Thirteen miles--when marathon training stops being polite and starts getting real.
Downright rude is more like it.
My friend Judy and I took a little road trip to a park in Bergen County to get our long run in. The park is about 6 miles long and goes through 5 or 6 towns. I figured it would be nice for a change of scenery and to have a run where I didn't have to contend with the road traffic and stoplights. I could do my 13 miles without doing repeated loops like I normally have to do on longer runs. I could simply travel the length of the park and back, and add an extra mile at the end. I actually wanted to do 13.2 miles, just to say I ran farther than I ever had before (a half marathon is 13.1).
Judy and I started running in opposite directions, as we both like to run at our own pace and would just meet back at the car afterwards. The park is very pretty, winding paved paths through mostly green and leafy areas, running along a river. There are ducks, geese, and I even saw a great blue heron. There are areas where it runs near a highway, goes under some local roads, and goes through residential areas, but you never have to cross any traffic. The paths are only for runners, walkers, dog owners, and cyclists. Usually I love running off the roads, looking at trees and birds and listening to nature. Usually I don't even put on my music until the last mile or two of the run, when I need a little motivation to push through.
However, this day was different. Even the first mile was rough. What kept coming up was the thought that I had to do THIRTEEN MILES!
I've run 13.1. Twice. So what is the big deal?
I think the big deal is that it was a training run, not a race. There is no one cheering for you. No race-induced adrenaline. No feeling like you've worked so hard for this moment and all your training is coming to fruition. That you are about to achieve the goal you've been working for. In fact, I am really at the beginning of training. My longest training run is going to be 20 miles. So I still have a long, long way to go. I am looking down a long road that will just get longer and tougher.
I had to put on my music at mile 8, and slogged along as best I could. I stopped three times to refill my water bottle and then kept going. I felt as though I would never finish. I didn't enjoy myself and I certainly didn't feel any kind of runner's high. Towards the end I just kept talking to myself as I struggled to put one foot ahead of another.
"You can do it."
"You've run this far before."
"Come on, it isn't much longer."
"That guy just passed you, and he is eighty years old. You can certainly run another two miles."
"What would happen if I started yelling at people to high five me as I passed them? Do you think they would do it or would they think I was insane?"
"Just another mile. You've done this a hundred times before."
"Look at those people running past me. How much farther have they run than you? You can make it. It is another three quarters of a mile."
"Buck up, just keep going. You're almost there."
And then my watch beeped and it was over. I immediately stopped running at thirteen miles and said, "THANK GOD" in a very loud voice. Who cared about the .2? Not me. I did my thirteen, and rationalized that it while it wasn't the farthest distance I've ever done, it was the longest training run. And I made it.
But boy, I still have a long way to go. And that eighty-year-old can kick my butt!