Encouraged by this improvement, at the beginning of 2014 I decided I would setup a running plan that would get me through the Army Ten Miler (ATM) in October.
The ATM is “that” race for me. Having signed up for it three previous times, I was never well enough to show up for the race. Each time I had pneumonia and was on IV antibiotics. Not to mention that none of my previous attempts at training had me anywhere close to completing 10 miles.
2014 looked to be my year though. I thought I’d be rational about it. If I was running 30 minutes by the day of registration (it hadn’t been announced yet, but somewhere between April and May) then I was in! I should be up to that in 2-4 months right?
Then, in March, I was on IV again. This was just a delay though. It set me back a little, but it wasn’t like I was running miles at a time yet (or even minutes, for that matter).
Once the IV was done I started back to training. Why was this so hard? Progress was slow. I wasn’t running for that long (90 seconds at the most) and I needed 3-4 minutes to catch my breath. And this was with oxygen.
I looked around the gym and the other runners on their treadmills. Some of them made it look so easy. Was it always that easy for them? Or did they struggle to get to that point? I was starting to question why I was doing this. It just seemed too hard. That’s when I realized it’s supposed to be hard. We all have our comfort zone. For some of us it’s running at a 9 mile per hour pace for an hour. For others it might be walking a block. This was about pushing outside of my comfort zone and improving.
I used this realization to keep me going. Every week I could see improvement somewhere. I was running a little longer or needed a little less time to recover between runs. I was going for longer periods of time, which meant more overall run time.
When May 20th came around, the day to sign up for the ATM, I wasn’t even close to 30 consecutive minutes of running. That was OK though. The ATM was a little over 20 weeks away. Surely I’d be running for 30 minutes in 4 months? So I registered.
Fast forward to the end of September. I’d been training pretty consistently and making progress with most of my runs. Yet I STILL wasn’t able to run for 30 consecutive minutes. Nor was I even close. The most I’d done was 5 minutes. And I couldn’t keep doing 5 minutes. I could do one interval of 5 minutes and then decreased from there.
The ATM required a minimum 15 minute per mile pace. Many people can walk that speed. I’m not one of them. My mile per hour pace was between 16-17 minutes. I could do a mile pushing a 15 minute pace on a treadmill, but there was no way I could keep that up for 10 miles, especially when there were hills involved. I started considering not going.
I asked my husband for his advice. He would be there and running the entire length. He said he thought I should go and it would be good for me if I failed. I thought about this and looked at the sign in my room that says “Failure is not an option.” I started to think about what was the measurement of failure. If I didn’t start the race, then I couldn’t “fail” by not finishing in the time given. Then I started thinking that not showing at all was a failure.
In addition to my own doubts and being realistic on my timing, I felt I’d be letting people involved in the ATM down.
At the beginning of September I emailed the ATM to let them know I’d be running with oxygen. I hadn’t emailed sooner because I was hopeful that I just needed the boost of running with oxygen for a short period to get me over the “hump” and then I wouldn’t need it anymore (both in denial and unrealistic). Since they have a no backpack policy, and there’s talk about how tight security is, I wanted to give them the heads-up that I’d be there with a machine strapped to my back.
What I thought was a courtesy, was a liability to them. My doctor sent them a note OK’ing my participation. I hadn’t received their stamp of approval though.
Now, what if they did approve me and I didn’t make it through the race? I felt like I’d been wasting their time. I wondered though how many people don’t complete the race, and why should I worry about completing if I just did my best? This was just another excuse.
I made the choice to continue training for the race. I felt unsure and there were a few times I came close to changing my mind. Then a week before the race, I caught up with a friend whose job is in public relations. He very quickly put together a press release, biography and other information and sent it off to local news organizations. We set a date and time, the Thursday before the race, where I would be available for interviews.
One of the local news stations did an interview which aired the next day. I now felt even more pressure to not back out. I realized though that finishing the race was just one milestone. Starting the race was an even bigger one