Saturday I had my longest run to date and it will continue to be my longest run until February 15th. I ran 11 miles, which was an amazing feat for myself. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I was very determined to get through the whole thing, and now I know I can push through those last 2 miles at the half. I wanted to share a little narrative of things that were going through my mind in the 2 hours I was running.
I’m just starting out, and I’m pretty nervous already. I’m telling myself to just take it 1 mile at a time. Don’t worry about how many are left, just celebrate each time a mile is down. Mile 1 I’m coming up to a hill that has been difficult for me before, and I keep thinking I can’t flake out in mile 1 and let that hill discourage me. Instead of speeding up like I normally do just to get it over with, I maintain my pace and before long I’m done with the hill. I conquered the hill more easily than I had before, and I’m stoked to continue running.
The next 3 miles become a breeze. I know at mile 4 I have set up a pit stop to grab a bottle of water and a granola bar, so I have a goal that I’m focused on; however, there are some interesting moments in this first 4 miles. First off invisible fences are great, because you don’t have to have an unsightly fence in your front yard to keep your dog contained; however, not having the perimeter flags or an invisible fence sign to warn that there could possibly be a dog in the front yard is hazardous. When a dog comes charging at you barking and raring its teeth, the first instinct is to get as far away from this thing as possible and oftentimes that means running into the street. Then your heart begins to pound and your breathing gets off, and it makes running for the next several minutes slightly difficult. I have learned the houses that have these unmarked fences, but every now and then a new one pops up and a new dog charges after me and terrifies me. If you have an invisible fence, either warn passerbys that there might potentially be a dog in the yard or teach your dog not to chase after people on the sidewalk. I’m done with that soapbox.
Around mile 7 I start to feel the fatigue, and I’m so glad I’m coming up on another pit stop. This pit stop includes a bathroom, a water fountain, and gel. For those who are not avid runners, you may be wondering what gel has to do with anything. There is this gel that you eat or slurp down as the case may be that gives you energy and replenishes electrolytes and carbs and things such as that. Essentially it’s an energy bar in gel form. These are quite amazing, because they’re low cal but they give you an energy boost and take away fatigue in order to get through 3-5 miles, which was perfect since I had 3 miles left.
I really start feeling the pain at mile 9, and I keep telling myself that there are only 2 miles left. At mile 10, I smile, because for the first time I have achieved a double digit run, and this gives me the energy to run 1 more mile. I remind myself that this is what it will feel like at the half. I will have 2 miles left, and will somehow have to muster up the energy and determination to finish. At mile 10, I want to quit so bad, because I feel like I have nothing left to give. My muscles are throbbing. I am drenched in sweat. I am utterly tired. I tell myself that I had a great feat that day in achieving double digit status, but I know that if I quit now I will regret it. I tell myself to take it a corner at a time. Go to the end of the block. Ok, I made it, now go to the stop sign. Now round the corner. I see my house! I’m almost there. I speed up, smiling and nearly crying. I recall the last 8 or so months in triumph. The impossible for me is about to be possible. I make it to the drive way, and I’m completely exhausted but I am more excited and more proud of myself than I have been in a while.
I make it inside and collapse on the couch, then realize that I need to stretch some or my muscles will contract and cause greater pain. I stretch and watch Smallville and think about the amazing and painful journey I have been on to get to this point. I realize that I can do this half-marathon. I won’t have to crawl at the end. I’ll just have to muster up some determination and confidence, and I will cross that finish line on February 15th!
I never knew when I started running how much work it takes to map out a route or to plan pit stops and figure out how much water to intake or when to eat during a run. I never knew how hard this would be. I never knew the pain and the tiredness that would overcome my body. I never knew that running could make me a better person. Running requires a determination to push past the mostly bad days, the days when you feel defeated and like you have nothing left to give, and to move toward those few days when you feel victorious. Running is like any relationship. There are ups and downs. There are times you just want to give up, but then there are those days when you realize why you got into the relationship to begin with. Those hard days make the good days so much better. If we always had easy days, we would take them for granted and would quit working hard. You know that when you have bad days that a good one will come at some point, so you push past those awful days in hopes that the next one will be worth the pain and sometimes the defeat. I live for those days that rejuvenate and remind me of why I started running. It’s all worth it in the end.