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Summer running: Finding strength thru discomfort.


Do you know that tingling sensation that envelopes your body as you hasten your pace? Your turnover accelerates and you become simultaneously energized and slightly light headed as your skin tingles its way into a tempo. A smirk briefly appears before it is washed away and replaced with a look of pure grit. From that moment on all of the parts of your body, this beautiful piece of machinery, miraculously work in sync to swiftly move you across the Earth. Why wouldn’t you want to experience this rush where your power, confidence and body align to propel you forward on the pavement?

Oh right- the three H’s: heat, humidity and did I mention how it’s HOT AS HADES outside?!?

Summer running is not for the faint of heart. Even I, a now seasoned runner face summer running with my eyes wide open. I have learned that summer running mandates the following:

  1. Rise early and run to beat the heat.
  2. Bring sports drink on every run no matter what the distance!
  3. Slowing down to keep the heart rate in check.
  4. Racing to effort. During summer races I ask myself and my athletes, “Did you empty the tank? Did you put in 100% effort?” Because that’s all you can really ever do. Summer’s steamy conditions do not typically lead to PR’s on the road.
  5. Blind faith. Summer running means that you must trust your coach and have faith that come fall and cool temperatures running won’t hurt quite as much.
  6. And most importantly finding comfort in the discomfort of a hot workout.  

Finding comfort in discomfort

Last week I set out to complete a 2x12 min tempo run. By the time I dropped my daughter off at preschool it was 84 degrees with about 85% humidity. Just plain nasty. Since I knew it was going to be a challenging day to tempo I came prepared: I planned a route with water fountains and shade, fueled well pre-run and was determined to stick within my prescribed heart rate zones. Before I set foot outside I knew that it was going to be a physically and mentally challenging run. I knew I would be out of my comfort zone and I even admitted to myself that a small part of future-Kass would be so uncomfortable that she would be for mercy from the weather gods. But future-Kass would never, ever even consider quitting, pulling back or not giving her all. Why? Because I’m not a quitter. I’m a lean, mean running machine! Can’t stop, won’t stop, never stop running!! At least that’s what I told myself before the run.

I left the comfort of my air-conditioned walls and started my tempo. I admitted that it was warm outside but not unbearable. As soon as I pushed into zone 2 my heart rate rose, my cheeks flushed and I felt like I was breathing through a straw. Interval one was completed at an average pace of 7:17s. Not too bad for these conditions. I pulled back to collect myself during the 5 minute recovery interval to no avail. My face was on fire, my heart rate was still spiked into zone 2 and I couldn’t seem to slow my pace enough to make any difference. My first incredibly hot run of the season and I was already begging for mercy. Yikes.

Did it really only take 12 minutes of pace work to break me? I’m better than that! I’m stronger than that! The fire inside of myself had ignited. I wanted to push onwards and yet my body was so overheated that I could barely focus. Interval two led me into a strong headwind and I felt my shoulders tilting upwards while my body was being pushed back. Relief. All I craved was relief from the warm sun, the hot blanket of air that made it difficult to breathe and now the wind that was pushing me backwards. Not even two minutes into the second interval and I wasn’t giving my all. An onlooker would not have been able to discern the struggle within the walls of my body, but it was there. While my mind was was yelling, GO, my body had its own agenda. Out of nowhere I heard her voice resonate within. It was my coach, Beth telling me something she had said a hundred times during Boston marathon training. Her voice urged me, “Lean into the hurt Kass!! Don’t be afraid. It’s going to hurt, it’s supposed to hurt. The hurt is temporary so tilt those shoulders and LEAN IN!”  Instantly my stance morphed as I tilted my shoulders forward and leaned in. The rush. The adrenaline. That tingly, light headed feeling suddenly enveloped my body. Somehow in the midst of a near melt-down of a workout my body, this majestic machine with an even more powerful mind worked together for the remainder of the workout.

The Takeaway

Even in the toughest of times the body can thrive. Sure, the paces may be slower and your face may become a deep shade of cranberry, but you still HAVE TO give your all. You have to push just as hard as if it were a cool 45 degree day in early November. You have to get comfortable with being VERY uncomfortable.

Summer running mandates that runners dig deep, lean in and push with the body, the mind, the heart and soul. Everything, together and all at once. 

Are you ready to give your all? Are you ready to feel uncomfortable? Are you willing to lean into the hurt?

Good. We have eight weeks left of summer and plenty of time to practice!!

Never Stop Running,


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