When You Wonder Why You Can’t Run Fast Anymore

What is wrong with me? Why am I not getting faster even though I am trying so hard and doing everything I need to do?

I have wondered this a lot over the past few weeks, and I am sure I am not alone.

Running has never claimed to be easy.

As a brand new runner, we join the sport thinking that if we can just get “fast” then it will suddenly be easy. We will see what all the fuss is about, and sure, every now and again you might have a bad run, just to keep things in perspective, but it will be so much better when we reach that day.

You finally made it to be a runner.

But here’s the problem:

That day never arrives.

Every now and again, we get a stretch where things do click into place. You are on a roll, and you improve one race after the next, PBs fall, again and again.

But the higher up you get, the faster you get, not only does it not get easier, but those stretches become less and less common, and those breakthroughs are a few seconds, rather than a few minutes.

Although I had as many bad races as good, I had a LOT of good experiences, knocked 5 minutes off my marathon, and completed my ultimate running goal. Opportunities that came up made 2016 a fantastic year for my running, and many of us (myself included) could have predicted that it would mean some struggles would be coming my way very soon.

I was not wrong. 2017 however has not been kind to Tina the runner so far.

This has been the longest stretch of bad runs I have felt in a long time.

Does this sound familiar?

After 1-2 weeks off running after a big race, the first few weeks are spent just getting back into it, feeling good…and then around 2/3 of your mileage, you feel like you hit a wall.

For a few weeks, every run is difficult, you feel sore, tired, and just crappy.

This is where you question why you do this and wonder why you are not fully recovered after your race.

But that time passes, and like smashing through a wall, after a few weeks at the higher mileage, you start to feel good again, the fitness comes back, and you get your confidence back.

That is how it usually works for me.

Except this time, the few weeks of every day being sore, tired and crappy has turned into eight weeks of feeling this way.

I have had a few good runs, of course there have been moments I was just in the flow and running along, not thinking about how bad I feel, but overall, training does not feel like it has been going well.

Time and time again my confidence has been tested as it feels like I am not getting anywhere. I can tell my cardiovascular fitness is there from the mileage and the cross training, but when it comes to workouts and feeling good in my training, those thoughts are few and far between.

My workouts are significantly slower than they are usually at this point, significantly slower than they have been in a long time.

For that reason, I have avoided my GPS watch during workouts, just like I suggest to you during times of struggle, I have covered it up, and not looked, I have once again, taken Steve’s advice of “take what your body gives you” and just focus on doing my best for that day.

I have been getting the work in, I have been doing all the training I needed to do (other than one missed strength training session), but it still isn’t easy on the mind when every day is a grind, and every day tests your commitment to the sport.

I know I did not have a major injury, and I am sure a lot of these feelings I am experiencing are the same as those who are coming back from an extended time off, but after a longer recovery time after CIM (my request), followed by a few hiccups, I was left in pretty bad shape (remember, running is relative!!), and I have been trying to claw my way out of this hole.

I am not going to lie, it has been hard.

I have questioned if I still “want it” anymore, and many times over the last few weeks, I have told a few people I think I am going to pull out of the pacing for London for fear of messing it up.

But here’s the thing; we know that running brings up and downs, and we know that the more downs there are, the better the ups feel. It is moments like that really determine how much you want it, how well you are going to do in the future. It is not the moments where everything is going well that make you run fast and achieve those big goals, it is the moment where you are truly tested, where every fiber in your being wants to quit, but you do not.

This is that moment where those adverts come in, asking you if you are going to quit, are powerful, and actually helpful. If you can just make it through this time, you will be stronger than ever and appreciate those great moments more than you ever would have if your running just went well all the time.

I have six weeks before pacing the London Marathon, and that is a LOT of time for things to “click” together. I have been doing the work, I have been trusting the journey, and considering the amount of bad runs, my confidence has remained pretty good, trusting that it will be there when it needs to.

So no matter what happens these next 6 weeks, I will keep fighting, I will keep putting my head down and getting ready. At some point it will click together for me, and at some point my friends, I promise it will click together for you.

As I mentioned, it gets harder to run a PR the higher up your running ladder you go, and now I am closing in on the 2:30 area, I have to be tested. 2:30ish is NO easy feat, so I have to show just how much I am willing to do to get there.

Well my friends that was me back and my thoughts back when I was an Elite preparing for London marathon, and since then I have learned a few things about the mental side of training. AND I have put them all together in my Mile 20 Mental Training Course, so for more information click the link and it can help you reach your FULL potential for your next race. Maybe your next big goal is the same. It is something scary, it is something that will take a long time, it is something that requires clawing your way back after a big injury, but you WILL get there, if you persevere through this moment.

Hang in there, and trust that you are going to be rewarded in the end.

Running is the ultimate example of you get what you put in. Maybe it isn’t when you expect, maybe it isn’t when you initially want, and maybe your path will take a direction you never expected, but it will work out for you in a way it was meant to.

All you need to do is just keep moving forward, as best as you possibly can.

Brain dump, OVER! Thank you for letting me vent to you, I hope this can help someone out there not feel so alone. If you have a friend who has gone through a big injury, and is really struggling, share this with them, and let them know that things will get better.

Before I let you get on with your day, I have a gift for you. I am sorry, it is just for marathoners, but I have been asked about this a lot, so I created this little cheat sheet to figure out your marathon nutrition for your next marathon. If you are racing Boston, London, or another spring marathon, you still have time, but you NEED to take my advice on practicing for EVERY long run and workout from now on out. I would even consider using your pre race and night before meals on as many meals as possible…to the point where you do not want to eat that meal for a while as you are so bored of it.

What I talked about today, have you been there?

Please remember to go “Like” my Running for Real Facebook page, and join me on one of my live chats this week, I really do hope to see you there 🙂

Think we could be friends?

I am always this honest, real, raw. If this article speaks to you, I really believe we could be friends and I could help you with what you are working through. Drop your email below, and I will reach out to you

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  • Running year round at the level you do is certainly a roller coaster! You do know your body will give you back 10 fold! It’s coming, I’m sure of it so just hang in there, keep doing what you’re doing and strengthening your mental game the way you are is also HUGE!

  • I’ve definitely been there, but then I’ve not really been working at it, either! I guess I am just happy to be running, period, when I get the chance!

  • I”m there right now. I found out why my endurance has been so crappy. Answers are good. But can I bring it to my marathon in June? Thanks for sharing your struggles. Not that I want you to struggle but it’s helpful to know that everyone has the same issues, no matter what level you are at.

  • This. is. exactly. what. I . needed. to . read.
    Thank you!!! This made me remember my favorite quote from America’s Next Top Model (no judgement, please 😉 )-
    “There is never a testimony without a test”- EP 🙂

  • My friend. You are so wise and so smart and I love your advice so much. You always know what we want and NEED to hear (read) and for that I know all of us are grateful. Thanks for always being an awesome wealth of info and for keeping it real. xoxox

  • I feel ya, lady. I’ve been feeling like crap about my running but have been trying to “trust the process”. I had a really surprisingly good 5K this past weekend where I welled up in tears when I finished because it confirmed that the speed is still inside me.

  • I am definitely there now. This past weekend, I struggled to maintain a pace for a 5k that 3 weeks ago was no problem for a 10 mile race! WTF? Is it all in my head? Thank you for your words. This is just what I needed. I am going to push forward with the hope that this will all click together.

  • Thanks Tina for a great topic 🙂 I just came back from such a run. I ran my first 30km 4 days ago and am now struggling to maintain pace as my calfs are tight. Do you guys recommend some rest days or would you just grind through that discomfort?

    • Thanks K! I appreciate that, sorry to hear about the calf tightness, I have actually been going through that myself, but had some treatment. Have you gone to see anyone about it like a chiropractor/osteopath or even just to get a massage? Also try to use foam rolling yourself. As for running through, its impossible for me to recommend whether you keep running, you will have to listen to your body with that. If it is making you run funny, then I would consider cross training for a few days. Check out this Facebook live post on the 14th march, it will help more http://facebook.com/runningforreal Hope this helps!

  • I always appreciate how honest you are about the ebbs and flows of training. Like you said, there’s a lot of times for things to click, and you put in the hard work so I know they will for you!

  • Tina! I read your blog a lot, but I’ve rarely (or never?) commented. But one section of this post really spoke to me:

    “But here’s the thing; we know that running brings up and downs, and we know that the more downs there are, the better the ups feel. It is moments like that really determine how much you want it, how well you are going to do in the future. It is not the moments where everything is going well that make you run fast and achieve those big goals, it is the moment where you are truly tested, where every fiber in your being wants to quit, but you do not.”

    I am a runner, but that’s not what’s challenging me right now. I’m making a major life change (moving to the other side of the world) and am absolutely terrified. I’m a person who struggles to accept change, and yet my life always seems to be full of change (they say “change is the only constant,” right?). I know the change will be a good thing once I’ve overcome the tumultuous part, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re sitting in an airport, contemplating life before a red eye. So thanks for putting a little wind back in my sails 🙂

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