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April 18, 2016

Health : Run Hills

Highway 280 between San Francisco and the Santa Cruz Mountains
When I ran my first half marathon I was worried I wouldn't be able to finish thirteen miles because the longest run I'd done up until the race was about 8 miles. I'd done a 7-miler the week before and felt great, and then felt really tired the next week doing 8.  I thought I was tiring out so I did a 6-miler the weekend before the race and didn't push any more distance.  I was really anxious the morning of the race, feeling I hadn't developed enough practice and stamina.

What I found was that the race itself felt totally achievable and I didn't doubt at any time that I would finish.  I felt my training had prepared me pretty well, and it was less because of distance traveled, and more due to height ascended.

I had done several runs in Tilden Park, which is a gradual 4 mile ascent to a peak and the downhill is fairly easy on the knees. Even a small amount of hills make longer distances feel much easier, and you also feel really good about getting views and working your glutes.

Again, as a slower runner who does this more for fun, health and wellness than for competition or time, I think it's more important to focus on general concepts than to have strict training regimens.  I think it's more important to be strict about finding some hills and adding them to your run, than to figure out what exact incline and distance you need.  Find some hills that you think you can't run without stopping, and then run them until you don't stop.

In terms of my work, residency training was a major hill. Not just because of the 100-hour work weeks, but because working at San Francisco General Hospital meant coping with some of the most difficult situations of my life.  The degree of illness, the extent of poverty, the extremes of negative emotions--grief, rage, exasperation, hopelessness--that most people don't encounter on a daily basis.  No one really knows what they are getting themselves into when they start residency, but you forge ahead into it.  You find that not only can you do it, but that you love being a stronger, fuller person at the end. And everything you do afterwards, feels doable.


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