Putting the pieces of the puzzle together

Running to me is much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of which, small or big, need to come together just in the right manner for it to reveal a finished picture.

That finished image in my mind is expected to look something like this: me flying across the finish line … but not just simply crossing it, but smashing that invisible ribbon (no, not of coming first, but of the mental barriers I had surrounded myself with before), with hands held high and with a 1,000-watt smile plastered on my face.

A tad unrealistic? Perhaps. But then again, just as one starts putting together a puzzle, I did not even know where to start or think I would make it this far. Of course, I have yet to place all of the pieces perfectly.

Some of the pieces I suppose are a little easier to figure out, like having proper running shoes and attire, but few others are harder to identify and align. Eating right is an important and big piece to this running puzzle, and so is cross training. To me this piece is the one that will have those hands held high instead of me crawling across the line in a pile of sweat and tears.

Per the MRM weekly schedule: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays are dedicated run days, whereas Mondays and Wednesdays are cross-training days and Friday is a rest day before the long runs on Saturday mornings. Since the start of the program, I have tried my best to stick to that schedule … for the most part at least.

Typically, on cross-training days, I alternate between going cycling, hitting the gym for the elliptical or weight lifting. Sometimes though, it just ends up being another break day. But with just around 30 days left to the D-Day, we are in the home stretch. Its time now I become more diligent and consistent in my training regimen.

In the last two weeks, I have primarily been concentrating on improving my speed. To date, I used to go to the group classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays for that. When I started the program, the classes helped me be more accountable and gave structure to my training. It has also been a great way to meet new people and share this journey of learning and pushing one’s limit.

However, the last few weeks I have been doing the training solo. I confided earlier that I do feel I am not where I should be (and tend to lag behind), so for now I have decided to put in that extra effort by myself where it’s just me against myself.

Blame it on my personality type where I just felt the need to break away from a group setting.

The highlight for me in these two weeks though was the 8-mile run on Aug. 20. It was for me one of the best runs I had completed so far. The weather was perfect, no sun, a slight breeze and not humid at all.

I also did a lot better in terms of running itself. I say this not because I paced myself, and it was better, but I continue to place more value on how I feel I did and how having never really run before completing the mileage for the day with very few walk spurts. I ran longer and faster than I had before, that’s for sure! I attribute this to a combination of the amazing weather, the training of course and the nutritional changes I have been making. I can see all the pieces of the puzzle coming together slowly.

So even as, things have been steady and smooth (comparatively!) on the training front, there have been a myriad of thoughts hopping around in my head as we inch closer to the race day. Thoughts about:

How far I have come, how I envision my race day to go, what I have learned about myself through this, and;

What I have gained and lost in the process. But by far, the most important thought has been, “How I will continue this journey beyond the race day.”

Ritika Shah is a first-time runner in an organized race. From that perspective, she will write a column every other week leading up to the Sept. 24 Mill Race Marathon’s half marathon. She can be reached at shahritika@gmail.com.