Six-Mile Sentiments

j0150073I’ve found a sweet spot lately with a five mile loop. It seems to take just the right amount of time, it has the right amount of hills, and each time I finish the five miles I feel a little better about it than the last time. As nice as it’s been, you might say I’ve been in a five-mile rut. If I weren’t planning to run a half marathon the first weekend of August it might not matter that I’ve been stuck at five miles, but I am. So I finally upped my mileage and it’s been several months, since the Cooper River Bridge Run to be exact, since I’ve ran more than five miles.

One of the reasons I love MapMyRun is for my archived running routes. I think I could do my five mile loop with my eyes closed but I needed a quick refresher on my six mile route. I “dusted off” the routes and looked it up. For some reason, those six miles looked a lot longer online than I remember them being. Knowing I wasn’t going to give myself a chance to get out of the run, I switched mental gears and focused on how nice it would be to run a little longer than normal and planned to let my mind wander.

It’d been four months since I last ran this six mile route and as sometimes happens I struggled with the first two to three miles and had to overcome the feeling that I might not make it. For me, it really is all mental. I know darn well that I can run that route and it was a matter of reminding myself that I could do it. I also remembered that sometimes it literally takes me a few miles just to get warmed up. I recall the first time I had that feeling and that’s when I realized I prefer distance running over sprints (which would explain why I was not the fastest sprinter on my high school track team!). Needless to say by mile four I was warmed up!

While I was enjoying the run, I was aware of some things that I haven’t noticed before. I find it odd that adding an extra mile onto a run could make that much of a difference but I think it did. For one thing, I felt as though my feet were landing quite heavily. I’ve tried to be very conscious of my footfalls and try to ensure that I’m landing on mid-foot rather than my heels or toes and I also try to check that I’m landing straight rather than pronating as I think I’ve done in the past. The last thing I want is an injury and I know that having a proper landing will definitely help prevent injury.

Of course, when traffic went by I couldn’t hear my footfalls at all and they seemed perfect to me! One of these days I will have my gait checked out. I’m more than curious about what a running coach would have to say about my form (and I hope to take Coach Hinton up on her offer sooner rather than later!).

The other out-of-the-blue thing that happened on this run was that my ears felt clogged for at least the last half of the run. I tried holding my nose and blowing out to pop them as you would on an airplane but to no avail. I wondered if perhaps the swimming I’ve been doing for triathlon training somehow finally affected my ears, but I feel like that is a stretch of an explanation. The feeling went away as soon as the run was over so I guess it was just one of those weird things that happens sometimes.

Regardless of my heavy footfalls or my clogged ears or my slow start, that six mile run ended up being one of my better runs. I had a time I was happy with (52:58), I had reserve left at the end, and I’m thrilled to have finally made the leap from my five-mile rut.

Perhaps six miles will become my new sweet spot. What’s yours?

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