A 17 Mile Reality Check.

Whenever people ask me what I am doing on Sundays, my answer is usually the same.  “Well I’m doing a long run, and I don’t really know what will happen to me after that, so for now that’s the only thing I have planned.”  Sounds insane, right?  Trust me, it is.

While others spent yesterday cheering on their favorite football teams and enjoying one of the (hopefully) last few weekends of summer weather, I spent my Sunday doing this…

17 mile snip

Seventeen miles.  Looking at it on a map makes me really wonder how our bodies can carry us that far.  It also makes me wonder if they are supposed to… 

I am the incredibly lucky wife of a very talented distance runner, who offers to run crazy amounts of miles with me just for fun.  Casey isn’t training for any particular races or goals right now, but even so – seventeen miles?  Sign me up!

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He came up with a really fun route for our run, and I was pretty excited going into it.  All of my long runs have been very slow and painful, and I’ve attributed that to a number of things – too hot outside, improper fueling, too much walking the day before – you name it.  Sunday’s run was supposed to be my redemption run – the run that would prove that I still have my old running fitness, and that I can push myself beyond the levels of comfort.

We rode the Metro up to the L’Enfant Plaza station, essentially planning to Metro into the city and then run the whole way back.  I have found that the best long run strategy for me is to force myself to do the entire distance, and to not even present an opportunity to cut the mileage.  Essentially, if you put yourself 17 miles away from home, you have no choice but to cover the miles to get back to the comfort of showers and a giant lunch. 

After last week’s disastrous long run with no fuel, I was determined to do things right for this week’s important run.  We brought some cash to fuel mid-way, and we stopped in a CVS to pick up Gatorade (which they didn’t have, so we subbed with Vitamin Water) and some gummy worms.  The first half of the run was awesome – great weather, and scenery that people travel from all over the world to see.  We ran up past the Capitol to Lincoln Park, over to the White House and around the front gates, down to the Lincoln Memorial, and along the water over to Jefferson.  The mileage alarm on my Garmin kept ringing away as the miles ticked by. 

With our run almost halfway finished, we crossed the bridge back to Virginia and headed down the Mt. Vernon trail towards home.

And that was the point where I fell apart.

Right around the point where my watch chimed for 10 miles, I lost all will to run and push myself.  My legs were SO tired, and I had nothing left to give.  More than that, I was overwhelmed by how mad I was with how slow I was running. 

I will be perfectly honest with you guys – I have not trained for this marathon the way I should have.  I can blame the summer heat, the stress of moving, and a million other things.  But what it really comes down to is accepting responsibility for what I’ve done, or more importantly, what I haven’t done.  I have skipped a lot of mid-week runs.  I’ve allowed myself to walk more often than I should.  And I have taken for granted the fact that I’ve done this many times before.

I’m seeing it as a sort of Curse of the Multiple Marathoner.  In two years I have run 5 marathons, and in six weeks I will run my 6th.  I am not scared of them anymore, and there are no surprises left for me.  I’ve run in sweltering heat, freezing cold, and pouring rain.  I have run painfully slow, and I have set new records by running really fast.  But none of those things should have led me to believe that I could half-ass my training and still end up smiling at the finish line.  Running multiple marathons has prepared me mentally and emotionally, but proper training is essential for performing physically.

There is no reason in the world that I should have believed that I could run a good, strong 17 miles yesterday morning.  And I didn’t deserve to, because I haven’t put in the work to get myself there.  So instead, I ran a good, enjoyable ten (which makes sense) and a miserable half-walking seven while choking back tears.  Casey was supportive as always, but we spent most of the second half of our run heading home in silence, because we both knew the truth, and there was no need to voice it.

Let’s clear one more thing up before I continue.  I will not be setting a PR in six weeks, and I will not be qualifying for Boston.  I probably could have, but I made too many excuses about weather and circumstances.  But I am not quitting, because that’s just not my style.  Instead I am readjusting my goals to reflect what I am realistically prepared to run.  At this point, I’d just like to finish around 4:30.

After a grueling 17 miles, and right around 3 hours of running, we made it to our block and I could see my front door.  That was also the point where I started to feel incredibly sick and light headed.  I slowly made my way up the steps, and immediately laid down and put my legs up.

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Running marathons might be slightly crazy, but it CAN be done safely and it can even be enjoyable.  I have run two marathons where I have crossed the finish line beaming with pride – literally on top of the world.  And I have run three that have left me miserably sick and with my body revolting for days.  It turns out that the body is a wonderful communicator, if only I would listen.

After my run, I felt terrible but thought that perhaps a shower would help.  I ended up sitting in the bottom of the shower with hot water pelting my back, unable to stand up because I felt so physically ill.  Eventually I crawled out, and promptly threw up all of the gummy worms and Vitamin Water I had inhaled during my run.

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If that’s not a cue that I need to listen to my body, I don’t know what is.  The point of this post is not to be negative or dramatic, it is to be realistic, and sometimes facing reality isn’t always sunshine and butterflies.  I will still be lining up at the starting line of the Marine Corps Marathon in six weeks, but I will be doing it with a different set of goals, and a re-learned appreciation for just how intense this whole marathoning game can be.

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Whenever I am feeling disheartened or hopeless, I always challenge myself to find a silver lining.  What was intended to be my “redemption run” turned into a “reality check run” instead.  I learned that perhaps I don’t know everything about running 26.2 after all, and it’s exciting to know that even with multiple marathons under my belt, there are always new opportunities for a runner to learn and grow.

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When I’m not busy torturing myself with long runs, I’m also a pretty good cook!  Voting for the Next Food Blog Star opens today, and if you feel so inclined, I’d love your VOTE.  If not, no hard feelings.  I will still continue to cook with a smile.  :)