It's late August. That means children are headed back to school and runners are ramping up their mileage in preparation for the fall half-marathon and marathon season. Many of my running friends are dealing with the fact that the race they so signed up for back in the early days of summer (when anything was possible and they "needed a goal dammit") is fast approaching. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone.
I started ramping up my training this week with lots of 6- and 7-mile runs. Today a pushed a bit longer and covered nearly 10 in the high humidity and heat here in New Hampshire. I'm training for the Rockfest Half Marathon in early October. I haven't run that far since training for Boston last year, and it's humbling to say the least.
My long runs seem to have 4 distinct phases: the warm up miles, the "holy crap this is going to take forever miles," the delightfully abstract miles I can't remember, and the final struggle to make it home. Sometimes, I fight against the miles and have to remind myself that I enjoy being a runner. Other times, I fall into a trance and the miles just fly by.
Running with a 46-year-old frame means warming up slowly. I can't leave the house at full speed. If I look at my runs on Strava every one of them starts out with a first mile that pulls my pace-per-mile stat down for the entire run. On the upside, I usually run negative splits. But, those first miles take patience when you know you have a long way to go.
By the time you hit 3 or 4 miles of your long run, you brain understands just how far you have to go. It starts to bug you with a thousand reasons why this run is a bad idea. What's that tightness in my hamstring? Did I drink enough water? This road is really dangerous with all the weekend beach traffic. Why 10, why not 6?
Then, something wonderful happens. You stop thinking about running and your mind wanders off to play. Random thoughts percolate to the surface for inspection and further reflection. I think I'll grow some grapes behind the barn next spring. How will I deal with that asshole at work? Who should I contact about remodeling the bathroom? What's for dinner tonight? Soon, you discover that the miles have slipped by like drunken memories and your at mile 8.
Here comes the hard part. Two hilly miles without tree cover. The sweat tickles your nose as it drips onto the pavement. You check your form and remind yourself to keep on keepin' on. After all, you made it this far. It would be terribly disappointing to stop now. Two miles becomes one, one becomes a half, a half becomes a series of mail boxes you know by heart.
You did it. I did it. We did it. The long run is done. Another awaits next week. But, for now, enjoy the afterglow and revel in the fact that you're one step closer to becoming the runner you knew you would be when you signed up for that fall marathon.