our own rhythm in how we manage. Things become more natural, expected, usual. Over time we may forget that there are still things that need our attention, the weaker links that we need to address each time.  We forget the details of an event when we only focus on an overall picture or a result.

Tonight we ran speedwork in our run clinic. My ‘half dozen of the other’ was half the workout. Maybe it was only a mental half-way that I needed to reach, but the dread and panic left me and I could just allow my legs to do the workout.

It has taken me many long runs and years of running to realize that I am slow to get going. I do need to get over that feeling – that fear that I will run long and finish – and then I am ready. I anticipate it now and don’t panic. I wait for it and welcome it. I know it is always there and that urge to stop will always come up. I know the reward for not stopping is always there as well.

When that reminder of fear has passed, then I know I am ready to run.

*When do you know you are ready to run? What makes you feel safe when you do something that challenges you?

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8 thoughts on “Six of one, half a dozen of the other

    • I agree. Being able to keep going is pretty important. It’s much easier to make up time if you have the energy, than to lose time from over-exertion in the early stages.
      Thanks for commenting!

  1. My best races have been when I’ve run a very slow five or six mile “warmup” before the race (usually when the race was part of the total mileage for a long run). I tend to start out too fast, and only once has it worked in my favor in a race. I think starting slow is much better.

    For me, the first six miles are the hardest, and the last mile–it doesn’t matter what the total distance–the last mile is always mentally hard. Once I get the first six miles out of the way and find my groove, I’m usually good to go on the long run. At mile 3 of a really long run I almost always start to second guess myself, wondering how I can possibly go another 17 miles. It’s just my brain, getting in the way, and I’ve learned to expect it and push it away. Trail runs have been good practice for getting out of my head because I have to focus so intently on not tripping.

    • I think if you have something to distract you then it’s easier to get over the mental hurdle of worry. Sometimes on a long run I’ll be surprised that we’ve been out for so long and then realize I was absorbed in a conversation and didn’t notice time had passed.

      Funny how the last mile is always the longest — no matter the distance. I always try to imagine the distance a little bit longer, to fool myself. It never works. 😉

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