There is no drug as empowering, uplifting and great for shaping my ass as running. None.
I ran my first two marathons in 2011 and what I learned as I prepared for them is that I love long training runs. By long I mean anything over 10 miles.
Long training runs give me a respite from my normal day-to-day concerns because you truly can’t run for 90 minutes (or longer) in training mode and make a grocery, to do, or things that currently suck about my life list. You can’t because you must be in tune with your breathing, your stride, your pace, your form and your endurance. As the runs get longer you have to consider the inevitability of hitting that fucking wall and what you can and must do to avoid it. I love every aspect of it.
I also hate it.
Anyone who runs will tell you every run is not a stellar, strong or awesome run. Sometimes no matter how much you slept the night before, how carefully you ate the right carbs or how diligently you drank the right amount of water, the run sucks. From the get. It is never worse than when this occurs on a long run.
It was my reality today and it sucked.
I was supposed to run 17 today and as is usually the case I was all excited about it. Part of the fun of running long is telling your non running friends what you’re getting ready to do. They give you these looks of shock or make some comment about your insane actions which, at least for me, makes me even more excited. I can’t explain it. But I was excited.
I ate properly, went to bed early and set my clock for 5 am. I knew I needed to leave by 6 to get back when I wanted and waking up at 5 allowed me to not rush. It was awesome. I actually got out of the house by 5:30.
I started on my way through my little suburb. It was cold. Not east coast winter cold, but certainly Oregon cold. I had gloves on but my fingers were almost immediately numb. Because it was early and very dark I had my mace in my right hand, and because I was running 17 miles I had my sports drink in my left hand. I was frustrated by this instantly because my fingers hurt and yet they had to hold onto their respective items. Grrrr.
To run anything more than 8 miles I have to leave my little city, or I have to do multiple loops. I am not a loop person because I will be very inclined to cut my run short if I pass close enough to my house and have to pee, get a drink, or tell my kid something that seems urgent. At 4 miles I am on my way out of my city, headed for Tualatin.
But at 4 miles I am not out of my city. In fact, I am passing a street that if I take it will swing me back up by my house in just 3 short miles.
This morning I felt like I hit the wall at 4 miles. I was so upset by this I had to fight with my mind to keep going. I wanted to turn right and go home. 7 miles is better than no miles, I rationalized. Instead I crossed the street so it wouldn’t be convenient to turn right and when I passed that turn I felt victory.
For a minute.
Every time my Garmin beeped, signifying another mile down, I thought “if I turn back now it will be 8 miles” “10 miles” “12 miles” etc. it was maddening and I couldn’t get a handle on it. In fact when I reached 7 miles I started to get a stitch in my side and I was sure that was all I needed to turn myself around and go home. But I didn’t.
I kept pushing, running forward, into Tualatin, headed for Tigard, but just the tip of Tigard since my goal was 17. The further along I got the quieter my mind got. Kind of like it gave up. Truly, once I hit 8.5 miles there was nothing to debate. I would hit my goal by simply turning around and heading home. . . . as a last-ditch effort, however, my mind whispered “you can call your son and tell him to come pick you up” – wow! The mind is powerful! It was at this point I turned on my iPod. I knew, as soon as I turned it on, that I would make it home, but damn it wasn’t easy.
It hurt a lot. I hate runs like that. Especially the long ones.
Just like clock work though, when I got home and stretched before I went in the house I got that amazing runner’s high. That drug that comes from endorphins that you earned the hard way. That glow that says “I ran 17 miles and did not die. . . in fact watch me tackle the rest of the day with zeal!”
It’s the best high ever and it’s why I love the long run.
Of course, once I got into the house, drank some water and ate a bagel with peanut butter, I decided a better course of action would be a nap.