Yesterday I ran over 5 miles fairly easily. Today I barely made 2, & they were harder than the 5.25 from yesterday. I have a goal to reach 10 but days like today discourage me. Can any long distance runners offer any encouragement and/or tips or advice? I really beat myself up over bombing a run. I'm trying not to give up on my goal.
Well, as I've always said, There will be bad days! So you went two tough miles and what did you do? What you should have done (barring injury) was keep going. Or you could have walked for a while to see if you feel better. Easy to say, not always easy to do. I ran 5 miles today and let me tell you, the first 2 were pretty bad. But somewhere between 2 and 3 I got loose, and the last 2 were pretty darned good. I've had days where I walked 2 or 3 times in the first mile. But perseverence usually pays off. The only caution is if you're going so bad that it really throws your stride off. What you don't mention, which would have helped, is how many days per week, average miles per day and miles per week you run. You were running two days in a row - maybe you're not used to that.
Don't stop running and don't get discouraged! Every runner has bad days now and again, but they pale in comparison to the good days. Bad days happen for different reasons, sometimes mental, sometimes physical, and (assuming that you are not injured) you can overcome them both.
The mental side is complicated because sometimes there are physical reasons. So you have to resolve your head to solve the physical reasons. It's almost that "I can do this" thing...
On the physical side, sometimes your body doesn't feel like it has the juice to go the distance that you planned or it feels too tight or somehow out of sorts. This is probably what you were feeling. But there is a reson for the sluggishness.
I have found that sometimes this is because I am "fuel deprived", i.e. I haven't had enough to eat. When that happens, I'll suck down a GU and in 10 minutes I'll be fine. I've been where you were, and so I carry a GU with me on my longer runs just in case I get that feeling. Yes, I've sucked a GU at mile 1 because I was struggling, and yes I had a great run.
Personally, I need to get my muscles warmed up and ready to go prior to a run. I go through a very light streatching routine to get my hams, quads, calves, and ankles warmed up and ready to go. Sometimes I'll do a little bit of jump roping.
I have also had a bad run because I have not rested enough or did not sleep well. If either of those is the case I may struggle through my run, so I've learned to cover both of those cases. In the event that I really want to get a run in even though I haven't slept well or I'm behind in my rest I'll modify my run to more of a "walk-run" or tone down my pace or run a shorter distance that day.
Last thing: on days that I might not feel like I have the juice to run I'll try some different music or I'll listen to something totally different, like Car Talk (NPR) or the news. Just something different.
I guess the bottom line is to do and try different things to get your body and head out of the muck. You will almost always feel so much better after your run. More importantly though, is the feeling of accomplishment that you will feel after reaching your goal. On the day that you hit your 10 mile goal you will feel so great that you will never even think of the bad days. You will have that sly smile that no one else will appreciate but you. It's like making it to the top of a mountain...