Monday's training run from Jackson Park is, in my opinion, the hardest course of the Parkersburg Half Marathon training sessions. Oh and it has hills. One thing we will all have in common on Monday evening, first timers and well as long timers, is the dread we will feel at the bottom of Jackson Park Hill.
Running hills is something that makes even the most experienced runners groan. I have read numerous articles on the benefits of hill running and how it improves running efficiency. . I've watched videos of the pros who make it look easy and assure me that I will climb up and down hills with ease if I "tweak" my form. So I head out on my hilly run, inspired and motivated with my new knowledge of hill running. I get to the bottom of broad street hill and start to ascend. My form in check, looking to the horizon, feet low to the ground, increased leg turnover, feeling good. Halfway up, something is familiar, oh yes, this pain, I remember it well. Form is gone. I am focusing on the top of this dreadful hill that I hate. It is too far to the top and by the time I get there I am gasping for air and my hands are on my knees. That wasn't the way it was supposed to go.
Over the years I have learned that running requires mental toughness every bit as much as physical preparedness. An experience running friend, Jeff Cox once told me that the only way to become a good hill runner was to "run hills". Sounds simple, yes, but I realized I couldn't train on flat courses and be ready for the hills on race day. So I took a different approach. I now run hills, regularly. I tell myself "bring it" at the bottom instead of "I cant do this". My thoughts are of people who inspire me, like my father and Rick Brown. If they can bravely face their battles, I can surely make it up this hill. I focus on maintaining good form and realize that my pace will slow down, but I will make It up on the other side.
The seven mile run last Tuesday introduced a few long grades. I talked to several runners and walkers along the course. Devante is running his first half this year after a friend encouraged him to take on the challenge. He is running in Vienna throughout the week and seems motivated to tackle the challenge of the Parkersburg half course. He was running with Brennen, a ninth grader, who is also running his first half in Parkersburg this August. They were running together and looked strong. Martha Hesson , a registered nurse, has reaped the rewards of mental toughness. She joined the beginners walking clinic last year because of some health problems.
"I have two small grandchildren and I want to be able to keep up with them and see them graduate".
After completing the beginners clinic she stuck with racewalking in attempts to "get healthy". 30lbs weight loss later, she feels "100% better" and her health issues are all under control. She has become quite the competitive racewalker and has really enjoyed meeting the nice group of friends that she trains with. She has signed up for the marathon in Disney World in January and plans to incorporate the Parkersburg Half in her training.
Everyone is going through their own journey. Some are out there racing against the clock while others are just trying to stay healthy. Whatever the reason you are out hitting the pavement, be proud of yourself. Most of us don't tap in to the mental toughness that we possess deep inside. It is there, trust me. I challenge you to bring it out on Monday night. See you at Jackson Park.