Whenever something in life seems particularly difficult, requiring sacrifices, hours upon hours of blood, sweat and/or tears, you really need to ask yourself one question.
Is it worth it?
I remember being asked this very question at work after returning from UTA100. Now I will add that I was very broken that day, and actually amazed I made it in to work at all. So in hindsight, it was probably a fair question. But despite my brokenness, there was no hesitation when I responded, “Of course!”
I guess this applies in all areas of life – work and relationships being two that immediately spring to mind. Today I am going to focus on the running side (surprise, surprise!)
Training for a marathon, or ultramarathon, requires (for me at least), a lot of hours of training. Sometimes you don’t really feel like training, but you kind of have to do it. And almost always, you finish the run thinking “I’m so glad I didn’t listen to 5am me!” It also requires sacrifices – almost always having to go to bed early on Saturday nights in order to be fresh for Sunday’s long run. And you (well, I at least) can kiss goodbye the thought of doing anything productive on a Sunday afternoon after said long run.
Any time it all seems too hard and you can’t seem to get motivated, think about the goal and ask yourself that question.
Is it worth it?
I have not yet done a triathlon but I do plan to at some stage. I don’t, however, see myself doing an Ironman at any time. My theory being, if marathon training requires running 5 times a week, pretty much wiping out all of Sunday and not being particularly functional the next day, how on earth could I possibly find time to do all the Ironman training, with a marathon PLUS the cycle and swim legs to train for? And not just the time factor but presumably there will be some muscle soreness to factor in, but presumably not much opportunity for rest/recovery days. So for me, at this point in time (never say never) the answer to the question, “Is it worth it?” would be “No”.
Lately my Sunday Runday recovery has consisted of getting into my compression pants (I imagine watching me trying to put those bad boys on would make quite amusing viewing – I am lucky enough that I don’t experience cramps when running like a lot of my friends do, but the one time that I do get cramps is in my feet when trying to get my compression tights on and off!) and crashing on the couch for a few hours when I really should be doing something useful like making dinner or getting stuff organised for work on Monday. I don’t seem to get DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness for the uninitiated) anymore. It pretty much starts either as soon as I stop running, or when I get out of the car after driving home. But is it worth it? So far, I’d say yes.
I don’t believe in going for a long run just for the sake of it. If I’m going to run 20km or more, it will be for one of the following reasons:
- It is a race that I believe I can do well in (not necessarily figure in the placings, but run close to a PB) and preferably one that has a finisher medal.
- It is a training run for a race I believe I can do well in (and DEFINITELY has some kind of bling at the end of it)
Most runs would fit into one of these categories anyway, because lately it seems like I’m always training for something. And that doesn’t look like ending anytime soon, because after my last big race for the year (Heysen 105 at the end of October) it won’t be long before Boston Marathon training kicks in. (I just checked the calendar. 16 weeks from Boston is Boxing Day!)
I know of a lot of people who go for 30+ km runs (and sometimes even more) just for fun. And good on them, but that is not me. For me, the time taken for the run, plus the time taken to recover from the run, is NOT worth it.
I read a story about a woman who ran the Kangaroo Island Marathon this weekend, and it was her 504th marathon. I can safely say you will NEVER be reading a story like that about me. This woman was in her 70s, and even if she’d started in her 20s (which is very young for a marathon runner), that meant she must have done 10 marathons a year for 50 years! (I worked that out in my head!) So far I have never done more than 2 in a year – that is well and truly enough for me. I don’t run marathons for fun (again, I know a lot of people do and I admire that, but it is not me). I train, I make all the necessary sacrifices, and I leave it all out there. If I am going to run 42.2km, I am going to give it everything I’ve got, and feel like I’ve earned that bling. Consequently there is no way that I would ever be able to run 10 marathons in a year.
Only once have I ever considered pulling out of a race. That was the 2015 Clare half marathon. I had gone out way too fast (a common mistake!) and consequently died in the back half. I didn’t specifically ask that question, but I must admit that a few thoughts crossed my mind. One, the medal at the end. Two, knowing that I COULD definitely finish (ie my legs were still working, just not as well as I would have liked) I would have kicked myself if I’d DNFed (if I had had the strength in my legs to do so!) So in that case, pushing on despite having a crap time, WAS worth it!
I know people who have pulled out of races because they know they’re not going to get the time they want. That’s fair enough too, because they have other races further down the line that they’re training for, and to push on to the finish just so they don’t have to DNF, might jeopardise a good performance in a future race. So I totally get that. For them, the answer to the question “Is it worth it (to finish this race)?” is a resounding NO.
One of the ‘sacrifices’ I’ve made this year was to stop running trails for 3 months, from UTA100 in May, to last weekend’s Heysen 105 training run. Every time I’d see photos on Facebook or Instagram of friends out enjoying a beautiful trail run (often in glorious weather too), I’d be wishing that was me out there, instead of pounding the pavement in preparation for my 2 marathons. The reason for my self-imposed trail ban was three-fold:
- Rest my dodgy hamstring which REALLY doesn’t like going up hills.
- Avoid the likely injuries that go along with me running trails (usually just a minor stack resulting in a few grazes, but the potential for a rolled ankle is always there and would be a MAJOR inconvenience while trying to train for a marathon)
- I needed to get in a long road run each weekend and to try to do that AND a trail run would be a recipe for disaster.
But was it worth it? HELL YEAH it was. My first marathon this year was my Boston qualifier, which was my number 1 goal for the year. The second one was to try to get my friend Beck her BQ, which we didn’t quite manage to do, but I enjoyed most of that run and I totally don’t regret doing that. And when I did get back out on the trails last weekend, I think I enjoyed it all the more (despite my lack of sure-footedness!)
Some runs are better than others. That first trail run back was an absolute delight, despite the fact that I ran most of it on my own (by virtue of being not quite fast enough to stick with the lead pack, and significantly faster than those behind me) and my pace was pleasing considering I hadn’t done a trail in so long. The trail run this last weekend, 41km along the Yurrebilla Trail, was a bit of a slog and a wake-up call – a lot slower than I would have expected, a lot HARDER than I remember, and it showed me that I have a lot of work to do before the Yurrebilla Ultra in 4 weeks to get my goal time of under 7 hours. But – it will be worth it!
So, I am willing to put up with the early starts, early nights, not-so-delayed-onset muscle soreness and the occasional blister or lost toenail, if the prize at the end is something I really want. As soon as the answer to the question “Is it worth it?” ceases to be a resounding “YES!” then it’s time to start seriously considering what I’m doing!