Monday, October 10, 2011

Misery Loves Company for 20 Miles

My alarm went off at 6am on Saturday morning. I was not happy about this. I was not happy about leaving my snugly warm bed. I was not happy that my Phillies had lost the night before and were out of the playoffs. I had company in my misery. My stomach was unhappy about the beer I chose to drink and the greasy pizza and salty chips I chose to eat Friday night. It should have had had water and pasta. My legs were not happy with the 27 miles of running I had already forced them to do that week and the 20 miles I was asking of them that morning.

At least I had really pretty scenery for all 20 miles of this run.

Saturday morning was my first 20 mile training run for the Philadelphia Marathon. This would be the longest I had ever run (ever!). The 20 mile distance is a landmark for most training plans and a beginning runner will not exceed 20 miles until race day. This distance is as close to the infamous 26.2 as I will see until the actual marathon day.

There was an angel runner on my right shoulder chanting motivational mantras and reasons why I had to get out there. There was a sleepy Satan on my other shoulder spewing off possible other ways to get 20 miles in that weekend and other skeptical, fear-filled nonsense. I was too tired to listen to either of them and simply went through my typical morning routine on autopilot. Actually, I was afraid.  I was scared of the distance and the committment that it would bring. If I could get through this challenge, I would actually be training for a marathon. I would have to line up with thousands of other people on November 20, 2011 and set out to push my body for more than four hours and do so voluntarily. It's as close to the "it" as I will get. Sure, I've had sore legs and an upset stomach the morning of a race. But I've never run with or through fear.

My runner friend Lauren was meeting me at the five-mile mark (Washington's Crossing Park) and together we'd run five miles towards New Hope, and turn around. 5 miles to WC + 5 miles to NH + 5 miles back to WC+ 5 miles home = 20 miles. Those first five solo miles were horrible. I considered just asking Lauren to drive me home. My legs felt ok but my mind was not there. I used my anger at the Phillies to get me through a few miles. I spent time reorganizing everything in my weekend and thinking of excuses so that if I did bail out, I could still make up the mileage later.  I turned my music up loader, hoping to drown out the downer thoughts.

Bridges = walk breaks

Lauren and I are always able to push each other and work together when we run. Once I met up with her, everything would be fine. Turns out Lauren was less than thrilled that day too. We decided our misery and overall blah-ness would have to push us through.

I want to live there someday.

With my favorite dully disgruntled running buddy by my side, we set out for part 2 of this odyssey. By mile 8 (for me, 3 for her) the Eeyore-like cloud had lifted and we were feeling ok. Not great, not good but ok. We turned around at mile 10 and felt better. Not great, but good. I started to fall apart around mile 14. Lauren ran an extra mile around the park with me.  I was now at 15 miles and that fear was beginning to join the list of current feelings (tired, hungry, stinky, excited, fear).

On a long run a few weeks ago, we met an older guy on the towpath who must have sensed my distance running despair and asked what I'm training for. Actually, I think he heard Lauren and I talking about how far we needed to go and we were both wearing half marathon tech tees. My Camelback and Garmin watch may have also betrayed us as 'marathon runners.' He was an experienced marathoner who has to stick to the 5ks now because of a bad knee. He was really sweet and interested in our journey. As Lauren and I were saying good bye and I was prepping to conquer five.more.miles.solo, he walked by! He shouted to me, "Hey! Still training for that marathon?"
"Absolutely! I'm working on twenty today!"
"Good for you! You can do it!"
"Five more!"
His daughter or wife also smiled encouragingly as we passed. With that wonderful shot of motivation and inspiration, I was off.

Just five more miles.
Just four more miles.
Just three more miles. I was allowing myself walk breaks every half mile because I'd been running for close to four hours at this point. The furthest I had every gone at that point at 17 miles and I used every mile after that as a celebration. I would text Lauren and Scott at each mile. I had a little dance break at mile 18.

Just two more miles! I was two miles away from running 20 miles and had never run this far before!
Just one. more mile! I started to get really emotional. I could be believe that I was about to finish my longest run ever and that I almost given up so many times.

20 MILES! I did it! I cried. I could barely breath but I somehow managed to cry. I was so proud, happy and tired. And overwhelmed. And sore. I visualize the marathon finish line a lot as I run and I imagine how I'll feel and worry about the miles leading up to it. Saturday morning was a sneak preview of the emotional and physical exhiliration of the real thing. And I can not wait.

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