Not ready for that running distance? Move down a race

The FAQ section on the races website explains how to switch races.

[Note: This post originally appeared on LovingTheRun.com, where I was a guest-blogger.]

I have never considered moving down a race level. Ever. But I must be growing as an athlete, because I recently did just that.

To be clear: It was not easy.

I signed up for the Illinois Half Marathon a couple of months ago, when I was in excellent half mary shape. I had just finished a half in January, and had another in February. I was rearin’ to go, so when I saw that the field for the IHM was still open, I signed up without giving it a second thought.

Then I got sick. And stayed sick. FOR THREE WEEKS.

My fitness level tanked and I was quite disheartened. I still thought that if I put in the work I had the ability to run the 13.1-mile distance at the end of April.

But I struggled to regain my fitness, and as I was starting to feel better, I wasn’t able to log nearly as many miles as I had only one month previously. Now, each of my runs had turn into torture sessions; my legs were heavy and my lungs hurt.

But one day, after logging a painful five-mile run, I had an epiphany: “What if I didn’t run the half?” I thought to myself. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

The answer? Nothing. Moving down a race would do me absolutely no damage. But I wasn’t ready to admit that out loud yet.

Instead, I reached out to my good friend and my Austin Half running buddy Kristel. Here’s our message exchange:

Me: I am signed up to run the Illinois Half Marathon on April 30. I haven’t run more than 6 miles at once since our half in February. I do work out six days a week, though, doing cycling, running and swimming. Do I still run the half, or do I switch to the 10K???

Kristel:  I think you’d be perfectly okay with running the half at the end of the month if:

  1. You try and fit in some mileage on these next three (two?) weekends – like a 9 miles and 10 if you can, just to remind your feet and body of what it’s like.
  2. Are okay with running a race that might not be your best.
  3. Are okay with it possibly hurting for a few days after.
  4. Feel good (i.e., no foot pain).

… there’s no shame in going down to the 10K; you’ve been working hard.

Me: You’ve just regurgitated everything that’s already in my head… Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re on the right train of thought, you know? I’m much better at advising others than myself…

I dropped my race change form and check in the mail on Friday, April 8.

And with that, I advise you all to love yourselves and your goals more than any one run.

My A race this year is a the Racine Ironman 70.3 in July. Pushing myself to do the Illinois Half just because I signed up for it — at the risk of screwing up my 70.3 training — is not worth it. So I filled out the paperwork, paid my $10 and switched to the 10K.

And, if I weren’t training for the IM event, I’d probably also say that it’s not worth sacrificing my health over either. I spent most of last year hurt. Never again….

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