That 16 mile run really shook my confidence. I came away from it ready to give up on the marathon in March and put my goal off for another year. I felt like physically and mentally I could never have gone past 16 miles.
The following week I ran the miles listed on the training plan, but the thought of an 18 mile run was simply beyond me. I ended up running 10, or really 2 fives because I ran the first 5, spent an hour waiting for and talking to my husband on Skype, and then ran 5 more. My RA was bothering me, I hadn’t slept, just felt really beaten and miserable.
Early last week my track club had a meeting where our guest speaker was a woman that was recently awarded a trophy for having run at least one Marathon in each of the 50 states! To meet her, you would never guess she was so amazing. She does not consider herself an athlete and is very humble and grateful for the opportunities she has had. Her other great physical accomplishment is that she hiked the Appalachian trail in 2000. It took her 5 ½ months! When you meet someone like this, and they aren’t larger than life, don’t have an air of superiority surrounding them, and can just blend into any crowd or situation, you realize that achievement isn’t something you are born to. It isn’t something that should ever be taken for granted, or something that just happens. It is born of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. Everyone has something extraordinary within them, but it takes the right combination of challenge, inspiration, and opportunity to bring it out. All three of these ingredients must be sought; they do not just get handed to you.
After that meeting, I was once again pumped to run the marathon. I’ve been very irritated by my vacillating back and forth. To be so excited one minute and so defeated the next eats at me. I wanted to feel as excited while running as I did thinking about running and this was the first time those two points have diverged so far. At the end of the 16 mile run, I just wanted to cry and never run again and I had never felt like that at the end of a run, I always felt positive and anxious for my next run.
So what to do? I started posting to a couple of key forums where I knew I would get bald honest feedback. I posted to the Runner’s World Marathoner’s page asking if I was crazy to try running 26.2 on so little training and with so many issues. I also posted to Hal Higdon’s forum asking if it would be reasonable to run the 20 miler one week early. I was not going to register for a marathon until I knew I could run 20 miles and I really wanted to get it behind me. I also wanted to schedule my 20 when I had nothing else going on so if I really wiped myself out, I could just rest and recover. I received many wonderful supportive messages. Even the ones suggesting I wait gave me good information to work with and helped my decision greatly. I decided to take one last shot at preparing for the marathon.
When I headed out the door yesterday, it was in the mid 40’s and heading to the 50’s. The sun was out, people were out, and everyone was smiling! I had promised myself that I didn’t have to do 20. I could just go as far as I felt like going and there was no shame in cutting it short if I needed to. As I wound through the neighborhoods I felt strong and ready for many miles. After 6 miles I took my shoes off and ran the next two barefoot. It felt SO good! My feet are soft though from running so much in shoes so when they started feeling a little tender, I went ahead and put my VFFs back on. Around this time my daughter called me on my cell. I’m sure people passing by thought I was nuts for jogging and chatting, but it passed the next hour quickly and was almost as good has having her actually running with me.
By the time I passed the 10 mile mark, I knew I had a shot at 20. I felt great mentally and physically and was ready to continue for 2 more hours so I headed for the yacht club at the far end of town. I haven’t run out there in nearly a year so it was a nice change of scenery. Once I got to the marina, I stopped in the public restroom for a pit stop and to refill my water bottles. I was really regretting not taking a couple of gels with me. I had planned to just run 5 mile laps and stop at the house each time so I hadn’t stuffed my pockets properly.
When I turned around to head back, I realized I would be running into the wind all the way home. I hadn’t noticed the wind up to that point so it wasn’t all that strong, but it was enough to make me zip up my vest, put my gloves back on, and pull my sleeves back down. It didn’t slow me down though. I stuck to my plan of running around 11 to 11.5 minute miles and then walking until it averaged out at 12 minute miles.
When I hit 16 miles I was entering new territory, 4 miles left to go and feeling tired, but good. At 17 miles I was getting a bit worried. I was now 3 miles from the house so I had to finish 20 one way or the other. At 18 miles I was approaching the wall. My quads and back were starting to hurt, my claves were tight, and my shin was started to act up; 2 more miles to go.
When I turned onto my very familiar street, I was elated. The end was in sight and I was feeling very mentally positive, if physically exhausted. Those last two miles were tough, but still not as tough as the last two of the 16 miler in the snow and sleet. I was home free and felt like I had climbed the highest mountain!
When I finally stumbled through the front door I was over the moon! My legs were twitching, I was starving, thirsty, and my muscles felt like rocks. I peeled off the outer layers of stinky tech clothes, took a couple of minutes to stretch, downed a protein shake and a bowl of cereal, and made myself a drink to sip at while I iced my calf in front of the computer. And then I registered for my first full marathon!
I really amazed myself yesterday, which is something we all need to do from time to time. We need to stretch our wings, set impossible goals, and then reach them. We need to know we are better than the doubting voices in our heads, those little gremlins that make us want to give up or say, “I could never do that.” Three years ago, if someone had told me I would run 20 miles and register for a marathon, I would have thought they were daft! To me marathons were for crazy people that were wrecking their health. Well, maybe I’m crazy now, but I’ve never felt better in my life!