Turning All Runs Into Fun Runs, or How I Learned to Embrace the Running Suck, Week 4

  • Published
  • By Christopher Parr
  • 932nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Turning All Runs Into Fun Runs, or How I Learned to Embrace the Running Suck

A weekly commentary about the Scott Air Force Base Running Clinic

by Christopher Parr, 932nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


If you recall from my last blog/commentary entry, I spent week 4 having to travel to a far away location for some training, and I think I mentioned that the location was San Diego.  Just horrible.  I can’t imagine a worse place to go for training during February, away from the Midwest, just horrible.  Ok, I know I’m not selling you on this.  It was awesome!  I had a great time at training, and did my best to do my running clinic assignments.  I will say that while in San Diego there was a rather big rain storm.  Due to my schedule, I never did run on a beach or the boardwalk. 

Week 4: Monday.  Did I mention that I was in San Diego for the entire week?  Just want that to be clear. Thankfully, the hotel I stayed with had a mapped out course that included a mile route.  So I did my mile warm up, rested a few minutes and ran back.  I will say the terrain was very different.  I had a sidewalk next to a busy road, with curves and hills and people walking dogs.  I now know the fear of strange dogs and running.  Thankfully no issues, except maybe wanting to stop and pet them. I can only thank the magic of the West Coast must have helped to achieve a new personal best for a fast mile.  Even with minor obstacles, I ran a 7:14 mile.  I think I’m seeing some improvement.

Week 4: Wednesday.  I didn’t hate this Wednesday.  In fact, it was a rather pleasant day.  I didn’t do the sprints.  Might explain why I didn’t have hate in my heart or aches in my heel and knee the next day.  I did make it to a CrossFit gym and got in a great workout.  Maybe my love of Wednesdays will return yet.  Maybe.

Week 4: Thursday.  Still in San Diego, and wasn’t able to get in my run for the day.  Did have an awesome visit with my uncle and aunt.  Postponed the run until I could hit a beach or boardwalk.  Didn’t happen.  Thought maybe I would do the 38 minute run Friday, but a tropical storm blew in.  I say tropical, because I had palm trees blowing side to side outside my 7th floor room and to me it seemed like a tropical storm. I think it was just a windy rain storm.  So no beach or boardwalk run.  I did make it to a beach during the storm and watched some waves come in.  I’m not sure I can count running from my car to a shelter as my run for the day.

Bonus: or homework: or self-motivated torture….all the same.  Since I wasn’t able to get in my 38 minutes Thursday run on a beach, I settled for doing it Sunday after I got back from San Diego.  I do wish I had had a virtual simulator of a beach, but no.  I set my alarm for 19 minutes, ran out and then back for a total of 4.6 miles.  Once I got into a groove the run was smoother, but I still had some aches along the way. 

Week 4 Summary:  My dreams of a sandy beach run or dashing around boardwalk strollers didn’t happen.  I did have an improved mile run, got in some great training, visited with my uncle and aunt, and dropped in to a CrossFit gym.  I would say it wasn’t a horrible week in San Diego, but I do hope to run on a beach sometime soon. 

This week I chatted with fellow Group 1 runner and leader of the pack, Lt. Col. Troy Appel, 932nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander.  He, unlike me, likes to run.

CP:  Why on earth are you doing the running clinic?

TA: I wanted to love running again (oh and improve my fitness score).  Running was my peace, a sanctuary of sorts, a place I didn't have to worry about anything, but putting one foot in front of the other.  Chief Wagner also kept talking about this running clinic thing and would badger me about signing up.  I'm definitely glad I listened to a wise man.

(Side note: Chief Shane Wagner, 932nd AMXS Superintendent and a running clinic group leader, seems to love this thing called running.  Might need to get an interview to see why.)

CP:  Honestly, is being perfect really necessary?

TA:  So being perfect, I missed my 100% a few years ago by 3 seconds and it has haunted me.  I had given up on my abilities, plus lower back pain caused me to stop running.  I want that 100%, just to know I can do it.  Getting into the run clinic has helped push me past my comfort zone every day.  Last week I ran a 10:14 mile and a half, 9:45 or better is within reach. 

CP:  What is your background with running?

TA:  I started long distance running in 2008, not because I wanted to, but because I had a great mentor.  He would drag me out to the track against my will and would never let me quit.  He would run in place at our turn around point (knowing we were going further than what we previously agreed on) until I changed my mind and kept going, he got me into running.  I've run probably close to 20 Half Marathons, a couple Biathlons, 3 Tough Mudders, numerous 5Ks and 10Ks.  My sister also got back into running, so we would challenge and motivate each other weekly to keep on track and monitor progression, I couldn't have kept going without her help, plus I would never hear the end of it when I missed a run.

CP:  And a separate question, what is your background with the running clinic?

TA:  This is my second running clinic, I've only been participating since the end of October 2016.

CP:  Did you get the results you wanted the last time you did the clinic?

TA:  Yes, my first run clinic I dropped almost a minute off my run time, from a 11:24 to a 10:27.  This time I started at an 11:07 (took some time off for the holidays) and hope to finish at a 9:45 or better.

CP:  What goals do you have this go around?

TA:  9:45 or better mile and a half.

CP:  Have you encouraged your Airman to join the clinic or had any success stories shared with you from anyone taking the clinic?

TA:  Yes, there aren't a lot of people that actually "love" running, but I think as more and more people talk about their own personal successes, more people will start to inquire about the clinic.

CP:  What do you like about the clinic and what don't you like?

TA:  I like the accountability (for myself), it's easy to say I'll do it tomorrow, but knowing I signed a contract and the trainers are expecting to see me; I need to be there.  After the day of pain and suffering, I'm glad I showed up.  Another thing I like is seeing the dedication and determination of so many people pushing their bodies past what their brain says they can't do.  Seeing the struggles outside of the comfort zone and at the finish line, but then the joy when they realize their improvements.  I'm not sure there is anything I don't like.  I may start out not liking it, but at the end of the day I burned enough calories to eat another bag of potato chips.

CP:  Any final thoughts?

TA:  I was once a nay-sayer on my abilities as a runner.  I don't have natural running talent.  My neighbor would always talk about how she ran a half-marathon over the weekend and I would explain to her how crazy she was and I'm not built to run, I could never run 13.1 miles, can't this, can't that.  When I finally made up my mind, cleaned up my eating, and stuck to a training plan, I was amazed at what I could do.  My brain was telling my body you can't, I let my body tell my brain I can.  As weeks went by I became faster, felt stronger, and healthier.  When I started training for my first half marathon, I ran a mile at a 9:30 pace and it sucked every single step. Then I completed my first half marathon, 13.1 miles, at a pace of 7:55.  Running is an emotional roller coaster.  Don't let your brain set the bar, your body can easily push past it.

Thank you Lt. Col. Appel for sharing your running story.  You might get ahead of me on the longer runs, but just think of me chasing you down on the sprint days when every you need some encouragement.  I’ll be sure to remind my body that I can do it, and push past the moments of doubt.

The continuing saga of how much I love to hate running moves out of sunny, and at times wet, San Diego and back to Scott AFB for Week 5.