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My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Run

What do you do when your run turns into a frustrating and demotivating experience? Take a breath and prepare to lace up again tomorrow.

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It’s one of the most annoying things that happens to runners. You’re psyched for your run—you plan it, look forward to it, brag about it to your friends—and when you finally start…it’s terrible.

Welcome to my Wednesday night.

Related: 9 Stages Of A Really Bad Run

I had a beautiful sunset beach run planned. Would I run 5 miles? Eight? Ten? I didn’t set any limits. I just wanted to feel the sand sink beneath my shoes, smell the salty air and stretch my legs.

I noticed the San Diego coast was socked in with the unimpressive “June gloom” and mist as I approached the beach. Not a promising start. There’d be no colorful sunset tonight, but that was fine—after all, the run itself was the most important part of my outing.

The real problems were quick to start. My knee, always the ornery piece of my running puzzle, was the first to announce itself: Hey buddy, remember me? (Yes, my knee talks—doesn’t yours?) Then the side stitch appeared. A side stitch? I haven’t had one of those in forever. What’s it doing here, now? I guess my ankle was feeling left out because it piped up next, something about stumbling over a loose rock.

I wasn’t in pain, but I was uncomfortable. My body was complaining, nagging me to stop and walk. Take a stroll! Look for dolphins. No. I was running. We were running. I’d drag my body along if I had to, but I was determined to finish my run, even if that meant lowering my mileage minimum for the day.

And so it went. My run never really improved. The bickering within my body was constant and super distracting—here I was, trying to focus on speed—but I did reach my revised mileage minimum.

Why do these terrible runs happen? I tried doing the math as I ran. Was I hydrated? Check. Did I eat lunch? Check. Was I wearing shoes and arch supports I trusted? Check. Was I well-rested? Partial check. Nothing was out of the ordinary: it was simply terrible, horrible, no good and very bad. (And yes, that is a reference to Judith Viorst’s popular children’s book character, Alexander. The run wasn’t quite dramatic enough to pull a quote from Shakespeare.)

Maybe there are reasons for poor running days. Maybe there aren’t. In my 12 years of running, I’ve come to learn that some days just suck. These are the days I hate running, days when it frustrates, drains and weakens me. But the contrast these days create with the super awesome running days are why I love the sport. Running is hard! It requires dedication, motivation and perseverance. Anyone can run, but not everyone does. If you’re a runner, you have physical and mental strength that can only be understood by other runners. Though I hated that evening run, I remain dedicated to the sport because I know that there will be a day soon when the run will be easy, when it will strengthen and fulfill me in more ways than one.

As my own mother runner always reminds me with this Dick Feller quote, “Some days are diamonds and some days are stone.” Sure, I had a bad run. But I know the run tomorrow will be so much better.


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