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  • Writer's picture Irina

(Tell me why) I don't like Mondays...

Long runs are like Monday mornings.

I usually feel a bit blah on a Monday morning. Never quite sure if I am up for another start to the week. Same with long runs. Always some hesitation before I start. Delaying tactics like tidying up, re-arranging my socks, folding my underwear, clearing out the medicine cupboard, laundry (all-time favourite), fluffing the sofa cushions, sorting the ever-growing stack of old bills, leaflets, paper with numbers scribbled on them that no one ever remembers why they wrote down. All superb ways to kill a good 15 minutes at least!

Eventually I sit at my desk or I set off for the run. The first half an hour is torture but it is crucial that I go with it and resist the urge to stop and instead organise my wardrobe by colour or occasion. Equally important is that I don’t draw any fast conclusions about how I am feeling.

When I first sit at my desk on a Monday morning, I feel my brain is full of fog. I can’t concentrate, I avoid looking at my to-do list, I think about early retirement, I dread going through my emails especially if I didn’t clear my inbox the Friday before. I think it will be absolutely impossible to get through the day, let alone the week. When I set off for a long run, my legs feel heavy, wobbly and I question everything. Why am I so tired today? Did I sleep well last night? Did I drink enough water? Did I tie my shoelaces too tight? Do I need another wee? I think I do! Oh no! I have to wait for over 2 hours now. Is my hair pulling? This doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s not the day for a long run. I could stop now and try again tomorrow when I am feeling better. I bet if I look at my watch I am running really slowly. How am I going to do the faster intervals? Yeah, I think I should stop running. Yeah, I think I should take this Monday off…

Alert! (red light and loud sounding Beep, Beep!): All conclusions based on the first 30 minutes are prone to error and should be ignored. Please allow for adequate time before making a decision on how you feel about this Monday, or this run. Scientific evidence has shown that your thoughts and feelings will evolve, and you will make a success of the day or the run. Just give it time… and so I do. I have worked through enough Mondays and long runs to know that my brain and my legs just need to warm up. I need to keep going. The wardrobe can wait (but I have decided I am going by colour). Carefully place all negative thoughts in the overhead locker and shut firmly. I am on the runway and ready for take-off.

Do I organise by colour? Occasion? Both with subcategories?

20 minutes into the run, the warmup section is over, I have just about convinced myself that I am not stopping and that’s when the real fun begins. You’d think long runs are all about running. Do not be fooled. There’s so much more to it than meets the eye! Here is what I typically need to do. It is a true story, based on the 7th run of my marathon training, a couple of weeks ago. A bit of info on the gear: I wear cycling shorts with side and back pockets. In there I have: a foldable water bottle, a hydration/energy gel, my phone, my running instructions. I am not wearing my lovely sunglasses because there is simply no sun. Ever.

I need to run 20km in total and as I was saying I am just about finishing the 3km warm up when I reach into my pocket and pull out the instructions. The first intervals start: run 1km at 5’50” and then 1km 'free' (I am not really free though, am I? Can I can stop, walk, sit down, call Doug to come and pick me up? NO. 'free' means still run, still push, but I get to decide how much). Drink water on the 4th kilometre. Run the same intervals another 2 times. Keep checking the watch for pace and distance. Drink water again on the 8th kilometre. By the end of this section I will have completed 9km. I reach the end of the river path. We live on top of a hill, so I want to turn around on the 11th kilometre and finish the run before I get to the hill. That means I need another 2km on the outbound route. I decide I will run over the bridge and onto the seafront, first set of beach huts on my left, second set on my right and that will be my turning point. Ok I have a plan. Check instructions again. Kilometres 9-12, I need to run 500m at 5’20”, then 500 at an easy pace (another running myth. There is nothing easy about any of this). I use my watch to ‘cut’ the 500m laps. On the 10th kilometre I take the gel. On the 11th I turn around and start heading back (ah that is a good feeling). Must drink water on 12th kilometre (said in robot voice). Onto the next section: 3km at a constant pace of 5’40”(hmm, easier said than done). 15km in. What’s next? 2km at a free pace. More decisions to be made... Remember to drink water on the 16th. Made it to 17km. Only another 3km to go. Run 2km at 5’40”. Yey, I am so close now, but so tired. Constantly looking at my watch to see if I am hitting the pace target. Last kilometre is free. All this freedom is too much for me. Will I push? Do I have anything left in the tank? Come on. It will all be over in 5-6 minutes. 20km and not a meter more. Stop. Save. Drink the last of the water and walk up the hill feeling I can conquer the world.

The design of these runs is very clever. If my instructions were: run 20km and don't worry about anything else, then the importance of making the distance would be blown out of proportion and would occupy all my thoughts and energy. Having to think about all those other things, keeps me balanced and suddenly it’s not all about this long distance. My attention is needed elsewhere as well. The distance becomes one element of a bigger equation.

This got me thinking about how true this principle is in life as well. Once again running is teaching me a lesson. I need more than one thing to focus on in order to stay balanced. If I only had work, then work things going well or not so well would make or break my world. If I had no interests of my own, then I would obsess over Doug and make his life miserable. Same for Frankie. If I didn’t mix things up with Irina-activities, then looking after Frankie would take over probably suffocating him in the process. My point is, that my brain, built the way it is, likes tasks and targets and wants to do well. I don’t like failing myself or others. Also, I am a big time worrier. I worry a lot. Imagine if I only had one thing to worry about. Imagine how big that thing would become. I actively create the space for my ‘balancers’ to do their job. Family, kids, friends, dogs, work, runs, personal time all stretch me in different directions and when one goes wrong, I have the others pull me out of the rat hole. Sometimes I feel overstretched but mostly I feel strong and ready to conquer the world (where have I heard that before?)

A week later I had another long run: 21km with all the trimmings

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Jul 15, 2021

So many thoughts on your mind while running?go Irina go by color!!love you!!


Jul 12, 2021

Brilliant explanation of our (now) complicated runs!!

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