Tourist Running in My Own City

Parliament Hill in the distance.

Parliament Hill in the distance.

Last week I ran the Ottawa River Pathway, running 26k as an out and back. The whole time I was running I was tempted a little to stop and just take in some views. It really is a beautiful route and I can see why so many people choose it for running, walking, blading and biking. But last week I had something to prove. I needed to prove to myself that I could run that distance with minimal stops and at a reasonable pace. So I kept myself moving and avoided the temptation to enjoy the journey at the expense of the final goal.

Yesterday I went back to the same route with a plan to run more than the scheduled 19k. But this time I decided to let myself enjoy the journey. I did run 25k at a reasonable pace, but I also made enough stops that I kind of lost track of how many. I believe it was as many as 9 or 10. My stops included:

– not one but two bathroom breaks (does not bode well for marathon day)
– two beach stops, including one where a yoga on the beach class was about to start, if I had access to a mat I would have joined
– a stop around 20k for an ice tea
– a stop to try change the radio station on my iphone, I had had enough of political news on CBC
– a stop to enjoy the amazing rock statues in the shallows of the river

Rock sculptures seen from the Ottawa River Pathway.

Rock sculptures seen from the Ottawa River Pathway.

I stopped my watch every time, so I have no idea how long the actual run took to complete. My worry was if I kept my watch on and then saw my ever increasing average pace, I would want to run faster than I should to try to bring it down. So in the end my pace, based purely on running, was 6:05. I’m guessing with my breaks it would be at least a minute and half slower per km if I had kept my watch going the whole time.

The view at the finish.

The view at the finish.

So it was a very different run from last week. I think though it also served a purpose. I need to constantly remind myself that there is more to training than just the numbers. It was pretty great to run AND enjoy my surroundings in an area that I do not generally visit (though I certainly will be now as it is my current favourite running route). As well, I continue to find “stop and go” running difficult. I run so much better if I just keep going. But my body is going to have to deal with the fact that if I stop, it does not necessarily mean I am finished. So having to go back at it after a break is probably as important in my training as being able to keep going without a break.

These past two long runs have caused such mixed reactions in me. On the one hand I am so proud of myself for being able to run such distances. Not long ago running for 2 and a half hours was just not something I even considered possible. My thought was only real athletes could do it and I while I have never been really unfit, I never considered myself to be an athlete. Now that I have accomplished so much in my running I am finally comfortable calling myself both a runner and an athlete.

Unfortunately though, these runs have also stressed me somewhat. Once the initial excitement wore off, I have to admit fear and self doubt has tried to settle in. While the runs were great, the fact is I was completely and totally done at the end of them. I am sure some of this is because I am running them faster than I should be for a long slow run. But honestly, even yesterday with all the breaks, I really did not have anything left. The thought that I would still have 16 or 17km to go is nothing short of overwhelming and well, terrifying. It is a bizarre feeling to on the one hand feel like you have accomplished the impossible and on the other hand feel like you might fail at what you have set out to do. All I can do is hope that the next 9 weeks are enough to prepare me for success.

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