Bear with me, it's yet another blog post on running. I try to keep them to somewhat of a minimum but, as my October 11th marathon draws ever closer, I find myself thinking more and more often about physical strength, mental reserves, and race day strategy.
My 20-mile long run yesterday is one I want to remember for a number of reasons.
First, it was my fastest 20-miler to date, clocking in at a breezy 2 hours and 57 minutes, which is an 8:58/mile pace, a full 7 seconds per mile faster than my scheduled pace for the day. That alone deserves a big wa-hoo.
Second, I did the run on a day where it was already 72 degrees at 6:30 am AND the humidity level was off the charts. We were dripping before we ever took our first step.
And third, I want to remember this run because I was pretty sure by mile 5 that I was going to have to quit.
I was running with my friends Lisa and Stacy. Lisa is a previous Boston-marathon qualifier and though she claims to be slower then me, carries a mental toughness that I envy. Set a pace and Lisa digs her teeth into it and won't let go. Stacy is simply an ox. A lithe, beautiful girl who will plow through any workout you hand her. I'm running with them through the first few miles and all I can think about is that the heat and humidity are sucking the life out of me, my legs are tired, and forget 20, I'm going to be lucky to not be walking by mile 5 at the rate I'm fading.
But this is the genius of running with friends. If I stop I ruin their run so what do I do? Keep going. And once we hit the second water stop something clicked and I barely felt the road between miles 7 and 15.
Miles 15-20 were another story. Stacy peeled off at mile 13 due to family commitments and Lisa was only scheduled to run 15 that day. However, "fresh meat" (new runners) showed up to run the last 5 miles with me and Lisa hopped on her bike and rode alongside me, offering water and Gatorade at points where I assume I looked like I was about to pass out. =)
What I want to carry with me is how, even if I'm convinced I'm having a terrible run and there is no hope, if I stick with it, there's a strong chance the run will will turn around. If I felt like I did yesterday during the first four miles of my marathon, I'd cash in mentally, thinking there was no hope. There is always hope! Every long run has its highs and lows. I need to remember that and not psych myself out just because I hit a rough patch.
I have a feeling at some point during my race, I'll be calling on the memory of yesterday's run and the lessons learned from it. Just hope it works.