Monday, December 13, 2010

Farthest v. Furthest, oh who cares. I ran a long way!

I ran 15 miles on Saturday. In runnery world, that is what we call a Personal Distance Record. I'm calling it my best run ever. I say ever a lot but I really mean it this time. I've run 13.1 miles seven times, but never a foot more than that pesky one-tenth of mile. I take the term "finish line" very seriously.

Lauren and I are a good running duo. We both share a hatred of hills, maintain a similar pace (she's definitely faster and more experienced), like to set out with a goal and course in mind and have lots to talk about. When I asked her if she'd be interested in doing a long run this weekend, I had an easy 8 or 10 miler in mind. After all, she did just complete her first full marathon not even a month ago. One would assume that she'd either never want to run again. Wrong. She came back with the suggestion of 15 so she could keep her mileage at about 40/week and thus avoid any holiday/cookie guilt. And you all thought I was nuts.

My first reaction wasn't an immediate no. Ok, my first reaction was considering having my friend committed. The inspirations of the NYC and Philadelphia Marathons have gotten the wheels moving in my head towards the epic 26.2. I'm no longer afraid but apprehensive about training and time. This 15 opportunity really hit at the perfect time. I struck a deal with Lauren that I would make it to 12 miles and every thing after that would be bonus.

Oh, and I wouldn't have to buy her a Christmas gift.

Because of my trepidation about the mileage, we had to plot our course carefully. I wanted to retrace the first half of the Philly Marathon. It started in front of the Art Museum---through Center City, along the Delaware River, up through University City, to Girard Ave, through Fairmount Park and eventually looping back to the Art Museum. All things in Philadelphia begin and end at the Art Museum, you can blame or thank Rocky for that. I figured we'd do a solid 13 and she could continue down Kelly Drive to get the full 15 if I chickened out.

Lauren informed me that the Fairmount Park part was one biiiiiig hill and thus that option was removed. We've run the Art Museum/ Kelly Drive/ West River Drive loop too many times and are 'over it.' We decided to head in the opposite direction for an hour and then figure it out. We had no map or route, just figured we'd see where that went.
 We headed south on the Schuylkill River Trail. Our pace was brisk and spirits high. Saturday was a perfect day for running. It was chilly but not cold. The wind was silent and the sun was kind.After 2 miles and the end of the trail, we hung a left and went down Locust Street. We followed Locust Street from 25th through Rittenhouse, past Thomas Jefferson and decided to head towards Penns Landing. We did our fair share of stopping at red lights, dodging shoppers, pointing out various landmarks, jumping potholes, and admiring the scenery.

We came to Penns Landing feeling great. The Ben Franklin Bridge was taunting us. We both looked at it, looked at each other, did that raised eyebrow thing and then decided not to anyway. Someday, we will run to Jersey, but not that day. We decided to check out the new Sugar House Casino by Northern Liberties and headed north along Delaware Ave. The scenery and smells definitely changed during this leg of the journey. After being underwhelmed by the monstrosity that is Sugar House, we turned around because it was also the end of 'safe running zone.'

We headed back and turned up Race Street.We took Race to South Street, to Broad Street, through City Hall, where we got yelled at for running through a Christmas festival and I did my trademark discreet flip-o-the-bird, up Market Street towards 30th Street station. It was fun to tell stories of first dates and crazy nights while running (sober) through Old City and South Street.

We were at about 9 miles at this point and I was feeling good. My legs were definitely sore from Friday evening's karate class and my feet were puffing out. But, nothing crazy bad. I was expecting my stomach to start revolting or those negative thoughts in my head to start up. But, neither happened. We picked up the Schuylkill River Train again and turned back towards the Art Museum area.

When we came up on 11 miles, I was feeling good but I didn't know if I could last another 4 miles. I remembered the deal I had with Lauren that I didn't have to do the full 15. I decided that I was definitely going to 13. Our conversation had increased while our pace slightly decreased.

At mile 12 the soreness in my legs started to become a tightness, pulling on every muscle in the back of my legs. But, I was determined. Just 3 more miles.

When my Garmin beeped on the 13th mile, I couldn't believe it. We were no where near a PR time and despite the pain in my legs, I could keep going. We were surprisingly maintaining an average 10min/mile pace. I did ask to stop for a stretch break and from miles 13 to 15 there were several stretch and then walk to the lamppost type moments. We decided to make it to the the 2 mile boat house, turn back and run until the garmin said 15. I was happy that every time I checked my watch, another half mile had passed. We hit 15 at the plaza/fountain area with the statues of people know one knows about. (The only statues that matters in our city are William Penn and Rocky.) We stopped, high fived and then bemoaned the 1.5mile walk back to the car.

As soon as we stopped running, my legs went from sore and tight to weak and jelly-like. My stomach also decided to come to life. We also realized that it was cold and our clothes were wet. I dropped my water bottle at one point and it took a good 90 seconds to pick it up. I was hit with the runner's cocktail of pain and pride with a side of nausea. No sooner had I finished saying that eating ShotBlocks at mile 8 really helped me then my head got really light, the world started to spin and I knew I'd be in for a few hours of unpleasant.

Our 15 mile run had somehow triggered a hangover. For about two hours afterward, I was hungover. It was, actually, dehydration caused by too much sugar, not enough carbs or electrolytes, possibly stale ShotBlocks and well, just plain running. But it presented itself in the same manner as a hangover does but with less room spinning and more stretching. I had two 'revisits' with some of the water I had drank but was fine afterward. I all put licked my plate clean at dinner that evening and have been eating cookies nonstop since.

I was amazed how easy it was to wrap my brain around 15 and then do it. Lauren made the excellent point that races, from 5Ks to fulls, put a lot of pressure on us so that the enjoyment of just running is sometimes overlooked by the pursuit of a personal record. On Saturday, two friends set out with a common goal and (one of them) went further than she thought she could. I didn't get a medal from a smiling volunteer; there was no t-shirt. There were no mile markers or fan fare. This experience gave me the confidence and reassurance that I can handle marathon training--when it's time.


  1. :) So proud of you Lindsey! That just made me want to run...which is great because I haven't been "feeling it" affair with the gloves has sorta taken precedence lately...

  2. I still remember running my first 15 miles. Every time you go a little further it makes you love running even more because of the accomplishment of just getting out there and doing something not many people are inspired to do. Congrats on the 15! :)

  3. I still remember running my first 15 miles. Every time you go a little further it makes you love running even more because of the accomplishment of just getting out there and doing something not many people are inspired to do. Congrats on the 15! :)

  4. I like the last few sentences... I really hate races.... I feel like " I just accomplished something and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." I like the silent accomplishments. I like when I have the best run of my life and the only who knows it is my brother's dog who looks up at me with a "thank you, that was fun!" and a "lets get some water and go again" I like that I am only ever in second place in those runs. no real ranking. Congrats... good post.