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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Going Downhill Is Your Reward For Going Uphill

Bonjour everyone, let me start out this its-been-way-too-long post with a story...

So there's this girl I know, and this girl has always wanted to be a runner.  Not just any runner, not just your puts-on-running-shoes-once-a-month runner, but a real runner.  Goes at it in the rain.  Snow.  Sleet.  Tornado.  Ok, not tornado, but just about everything else.  Isn't afraid of wind.  Big hill?  Psshhh that ain't nothin.  Bring it.  And goes into everyday with this mentality, and comes out satisfied, satisfied that she pushed herself, yet again, through another storm; through another tough run.  She sucked it up (and liked it) when everyone else decided it was to windy to run that day.

However, there was a problem..this friend of mine was not the kind of runner she wanted to be.  Sure, she put on her shoes a few days a week, ran her races, put in (some) long runs, but never really pushed herself.  Not as much as she needed to.  She would stay in on rainy days, avoid anything to steep or any day too windy.  She was a runner, but not to the extent she wished.  She wanted to be something, but never put a real action into it.

Fast forward a few years.  She still is wanting to be that incredible dedicated runner, that pushes past plateaus and says things such as "wall?  what wall??" but now she lives in a new area full of more dedicated runner she wants to be like.  Runners are a dime a dozen, and every time she goes for a run, she gets at least 5 thumbs up or waves.  But there are hills.  And rain.  And more (semi-steep) hills that can't possibly be avoided, whats a girl to do?  Do what she always wanted to of course, finally step up and push through it.  Theres a hill, so what?  Yeah, it hurts, I mean, it really hurts and its rough and breathing gets a lot harder, and legs get a lot more sore.  But you know what?  Thats called pushing yourself.  Thats called improvement.  Thats called perfect training to run your fastest race yet.

If you didn't figure it out yet, this *girl* is me.  I always wanted to be that runner that pushed themselves no matter what, went up that hill with power and energy, not huffing and puffing and stopping every other second.  Upon moving to my current location of Ann Arbor, I realized hills are very hard to avoid. Hills were never my friend, I always despised them.  They make running so tough!  But guess what, as I complain about hills in Ann Arbor, there are runners in San Francisco laughing at me.  There are expert runners everywhere laughing at me.  But heres the thing, I am not complaining anymore....

I used a great website known as map my run to plan out a nice 4 mile route.  The first (almost) 2 miles happens to be a consistent up hill climb, and the first time I ran it I was thinking " of course this would happen, up hill the whole time, when do I get to go downhill?  When does it end?"  But then I finally went downhill, and it felt amazing.  What a relief, I get to experience this easy pace, this gliding on air, I am able to catch my breath and truly reflect and appreciate what I just did.  Running downhill is quite incredible because you experience all of these things.  But how can you ever run downhill, unless you make it up the hill first?  All the hard work of trekking uphill, its so worth it for the feeling of downhill running.  And on Monday, Memorial Day, I experiences an entire race of downhill running.

Every year, I run the Grosse Isle Memorial Day 8K with my Dad.  We always keep the same pace, and usually finish within 15 seconds of each other.  I used to consider this a tough race, with *hills* and the like.  How wrong I was!  The *hill* I encountered was so laughable, I couldn't believe how hard I used to think it was.  Miles flew by, mile 1 came quick until suddenly I saw mile 3 and was keeping quite a decent pace.  As I came out of the flying mud that was the trail run, I noticed a burning in my legs; but nothing compared to my uphill battle in Ann Arbor!  I came around the bend to see the clock say instead of 45:and some minutes, it said best 8K time yet?  Really?  OK I'll take it!  Of course I took off at that point and ended up running a 42:35 (or somewhere close to it) which is officially my best 8K time ever.

How did I run such an awesome time?  How did I push through that run, at a pace of 8:30/mile?  Because I went uphill, I did the work of going uphill so that I could experience the euphoria of downhill running.  I use downhill running literally and metaphorically.  Literally, downhill running is amazing, but metaphorically, it is even better.  Metaphorical downhill running is when you feel the hard work and training you have done shine through, and carry you through a race that would have otherwise been rather tough.  Downhill running is finishing well and with the ability to push yourself through.  Downhill running is the feeling you get after running a PR race.

Whether its hill running, speed work, cross training, or all 3: go out and do it, the work is tough, not always fun, and a lot of times painful (not to the point of injury, but soreness); but if you can experience euphoric downhill running, it makes it all worth it.

I thought this would be a great way to celebrate National Runners Day.  I hope everyone had a great run today, I know I did!  I did my first official *run with the roommate* run and it was amazing :)

Have a great night, push on through, keep training, and soon enough you will be the best runner you can be.