For anyone who does not believe in a "runner's high," you should have seen me after my workout today.
Today I was supposed to run a 6 mile run at my race pace. Ideally, I would love to run a marathon at like 7:45 minutes/mile. But that's not really my pace right now. Right now I'm probably more like an 8:10 minutes/mile pace. It's kind of hard to tell though because I don't ever practice maintaining a pace for 26.2 miles. Anyway, I was dreading this workout solely because it's a timed workout that requires me to maintain a pace. I have low confidence for these types of workouts. I'm always afraid that I won't be able to keep my pace and that I'll be disappointed with myself. If I don't do well in a timed workout, it can turn into a cycle of low confidence that I have experienced and do not enjoy. So, as with other things that I have low confidence about, I procrastinated and put off the workout and was kind of grumpy while I was dreading it.
To make myself feel a little better, I picked a new course on a scenic route north of the city where I wouldn't have to stop for traffic and could enjoy some trees and grass. When I finally got up the nerve to go out for my workout, I got in the car and drove up to Broad Ripple to hop on the top portion of the Monon Trail. I ran about a 3/4 mile warm-up and then started my watch and picked up my pace. Lately, my "fast" pace workouts have been racing 5k's. This is good to get me running fast, but not good for teaching me a marathon race pace. I looked at my watch at the half-mile marker and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was cruising along a little ahead of schedule.
After about a mile and a half, a tiny man in serious running gear blew past me on the dirt path that's next to the paved path. (This dirt path is supposed to be better for you to run on because it's softer than pavement and requires all the little balance muscles in your ankles and feet to work harder on the non-smooth terrain. Thus, it also requires marginally more effort. I was running on the paved path.) This little man was flying. And making my moderately hard efforts look paltry. Despite my best intentions, I found myself picking up the pace a little as I watched him fade into the distance ahead of me. I looked at my watch at the 3 mile turn-around and was thrilled to find that I was holding on at a 7:50-ish pace. (This is rough mental math as I don't have a fancy watch. I actually prefer having the mental stimulation of calculating my own pace to occupy my mind and help the miles pass faster.) I felt like my effort was moderately difficult but that I could maintain it for another three miles.
I don't know exactly what the magical moment was, but somehow I was suddenly confident about the remainder of the workout. Rather than thinking "I probably can't hold this pace for another three miles" I found myself thinking "I can definitely hold this pace for another three miles. In fact, I can push it a little more."
So, technically, this workout is meant to practice my marathon race pace. Not to see how fast I can run the distance. I need to practice my marathon pace so I don't go out too fast and burn out or generally mismanage my pace over the marathon distance and ruin my own race. But, the workout was going so well, I couldn't resist the desire to keep up the speed. I pushed through the last three miles and finished my six miles at a 7:48 minutes/mile pace. I was really proud of this time, and I felt awesome. I super-slowly jogged the 3/4 mile cool-down back to my car and reveled in my exhaustion. I felt awesome. I felt invincible. I felt like a bad-ass.
When I got home, I was still riding high on my endorphins. I was giddy and chatty and loving life. By the time I showered and ate dinner, I had mellowed nicely and am now 100% ready to drift off to sleep, comfortable, content and (unexpectedly) confident. I hope I can remember this run the next time I am dreading a timed workout.