The Stressful Running Question

I’m having one of those moments where I feel like I’ve been locked away in a box and tossed into the heart of a black hole a quad-zillion light years away.   And I’m screaming.  Screaming that I have worth.  Screaming for someone to notice me…  But in a positive way…  Notice me, see that I have worth..  Help me out of this place.

I know I could get out myself… but I’ve been trapped too long and have forgotten how to pull it off…

I read the headline of an article a while ago, and I never actually got back around to it when I had time to actually read the story, but it was something I wanted the answer to.

Does happiness or contentment make your running better or worse? 

Stress, fear, anxiety, anger….  I’ve been dealing with these a lot over the last couple of years.  I’ve also run 6+ mile training runs on challenging terrain in the sub-7 minute per mile range because of it.  I’ve powered through seriously rough half marathons at BQ marathon pace, and didn’t bat an eye at it.  And in fact, felt as though I could get more miles at that pace easily.  I focused on the task of running…and just went.  I didn’t pause to consider potential injuries….  I didn’t care.  I was already hurting emotionally and mentally.  I…  I just wanted something to feel like an achievement.  My runs were doing that.

But I’ve also run while I was happy.  I’ve enjoyed the laughter and easy-going nature of a run with a group of friends just out moving and sight seeing.  My times weren’t great then.  But I did run 8 marathons in a year, along with a lot of long distances “just for fun”.  One of those marathons was my PR at 3:43:34.  All but 1 of those marathons was sub 4-hour…. and the one that wasn’t sub-4?  I still took 3rd in my age group.

Now I’m struggling.  Those stressful situations have not resolved and my best efforts to fix them have resulted in things just feeling like they’ve gotten worse.  And the last thing I want to do is run.  Sure.  I can hop on the treadmill and pound out 9-10 miles like nothing right now….  I did 20 miles on the treadmill a couple weeks ago, getting my long distance run in during a sno-pocalypse.  But when I’m home from work and have all day to go out and explore or just do the distance, I don’t want to.  When I have the morning free and could meet with the running group, I just want to sleep.

I meant to run today…just 3 or 6 miles… something…  I haven’t run for the last two days.  This makes day 3 in a row of not running.  Sure, a couple days ago, I knew I wasn’t going to get a run in, and so I planned the training week with that in mind.  That was my “rest” day.  But yesterday and today?  These days have been taken over by “extreme give up”.  Last week wasn’t a shining example of my training either.

What’s “extreme give up“?
I dunno.
I just made it up.  I’m sure you could apply your own determination of it.
It’s what I feel.  Things are so heavy in one aspect of my life, and that used to be the number one thing that pushed me out the door and had me running a distance so fast it would blow me away….  or just running and running, to the point where I’d have to rein myself back and force myself to stop.  Now it’s like they’re so heavy I just don’t want to try to combat them.  I don’t want to sit around and eat… but I don’t want to go out in the chilly air and try to come up with an enticing route either.

I’m just going to note: Don’t worry about me.
I’m not depressed.  I’m not mentally unhealthy.  I’m “normal” (yeah, I can say that for certain…I got tested and everything).  I’m just…  lonely, I guess.  I’m an extrovert that has been forced into being an introvert at work because that’s what my coworkers have randomly decided I am…  oh, and they don’t want anything to do with me as a rule, so I don’t get to sit around and socialize like they do.  Ah, the stress makes sense now?  I’m not an introvert.  And the more I’m alone and sitting quietly, the deader I feel…  maybe not “deader”…. but…  the more… not happy or healthy, I guess?  Does this even make sense?

The last thing I can get motivated for after 8-12 hours of loneliness is going out to be alone some more, while also challenging myself physically…  It just gets… tedious…

I blame myself.  There’s no question about that.  Its on me to get out the door.  That’s a fact.  And its also my fault… for not putting in the effort to get out and run with the running group as much as I used to as well.  I could say that it has a lot to do with the constant changing of shifts the last couple of years….which hasn’t helped, to be sure….  but its also my not wanting to run in the cold and or snow and or ice.  I just don’t see the point.  I could just as easily zone out on a treadmill and be done sooner and not have to worry about carrying my water around or whether or not I dressed too much or too little for the chill and wind….  And I could go home sooner… be comfortable sooner…  Be alone some more.

Ugh!  Lame.

So The Question:
Does a person run better in a situation where part of their life is out of balance and they’re stressed?  Or is it better to run happy?  Which one yields the results?

I’m not going to argue that its not better to be happy.  It is.  Absolutely!  Optimism and happiness go a long way to improve and lengthen lives, put off illness, put of injury, inspire others to want to be around you, brings success after success, and so forth.  The benefits of being happy cannot be argued.  But that’s a lot of work too, for me currently…  I was working on it pretty actively up until last week.  And then… I dunno, I guess I lapsed.  Things just became more than I could handle with my meager attempts to process things with a positive mind.  I got a little blind-sided as well, which did not help.

But running with stress?  Be honest, if you’ve ever thought to run competitively – even like me: just the little local races during track season so those lithe and speedy a-hole high school track athletes aren’t running and you have a relatively realistic shot at placing, if not winning.  Even just aiming to do better than the last time in a race.  These things bring some amount of stress to your body.

So does that power you through to your goals?

Does it break you?

I’d like your thoughts.

And if you want something happier than my blog to read, allow me to recommend fellow blogger: Jenny Lawson.  She has a couple of biographical type books out and both had me laughing until there were tears in my eyes and reading the book aloud to my husband.  I also recommend Learned Optimism, by Martin Seligman.  It’s not funny, but it has a lot of good advice and provides a solid base of research in an easy-to-read manner.

7 days to Asheville Marathon!!!
I’m looking forward to it.  Very much so.





2 thoughts on “The Stressful Running Question

  1. If you’re a professional runner and your family won’t eat unless you run, you may need to put in the miles if you’re physically healthy. If you run for mental health and enjoyment, that’s a bit more tricky. Sometimes if I’m in mental funk, I know that putting in some miles will pick me up. In those instances, I try to put in the miles.

    Other times, if I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted, I rest for a day or two.

    Does stress power you, or destroy you? It depends on how much stress, what kind of stress, and mostly on how you react to it. For a 5k, it may be good to pour on the stress if you have enough adrenaline reserves and can effectively harness it. For a marathon or longer, I think some clear thinking may be better for intelligent, effective pacing.

    Thank you for being so open and sharing.


    1. E. H. Freman

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Walt! We both know I don’t make a living running….yet…. 😉

      Thanks for reading!



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