When I first started to run without music, I hated it. I disliked the silence that was always surrounding me while I ran. I could hear everything. Sometimes I still run with ear buds in my ear playing a good selection of music. Sometimes I make playlists for races to keep me in the right beats/steps per minute.
As I've continued to run this season, I've gone without music more often. Mostly as a way to recognize my pace without the use of a GPS watch. I started to notice how my breathing matched my footfalls and where my arm swing landed when taking a breath. I could hear my feet slap heavily when my body would reach the point of exhaustion.
I make a slight noise when I am running at a quicker pace, or if I'm focusing on my running. I vocally push forward my exhale. My exhale and footfalls create a metronome like state. I can focus in and get completely lost but if I am running with other people or within a race, I hear their rhythm. It will throw off my pace slightly, same with if I'm friendly and say hello. It makes me nervous for the half. I don't want to spend all my gas at the beginning, matching everyone else's rhythm. It also makes me nervous for when the super fast and fast marathoner's will start to pass me. I don't want to speed up to their tempo because I am hearing it all around me. I needed something to focus me.
These past few runs I have gone back and "beat" things that were difficult to me when I started running. I "beat" the "hills" in Saratoga Springs State Park, that I often was intimidated by. Last year I made it up one little hill (because more seasoned runners would call these small hills, I call them big hills - but not BOF hills) That one hill has a short downhill and then another hill. When I ran it on Saturday I wasn't afraid of it, I was excited for the challenge and I left my intervals behind and used the time to run up the hills.
Last night I went back to the crossings. I knew I had a 30 minute easy run scheduled. I knew keeping my pace, I should be able to get two miles in. About two loops of the yellow trail. I knew I run a 15 minute mile. I wondered if I could run it, not walk/run but run the full 15 minutes. I know. I'm not supposed to do anything different, I'm not supposed to change anything. Still I have to do things to shut up my own doubts. So I ran the first loop, ran the whole thing. Then I walked the backside of the Ciccotti Center to catch my breath and continued to run.
Why was this important to me? Last year at this time of year, I couldn't run the entire yellow trail. I could only run/walk it. I would be happy when a walk interval came at the bottom of the "hills" on the yellow trail. On one of our timed 5K's with BeRunning, Mary was right at the top of those hills shouting encouraging words to me. Every time I run those little hills, I think of her right at the top. This time, I did it and was smiling the whole time, mentally high fiving Mary.
On the second time around, I was faced with faster people on the trail throwing me off, or the largest congregation of dogs with friendly owners saying hello. My brain started thinking I couldn't run the half. I knew I needed to get rid of that thought. I started in with my metronome adding the words "I.CAN.DO.THIS" I kept going. After saying it a few times, I realized how easy it would be to change can to can't during the race. So I changed it. I started chanting inside "I.WILL.DO.THIS." It started on the back part of the yellow trail, the part a little bit before the post, near the gazebo close to the bathrooms. I kept going until I finished.
It felt nice. Not to just believe I am in better shape than last year but to actually experience it. Others can say it, can tell me I am ready. I just needed Saturday's run and last night's run to prove it to myself. Thursday's run will be my last before the race, I just want that run to be pretty (if it's possible) and relaxing.
Race day will come and I will line up and I will do this.