Sometimes, the sidelines are The Place To Be

The ING Philadelphia Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon happened on Sunday. While I wasn’t running this one, several of my friends did—so I went to cheer for them. For some of the newer members of my running group, this was their first “official” half-marathon; for others, this might have been their second or third (or seventh or eighth, for those who set themselves a “12 in 2012” goal) of the year.

I think being a spectator was exactly what I needed; the excitement of the crowds lining the course was infectious, and I was soon cheering not only for my friends, but for complete strangers as well.

One of the things that occurred to me (not for the first time) is that, for all that running appears to be a solo sport, there really is a sort of esprit de corps that builds up whenever runners gather en masse. Runners share tips and support (and even their their Kinesiology tape!), they encourage each other, they slow down to make sure someone is okay when they see them cramping up on that last, mean little hill before the finish line. Sure, maybe it’s not true for everyone—but I’m always impressed by how considerate, generous and kind runners can be, even when they’ve got their own goals and times and splits running through their heads as they run.

My own training has been up and down all season, and I’ve been feeling rather lackluster and unmotivated; I’m getting out there, I’m getting my miles, but I’m struggling more than I did last year, and it has definitely been messing with my head. I’m pretty sure that my next half-marathon (the hilly Runner’s World Half in October) is going to be the slowest half I will have ever run—but watching this race, and then hearing my friends talk about it afterward (or reading their blog posts, such as Kristie’s blog entry, Redefining Personal Best and Paula’s entry, A Half-Marathon Completed Two Miles at a Time), reminded me that I get to decide how a slower half makes me feel. I don’t have to feel disappointed and defeated; I can adjust my mindset before I ever get there, and prepare to be happy with finishing, and make the goal to have fun for 13.1 miles, instead of stressing over some semi-arbitrary time goal.

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The Whole Deal

There’s a new image you’ll be seeing in my sidebar, and it’s this one:

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We all know that nutrition is an important part of any training plan, but it’s often easier to know that on an intellectual level than it is to implement a good, solid nutrition plan. I seem to do great one week, then catch myself mindlessly eating junk the following week. I recently started reading It Starts With Food, which is a really interesting look at how our bodies respond to the food we’re eating. I have a feeling I’m going to be re-reading it a few times before I really grasp the science behind our hormonal responses to food. (Don’t take that to mean that it’s written in a hard-to-understand way; I just feel like I’m not absorbing it well. Biology was not my strongest subject, and I suddenly feel like I’m playing catch-up on every day that I day-dreamed in the ninth grade.)

I recently had a long conversation with an important person in my life, and we discussed some of our similar struggles with food, some of our shared health issues, and current frustration with the cycle of diet-and-cheat that we both seem to fall into all too easily, even while knowing that it’s an unhealthy way to view food. So we’ve agreed to be each other’s support system and start the Whole30 challenge. We’re starting immediately, making as much of a change as we can with what we have on hand (which is actually pretty good — we have a few solid meal options based on what we already have on hand) and then we’re going to come up with some specific meal ideas, and go grocery shopping and do some meal prep together on Sunday, so that we each go into the week with meals made in advance and things we can have on hand for those busy weekdays when we don’t have time to cook and might find it easier to slip or cheat.

I’m not planning on becoming one of those people who posts pictures of every meals, or menus of each day. But a training plan is so much more than just miles run — it needs to incorporate rest days, cross-training, recovery AND nutrition, so I’m sure this will be finding its way into future posts as well.