Wicked Weird Running: A Much Needed Mental Reset

Written by: Andrew Ware
November 4, 2023

Scary Running Story Time

Runners have a warped sense of reality, humor, and even terror, especially when it comes to running.

These are often expressed best in memes of runners trying to find some way to relate to a “normal” society. However, sometimes, I imagine myself with a group of runners and we have our opportunities to share our “scary stories.”

You know that scene: Everyone sitting around a campfire, and somebody is holding a flashlight and telling a story. 

Well, let me tell you my Wicked Story. 

*Again, runners may be the only ones to get it…

There once was a runner, who had a race coming up one weekend. While his training had been subpar leading up to it, he felt confident to be able to do a good strong 10k. He had no real goals going into the race. All he wanted to do was finish, feel good, and have a decent time.

As the week drew on, he continued to look forward to a fun weekend of running and hanging with his running friends. However, on Thursday his watch began to act funny. The battery was draining quickly and then suddenly died.

He tried everything he could to get his watch to work. Not only would his watch struggle to charge, but once it finally did charge it continued to drain a full battery in about 4 hours.

The runner knew that this watch was, for lack of a better word, DEAD.

Then it hit him:

He would have to run his race on Saturday…without a watch.

cue the creepy flashlight shadows on the face and screams from all those who are listening

Back to My Life

So, in case you haven’t figured it out yet:

Yes, the runner in question is ME.

In fact, running a race without a watch was just the icing on what I am calling my “Wicked Weird, Week of Running.”

I do not think it has been any secret that this has been one of the most difficult summers of running I have had in quite a while.*

*At least since I have made my “return to running” back in 2019.

At this point in my journey, I always expect to get injured. This time around I am trying to be better at prehabbing so that I can prevent the nagging injuries. 

As I mentioned in my previous article, this cycle has been more than just the hyper-extended knee. I am starting to feel a bit more “regular,” having been on iron supplements for a few weeks now. Not every day is great, but more answers will come the more I invest in this part of my physical health. 

It is with all this that I got closer to this next “race day.”

Approaching The J&A Racing Wicked 10k

This would be a nice little test to see how my body was holding up. The race would test my threshold pace, but it would still be short of where I needed to be. It had only been one week before that I had run my longest run in about 5 months. Now I was lining up for a 10k, and honestly, I was unsure what to expect at all. 

Making A Tough Decision

Because of all of this, as I stared down the start of the Wicked 10k, my coach and I decided it was best to defer my 2023 Richmond Half Marathon entry. Yea I know seems like I am burying the lead, but I am a storyteller. 

This will be the first time in five or six years that I will not complete a Richmond race. Even during COVID, I still completed them virtually. It was tough to defer Richmond. I have often thought of it as one of my “home races.”

In my years at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland and serving just south of Richmond for the first 6 years of my ministry, I grew to love the area and its running scene a lot. Richmond was where I struggled to find my fitness, and it is where I rediscovered my love of running. 

It is not that I feel obligated to go, but I feel like a part of me in this running season is lost. As I continue this journey of getting back into shape, many of the dreams that I had for this fall seem to be going unfulfilled. This fall was going to be a springboard to an awesome spring. However, I am recognizing that sometimes the right decision is the toughest one.

No Watch

However, this deferral was the tip of the iceberg, because, as I mentioned earlier, my watch decided it was done working properly. It would be one of the first times I would be running without a watch or even a phone (because I hate carrying my phone during a race) since High School. The oddity of this event was made even more stark by the fact that I still was unsure what my capabilities were.

Normally, I would set myself a baseline goal, stick there for a couple of miles, evaluate, and then adjust as I felt. However, in this race, this would be all based on true feeling, and I would have no idea what my pace was or even how far I had run. The race had mile markers, but those are only good for knowing what mile you are in. They are not good for knowing how far you have from one marker to the next.

It was like my high school days again. I memorized the map and broke the course into segments. Segments where I could know about where I stood in terms of distance. However, without any clocks on the course, there was no way to judge this factor. As I ran the race, I kept thinking about asking someone for their watch time and occupying my mind with some runner math. However, I did not do that either. 

The Race

I ended up just running the race. Without a concept of time, I tried my best to focus on distance and trying to keep in touch with certain groups of people. I have always had the mantra “run the mile you’re in,” and in this case, it played well. Between breaking the course down into segments (not based on distance but sections of roadway/boardwalk) and being able to know what mile I was in, I focused and kept myself at a good steady pace. 

I crossed the start, found a comfortable pace, and stuck with it as long as I could. I passed the midway point and still had no clue how I was doing. There was a sensor that scanned my bib and afterward, I found out I crossed at 25:53. However, not knowing at the time meant an evaluation of how I felt and an adjustment of my run from there.

I could feel the heat and humidity (70+ degrees for an October race) beginning to wane on me. I adjusted to back off just a bit and cool off as I ran up Atlantic Ave, in somewhat shady conditions. My hope was this energy conservation would serve me well on the final 20+ block section on the Boardwalk.

Although I had to dodge some 5k walk/runners in the final mile, I still felt okay coming through. A couple of times I took a brief respite to catch my breath, but I told myself the goal was to cross the finish. Having no concept of time meant having no concept of how well I was running. When I finally saw the clock with about 100 meters to go, I was pleasantly surprised that it was reading in the 52-minute range.

Weird Way to Reset

It is a weird feeling running a whole race without a watch. In our current running age, watches are the norm, almost every runner uses some kind of watch or timing device.*

* Please note this is not all-inclusive. I know the purists of the sport still exist.

As I ran, I wasn’t sure how to process how I was doing. I have always been good at listening to my body, and normally I have other data to assess against how my body feels. Running without a watch meant all I had to rely on was how my legs were feeling (not necessarily bad, but sometimes the deeper numbers help). I still had the mental push of getting to the line, but now way to interpret those feelings considering paces/times I knew my body could be capable of.

Now, if I had run this race with a watch, it would have 100% been slower, I believe. I did not even think I had a sub-53:00 in me, and I am sure I would have backed off sooner to not push myself so hard.

This truly was a Wicked Weird running experience for me, but I think it showed me that I am in a good place when it come to running right now. I am nowhere near where I though I would be in late October, but for where I have been, I am making progress. Despite all the struggles I have had, I am beginning to feel confident that I am on the rebound.

What is Next?

My knee is feeling better.

I have more energy day-to-day.

My mileage is ticking back up, and my pace is working its way back down.

Sometimes these things take time, but when we stick with them and commit ourselves to the work, we can accomplish amazing things. Goals give us something to work towards, but we must know the path is not always easy. 

Are you in the middle of something and it is feeling tough?

Maybe you need a wicked weird period to reset your mentality. 

Author

  • Andrew Ware

    My vision as the RunninRev is to build community and faith relationships through running and self-care. I have become an advocate in the church for clergy care, and helping clergy prevent or recover from burnout. I see my primary outreach to the community as building these communal structures through running and having fun together on the run.

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