This past Tuesday, Nikki and I ran 18 miles. That means, we only have one more “long run” to complete before the marathon: next weekend we are running 20 miles. That also means, THERE ARE ONLY 25 DAYS TO GO BEFORE THE MARATHON!!!
And: NEXT WEEK WE ARE RUNNING 20 MILES!!!
I’m freaking out!
But let me backtrack a bit.
Okay, last week, we did 16 miles. 16 seems like such a quaint number now. In reality, the 16 was actually much more arduous than the 18, because for a couple of bitter miles, right at the turnaround, we ran against really, really strong headwinds. That it sucked is the understatement of all time </hyperbole>. But it did suck. I remember, at one point, making some kind off offhanded comment about it to Nikki and she laughed that terrifying shrill hyena laugh of the borderline insane. Later (these two miles seemed to go on for about 20 marathons), we jokingly tried to punch the wind to lighten things up a bit, but it was too exhausting.
What’s funny is that at one point, early on, I fancied a notion about running longer than 16 miles that day. But the reality was, when Nikki announced that there were two miles to go, I was like: “Two more miles? Oh my god, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” As I slogged and slogged and slogged.
So, what pushes me forward? Well, my feet, really. Sometimes that’s it. My head says no no no but my feet just go go go. That and, I like to give myself little milestones to reach along the way. Since lately we’ve been doing our long runs on the lakefront path, this usually goes like “North Avenue Bridge” “Fullerton!” “Belmont!” “Waveland Park!” “Cricket Hill!” “Foster Beach!” “Edgewater Hotel!” and so on. It’s like one milestone propels me to the next.
The other thing that has been helping is something I picked up from the book, Born to Run. This is, whenever I am scuffling along, I repeat to myself the mantra “easy. light. easy. light.” This is something El Caballo Blanco (RIP) taught the narrator of the book, although in its original form it had three parts: “easy,” “light” and “fast.” (I hope I am remembering this right). The idea was, go in that order, because sometimes easy is all you can manage, and that will be okay. Sometimes easy is hard enough to manage. In the last two miles of my 16-mile run, that was definitely the case. Running against such strong gusts of winds emptied my tank.
Over the week, I was able to manage more of my shorter conditioning runs, and when it came time to run the 18-miler, we specifically chose the day with the lightest wind forecast. In fact, it was a lovely, cool, sunny spring day with very light wind. Ideal conditions.
To work in the extra miles, we included a short run around the perimeter of Lincoln Park Zoo, so we got to see camels and llamas and cows and ponies while we were running, which was neat. This time, the running felt like a breeze and I was happy and energetic. At about ten-miles I downed one of these all natural honey-based energy goo gels which was disgusting but did the trick in terms of supercharging my energy. It was only when we got to mile 17 (mile 17!) that I started to falter. Nikki, who’d picked up her pace like the speedy little rabbit she is, yelled back to me: “only one more mile!”.
“Only one more mile,” I thought. “Hoo-ey!” I followed Nikki’s lead. But then, where I thought she was going to stop, she kept going. It wasn’t a mile yet? I followed her around a bend. “Seriously?” I started to grumble. She kept running. “No way. That has to have been a mile!” But she kept on truckin’.
“Okay,” I told myself, “stop griping and just keep going. Just do it!” and not to be a shill for Nike, but that worked. “Just do it. Just do it. Just do it.” And, I made it. Approximate time, 3 hours and 38 minutes.
What about my painkle, you ask? Well, that’s what Advil and ice packs are for.
Now, I want to take just a brief moment to reality check myself. Okay, prior to Jan. 2, I had never run longer than 3.12 miles nonstop at one time. Just a year earlier, I’d never even run a 5k non-stop; I always walked part of it. But somehow, despite a certain amount of bad behavior, occasional bouts in discipline, and an uncooperative posterior tibilais tendon, I have gotten my self to this point. It’s almost unreal to me. But, I still have my two biggest challenges yet to come: the 20 mile run, and the marathon itself. Did I mention I am kind of freaked out? Time to kick up the motivation and inspiration quotient. Whee! Here we go!