My friend and I had a great run on Saturday. We covered 6 miles around the flight line of Langley Air Force Base, on a gorgeous cool, sunny day, with fighter jets taking off over our heads. We kept our spirits up and our heart rates down and we pattered along the jogging trail, chatting about girls stuff and laughing. It was all picture perfect until we came to the last mile.
The last mile was at the east end of the flight line, along the Chesapeake Bay. The sky was clear, the gulls were calling, and the wind nearly blew us off our feet. As we trudged forward, leaning into the wind, we could no longer talk. The wind took our voices away, and trying to keep moving forward left us huffing and puffing. We were still laughing though; the absurdity of the two of us barely making headway with every ounce of effort we could muster nearly dissolved us into fits of exhausted giggles. Just as our Garmins chirped to signal the completion of our 6 mile run, we finally found ourselves back among the solid brick buildings the mercifully broke the wind and allowed us to take our conversation back up. We had about half a mile left to walk back to our cars, which allowed for a nice cool down.
My buddy didn't want to stop though. The thought of getting back to her car, which had a comfy seat, a water bottle, a heater, and could whisk her home to a hot shower, over rode her desire to stop running. I assured her that it was best to cool down with some walking, and to stop running while we still felt good because it would leave us more eager for next weeks long run, (this got me a sideways glance that said both, "yea, right," and "What are you, nuts?" with daggers thrown in.) I'm pretty sure my buddy is only running with me because she is too much of a sweet southern lady to say, "Bite me," when I call to say, meet me at fill-in-the-blank for a 6 mile run, but at the end of the run we are both glad we did it.
The importance of sticking to a training plan cannot be stressed enough. Sure, it would probably have turned out okay if we had gone ahead and run that last ½ mile, but since we had only run 5 miles the week before, the chances were far too good that those last few minutes would put one of us over the edge and cause an injury which would stall our training program for a week or two at best. An ancient Chinese proverb says, "Going too far, is as bad as falling short." Adding miles too quickly will lead to an injury; and an injury will ruin race day just as badly as not being prepared by enough miles under your belt.
It is not an easy thing for a new runner to hold back. We are so excited by our new ability! We want to run, and keep running. We want to yell how many miles we covered from the rooftops and we want that number to be grand. We want to run until we are utterly spent and then get up and do it again. Unfortunately, this leaves us in the position of Icarus, so thrilled with his ability to fly that he ignored the warnings and soared too close to the sun. If we don't listen to experienced runners, and control our progress, we will find ourselves too close to the sun and falling fast.