The Hard Road

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As someone who runs for recreation and competition, I get tempted to stick with easy courses. I don’t need to run. I run because I want to, so why should I do hard hills? Well, I like to keep improving, so my dilemma of not wanting to do hills and wanting to become a better runner are often in conflict. While Maryland is quite hilly, where I live is relatively flat. On days when there is a tailwind, I can easily run down the road thinking, “I am the fastest woman alive!” But, that’s not true. I know that if I want to improve as a runner, I’ll have to hit the hills, increase the distance, and do the dreaded speed work (God, I hate speed work).

This past week, I hit the hills and increased the distance. It was my first 30 mile week since cross-country season ended and my first 10-miler since the Baltimore Marathon. One of the things that I have to remember is that there are parts of hill and distance work-outs where I know I’m going to hate that I’m doing this to myself, but the second that it’s over, I’m going to be so glad that I did it. That’s exactly what happened last week.

Near my work, there are a lot of hills. Hills to the point that the course that I ran on Thursday had a nearly 4% grade. Checking out my MapMyRun/Garmin duo, I saw how pathetic my hill running has gotten. Down hill, my pace was great. I felt good and was in a happy place. The way up the hill, I wanted to start swearing and stop running. Thankfully, I didn’t stop, but mostly because I didn’t want to wimp out. Wimping out is no way to improve. When I do poorly at hills, I want to yell, “I am a Midwesterner! I don’t do hills.” But, that’s not really an excuse. As we learned from Wedding Crashers: Rule #76: No Excuses. Play like a champion.

Finally, yesterday I hit the road for a 10-miler. It was windy and not as warm as I would have liked, but the run felt good. There were a couple of points where it got dicey. The worst moment was on the hill pictured below. I have mentioned before that where I live is an island of rural culture in between large suburbs of DC and Baltimore. Generally, I run along bigger roads that either have large shoulders or sidewalks. However, on my long runs (10+ miles), I take a path that goes along a 2-lane road that passes by farms. It’s beautiful, but this 2-lane road has zero shoulder. It is SCARY. If I leave early enough in the morning, there is no traffic, so it’s not that bad. However, I left for my run at about 9:00 yesterday, so ended up on the hill at 9:40-ish–the beginning of prime traffic time. As I was running up the hill, cars started coming. I tripped, a stick jabbed me in the leg, and I fell. Thankfully, the cars were driving slowly enough that they avoided me and my broken pride. Moral to the story: be careful.

The Scary Hill in greener, warmer times. This shot has no filter. It's just that picturesque.

The Scary Hill in greener, warmer times. This shot has no filter. It’s just that picturesque.

Yesterday I was reminded that on long runs, if I have something nice to look at, I can run farther and feel better about it. Sometimes it can be tough, but the Scary Hill is in a beautiful area. The picture below is the police horse farm I run by on my 12 or 13-milers. If I feel like taking a break while running, I’ll play with the horses or other animals that I see along the way. It definitely puts you in your happy place. That’s what running should be about–challenging yourself and being in your happy place. 🙂

Pretty farm.

Summer scenery.

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