The 20 mile run loomed on my training calendar for the last 16 weeks. I talked and thought about it way too much, read articles describing how the 20 miler causes "mental anguish" and how to avoid becoming discouraged by how hard it seems.
I was also sick during the week I was supposed to run 18, so I had missed that important run, and wondered how I would possibly jump from 16 to 20.
Saturday was the big day. Pictured above are my friends Amy, Jen and Christine, all training for a marathon on the same day as mine, though we'll be running it on opposite coasts. When I started out on this 20-week training plan, I didn't know they would be doing all the same long runs as I was on the weekends, and I naively thought I could just tackle them on my own.
Facing 20 miles on my own would have been so painful. So sad. Instead, I had these friends to plan with, get psyched up with, and then run with, four moms on a mission.
We started at 6 am in the cold morning air from Christine's and had chosen to do a 10-mile loop two times, first counter clock-wise and then clock-wise. We had 2 coolers full of ice, gatorade, lunabars, lunamoons, gu's, m&ms, pretzels and bananas stashed about every 4 miles on the course.
The scene was very much what I bet people think of when they picture a fall morning in New England: golden sun, fields of grass covered in white frost, red and orange trees, smoke coming out of chimneys, fog hanging low in the valleys. We strapped our camelbacks on our backs, put on our mittens, and started out.
After a few miles, we started checking in. We all felt strong, confident and optimistic. Someone would say "How are you feeling?" And we'd say: "Awesome." "Good." "Having a runner's high moment." We ran in a pack, or in pairs, or on our own for a while. Talked about our kids, why we go to church, soccer practice, the marathon, which parts of our bodies were starting to hurt.
Toward the end, I got quiet, into the zone I needed to be in and ran the last few miles alone. At mile 17 I saw a spray-painted angel on the road, unless I was hallucinating, and thought about that for a while. At mile 18, I thought about mantras, and the two I usually go to are "Define yourself" which I stole from Deena Kastor, and "I'm running. I'm running. I'm still running." That last one really worked. I swear. It's so simple and funny, yet it absolutely helped me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
By mile 19, I started to get giddy knowing I was going to finish strong, even though I had serious pain in my hips, lower back and both feet. I was going slowly, but I was definitely going.
When I turned the corner onto Christine's block, my body was hurting, but I was so, so happy. No "mental anguish" here.
Yes, we did.
What is left on my calendar: 3 more weeks of training, all down hill from here. Slowing down, stretching, easing into the big day.
(That was quite a long post about a training run.... HA. JUST WAIT UNTIL THE MARATHON)