An 18-Mile Success Story.

You may recall that two weeks ago I had one of the more hellacious long runs of my running career.  The kind of run that made me question everything – why I run, should I run, and do I even love to run anymore?

After a two week running hiatus (induced by a combination of the bad run and a nagging sinus infection), I got my answers Sunday morning.  With just four weeks left until the marathon, there were no more freebie weeks left.  If I was going to salvage my (lack of) training and see if this race was even possible, I needed to get out there and give it a real shot. 

It started like any other run…

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Before I even put on my running shoes, I made a vow that I was going to give it everything I had, no matter what.  Two weeks ago, a reader named Sarah sent me a long and brilliant email, urging me to not give up on MCM.  As I walked out the door to my run, her words echoed in my head – “In these events, I’ve always tried to acknowledge that the most important aspect to marathon running is the mind.  If I let doubt and negativity in, it’s over before it even started.”

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This whole running dance can be funny sometimes, and often you know whether you’re going to have a good run or not the minute your feet hit the pavement.  On Sunday, I decided I was going to have a good run…and I did.  On a different reader’s suggestion (thank you, Melissa!), I decided to not return to the “scene of the crime” and run the same route that did me in a few weeks ago.  Instead, I headed south on my trail towards Mt. Vernon.  I figured it would be nice and scenic, but I honestly wasn’t prepared for the beauty and peaceful surroundings that were waiting for me down there.

It was one of the first crisp, fall mornings, and I actually ran in capris and long-sleeves for the first time since last season.  I felt amazing – properly fueled, the right temperature, and mentally on point.  My pace felt steady and as I ran past empty marshes and over wooden boardwalks, my watch beeped to tell me that my miles were ticking by.  I felt awesome.

Just before the 6 mile point, I decided to turn around.  I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes I had made so often in the past.  I knew that in order to continue to feel my best, I would need fuel beyond the trail’s water fountains.  I headed back up the trail towards my house, where food and hydration were waiting for me.

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I have never been a huge Gu or gel fan, but with a stomach like mine, solid food is not an option.

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At this point I was halfway through my most successful MCM training run to date.  I was somewhat amazed at how well I was holding my pace – right around 9:30 average at 11 miles.  Much slower than I was a year ago, but much faster than I’ve been running recently.  After a short break on the front porch, I headed back out on the streets of Old Town to finish up the last seven.

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I have always been a firm believer that in order to have a good run, you have to run FAR away from home.  Otherwise I am always too tempted to cut it short and head home early.  I ran up to the marina, and looped all around the north end of my neighborhood for miles and miles.  Every time I got closer to my house, I would force myself to turn the other direction, so I wouldn’t be tempted to give up early.  I had already made it SO far – I was going to finish this thing.

The best part?  It really wasn’t that bad.  Those last few miles hurt, but I definitely could have kept running.  I ran miles 15 through 18 with a huge smile on my face, and (finally!) the confidence to know that I will be just fine on marathon morning.  I got to my doorstep and chugged another bottle of Spartos water (recovery drink).

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Still out of breath, almost ready…

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There we go!  An 18-mile success story.  :)

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Because the second half of my run was done in the neighborhood, my pace dropped a bit due to stoplights and traffic.  Here are the official mileage stats for the entire run (my Garmin didn’t load for the first few blocks, so the final stats are off by about half a mile.):

  • Mile 1 – 9:21
  • Mile 2
    – 9:04 (feeling good)
  • Mile 3 – 9:07
  • Mile 4 – 9:23
  • Mile 5 – 9:44
  • Mile 6 – 9:59 (turn around point)
  • Mile 7 – 9:17
  • Mile 8 – 9:08
  • Mile 9 – 9:45
  • Mile 10 – 10:18 (slowing down in the neighborhood)
  • Mile 11 – 10:16
  • Mile 12 – 10:14
  • Mile 13 – 10:32 (feeling sluggish)
  • Mile 14 – 11:27 (walking break)
  • Mile 15 – 10:41
  • Mile 16 – 9:53 (almost there)
  • Mile 17 – 10:48
  • Mile 18 – 8:57 (oh my god make it end)

Total run:  18 miles (Garmin says 17.41)

Time:  2:52:36 

Average Pace: 9:54/mile

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I know that had I stayed on the trail the whole time, I could have kept my pace closer to a 9:30, and if I can do that on race day I will be over the moon.  After I recovered my breath and slammed my sports drink, I came inside and got into my favorite post-run recovery position – feet in the air.

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Unlike my recent training runs, this one didn’t end in puking or tears.  It ended with smiles and confidence, and the reminder of why I love this sport that challenges me to push myself both mentally and physically.  The thing about running is, we wouldn’t enjoy the good runs nearly as much if we didn’t have to learn from the bad ones.  That’s just the way it goes…