In my recent slump (and perhaps it is a negative thought even to acknowledge that I am in a slump), I frequently find myself criticizing and complaining about my running performance, mostly in my head. While I believe it may be productive at some times to analyze why things are not going well, doing so while I am running does not exactly help me runner better or faster!
My slump is almost all related to speed. I am still putting in the miles, I am just doing it so much slower than even a couple months ago. That might be endurable if I was able to kick it up to speed on race days, but that isn't happening either. My most recent 5K, on October 30, was about a minute per mile slower than the same race last year. As I crossed the finish line just over 27 minutes I couldn't help but say, repeatedly, "I'm a loser! I'm a loser!" (Last year I was a winner, first in my age group.)
I know that I will never be a super fast runner, but still, I think we all tend to judge our running by our speed. If we are improving and setting new PRs (or at least not Personal Worsts), then we are good runners. If we seem to get slower and slower, then...we are not good runners.
In the past few weeks, as I have had my difficulty with slow and heavy legs, I find myself sinking into negative thoughts while I am running. "I am so slow." "I will never be fast again." "I am trying hard and still can't get under a 10-minute pace." Or 10:30 pace. Or 11:00 pace.
Not surprisingly, these negative thoughts make me feel morose, and that weighs me down more. And when you feel bad about your running, it's hard to get out there and do it. Especially when it is dark and cold in the morning. And very possibly raining.
This morning I got myself out there (and luckily it was not raining, though it did begin partway through my run), and once again found myself plugging up the first hill at an 11-ish minute pace. Sure enough, the downer thoughts started creeping in. Instead of succumbing to them, though, every time I started to think something bad, I switched to repeating "I love this. I love this. I love this...." until the negative thoughts were pushed away. (I had to do this any number of times, I'll admit.)
While I don't think that changing my mantra to something positive necessarily made me faster (although my last couple of miles, out of seven total, were around a 9:30 pace, definitely an improvement over the first two), it did keep me from sinking into gloom, and I felt good about the run even if it wasn't the kind of "easy pace" I would have preferred to see.
I don't know what the solution to my speed problem is going to be--if there is one--but I do know that getting depressed over it is not a solution. That can only make me slower, not faster. For now I need to keep running, pushing myself a little so that my pace doesn't continue to deteriorate, and not let the late fall gloom bring me down. Because I love this, I love this, I love this.
My friend Marie posted this quote on Facebook, which is somewhat inspirational, and maybe could apply to struggling runners:
"Do not be impatient with your seemingly slow progress. Do not try to run faster than you can. If you are studying, reflecting, and trying, you are making progress whether you are aware of it or not. A traveler walking the road in the darkness of night is still going forward. Someday, some way, everything will break open, like the natural unfolding of a rosebud."— Vernon Howard