Mile 12

Twelve miles tomorrow. Twelve miles.

It’s going through my head like a mantra. Twelve miles. Twelve miles.

I like 10 miles. I don’t like 6 miles. I like 8 miles, I don’t like 7 miles.

Weird, I know. It’s all mental and has nothing to do with the actual distance. If I ran a 7 mile route but someone had convinced me it was 8 miles, I would love it. It’s all in my head; I know that and accept it for what it is.

My first 12 mile distance was run at “home” in March. Byram met me at the 6 mile point with a gel, nuun, and a lighter weight shirt. I love that man. I vividly remember being in searing pain and franticly emotional and listening to Florence + the Machine belt out the anthem of “Shake It Out” on repeat for the last 10-12 minutes of that run.

My second go at 12 miles was the Instant Classic (which was 13 of course). I vividly remember nothing but pain, suffering, and a crushing sense of defeat by the 12 mile point.

So, tomorrow is my third ever go at that distance. With only vivid memories of pain, suffering, and wildly out of control emotions, it is hard to get in a good place for this run in my head.

You can tell yourself that Pain is Just Weakness Leaving the Body all you want, but when you are in the grip of it, all you want is not to be in pain anymore.

Considering my above-confessed limited experience with the distance, I believe I both love and hate Mile 12.

It is a LONG time to be in your head, and after you have been alone for 2+ hours, working through things in your head, you have probably covered all the shallow thoughts, like “Gosh, I wish I had the money to shop at Coldwater Creek,” or “I completely forgot to go get red hair dye at Sally’s last night!”

In fact, by 6 miles on any run, I am typically exploring much deeper things in my brain. Frequently I review my own political leanings, coming up with stunningly brilliant arguments that I promise myself to share as soon as I get home (and of course they are promptly forgotten minutes later). Sometimes, when a run turns dark in my brain, I examine my employment situation, and the recent crushing sense of hopelessness I have about my work. Sometimes I plot out training plans for others to bring them along with me on future races and runs.

But after 10 miles, all of that “mid-level” mental stuff is worn out too. There is nothing in my brain left for me to chew on except to plumb the depths and start pulling skeletons out of their dusty closets. I can’t even tell you what those things are, because I always forget once the run is over, but I do know I find a lot of self-doubt, anxiety about my capability to continue, fear of failure, shame of posting my slow pace, and other half-formed negative thoughts. And all of that mental stuff comes along with the rock-hard understanding that I haven’t even gone the full distance; there is still at least 1.1 left to go on Race Day!

Sounds horrible, right? So what is there to love about 12 miles? Like I said, I don’t really remember that mental stuff by the time the run is over. And I feel like I pour a lot of my inner darkness out over that 12th mile. When I did the actual full 13.1, Mile 12 was hell. I was close to tears, I was grieving for my desired 2:30 race, I was worried what my family would think. But Mile 13 was up and down over some of the worst terrain of the whole race, and all of that darkness was gone, left behind me on the trail; the only things remaining were a certainty that my race was almost run and a positive upwelling of strength and joy. I left the pain and suffering in Mile 12 and finished as strong as I could have hoped on Mile 13. I ended my race, in pain to be sure, but grateful, hopeful, and proud of what I had done, beaming for my family.

So I love Mile 12 for taking all that dark and ugly out of me and forcing me to leave it behind me on the route. I love Mile 12 for helping me find the light on Mile 13. I love Mile 12 because I don’t bring any of that stuff home with me.

One day, when I run longer distances than 13.1 races, maybe Mile 12 won’t hold this weird mental place for me anymore. Maybe one day I will run long runs enough that there won’t be anymore darkness.

Tomorrow morning, I will go run my miles, and leave it all behind on Mile 12.


One response to this post.

  1. Just remember – 10 mile warm-up, 5K race. :-)


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