“‘Til The Lights Go Out”


I have been trying for weeks to write a post. Probably 2 dozen half posts have been written and then I lose my train of thought, the message I am trying to convey gets stale, work considerations take over, or I just realize what I have written is not very interesting, and the words vanish off the screen.

So as it stands, I am 47 days from my next half marathon. Last week, between Sunday and Saturday, I logged 30 miles, which might be the most miles I have ever run in a week. Maybe not though.

Saturday, I ran my hardest long run in a very long time. Probably the combination of the high mileage and a weight training session the day before contributed to PAIN. My legs hurt so much at the end of the run that I am forced to admit that I just leaned against the van to hold me up at the end. I was completely wrung out.

Adrenaline can come out in the form of the “runner’s high,” which is an enjoyable feeling. It can also (in my experience) come out in the “crash and burn” feeling. Emotions and pain come out. Not fun. That’s where I found myself Saturday morning; crashing and burning.

It’s all good. That happens. I came home and discovered that I had run the route at around my goal race pace. Well, rock on. I maintained my desired race pace for 2 hours. I just have to tack on a couple more miles at that pace and I will achieve my desired outcome in November. It’ll hurt. Of course it will. I don’t think I have ever finished a long distance race where I didn’t hurt by the end.

I went through some dark times on Saturday morning. Every time I finish one of these really difficult runs, I learn a new way to help me push through and I learn more and more that my limits are mostly in my head. My difficulties began when I realized I missed a turn with the intermediate team and dropped some distance off my overall run (I didn’t know it at the time it turned out to be less than a half mile lost, so not a big deal). Mentally, I took it very hard. “What?! Lame ass, you cut your run short! You are SUCH a slack ass. Why even bother running if you’re just going to cheat!” My brain hates me. I suspect it is an evolutionary response to help encourage self preservation.

I wanted to quit and I was on Monument Avenue where every single intersection for almost two miles offered me the opportunity to turn left and head for home well before it was time. I can’t express how hard it was to not make one of those left turns in shame and defeat, but limp my way home and end the pain and discomfort.

Eventually, I saw someone who I have seen here at the office; he is on the same team I am and we work in the same place. I decided it was time to make an introduction. His name is Greg, he works in Insurance and he works closely with a few of my lawyers. We chatted a bit and it really did help pass some time and get my mind out of the negative spiral it was caught in. As I passed Sheppard Street, which was the same street we would ultimately loop back to and use to reach our finish point, I crossed the intersection knowing I had committed not to give up and finish the distance, with roughly 3.5 more miles to go.

I turned up my music, I sang out loud, I talked out loud. I recalled Grace’s birth (her birthday was last week so it came easily to mind) and reminded myself how much that hurt but how I couldn’t quit until it was done. That became some sort of mantra in my head. “You couldn’t quit until she arrived and you won’t quit until you get back to the Stadium. Period.”

I told Grace later that she was my inspiration to keep going when it felt too horrible to go any further.

The last mile was all downhill on Douglasdale but it is a steep uphill (from any direction) to get back to City Stadium. Whatever was left in the tank I poured out and sprinted as fast as I could without throwing up all the way up the hill to my van.

Where I cried. I admit it. Tears happen.

I survived, I came home, discovered my much faster than expected pace, and plunked myself into an ice bath that did indeed relieve my pain and left me more than able to get up and go for the rest of the day.

A difficult, grueling, painful run does not have to qualify as a failure. They are chances to break through barriers and overcome what you didn’t think you could. I don’t even think crying in the parking lot while my driver’s side door was the only thing keeping me on my feet was a failure. It was the byproduct of an intensive education session. I learned I could keep going (even sprinting to success) when every fiber of my being was ready to quit. I learned that I do have the strength of will to not turn left and go home early when it didn’t feel like I could go any farther.

I learned that 47 days from race morning, I truly am capable of running my desired race pace for 2+ hours. Isn’t it amazing how a mentally crushing run can turn out to be an incredible confidence builder?

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