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Friday, April 8, 2011


It's hard to talk about a 20 mile run without the assistance of hyperbole, but I will try my best.

Yesterday in the bright and sunny promise of a non-snowing April morning I hit the road for 1 of the last 2 really long training runs before the Sugarloaf Marathon on May 15.  (And yes, there is an offensive amount of snow in the woods, but the roads are clear, albeit a bit gravely but I will take gravel underfoot any day over ice.)

I was unable to meet up with my girls for this week's beast of a run, due to scheduling issues on my part, so I decided to do it alone.

Historically, this can either work out fantastically or lead to suffering, loneliness and despair out on the road.

I lucked out with the fantastic.

Four things came together to allow for a truly amazing run for me:

1. I somehow managed to dig myself out of a really dark mental place about running the day before. Since I had had the flu, my running has been labored, my body tired and I've struggled hard through even 5 mile weekday runs.  So I took Wednesday as a rest day and while I massaged 6 people in the dark quiet of my office on Beals Island, I visualized a strong, happy, fulfilling run.

2. Even though my dear friend Amy had made several attempts to find me, driving up and down and all around in search of me, to bring me hydration and sustenance, she could not locate me (she had misread my map ever so slightly).  Covering all my bases, I had the day before asked my friend Vanessa to leave a water bottle out by her road sign which I would pass at mile 16.  She did (along with a note saying, "WHOOO HOOOO! YOU CAN DO IT!" Thank you Vanessa!) Alleviating thirst issues and runner's worry; good move for the future.

3. I came up with a route I liked that, this was the key for me, didn't end at my house.  I always struggle through the dreaded last 2 or 3 miles of a long run that go by each house I run by week after week. I swear I know the potholes, every slight in the road that somehow becomes a hill to my tired legs, every boulder, mailbox and dog along the Main Rd. in Hampden that leads me home.  Instead, I had Sandi pick me up at mile 20.  It was fun to run a new "end" and to text her and tell her to come for me in 20 minutes at that spot.  Talk about dangling a carrot.

4.  I got myself a new audio book which I listened to for nearly 2 1/2 hours (helping me pace myself and not go out too fast) and then some awesome new running music for the end which had me picking up my pace, a tactic I HOPE to apply in the marathon.  Perhaps the better way to state that would be, I'm hoping to maintain a pace in the marathon instead of slowly petering out and crawling to the finish.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not as though running 20 miles wasn't  hard.  Of course it was.  As always there are time boredom sets in, day dreams about a hot shower and stopping the rotation of my legs.  But the real success to a run like this, for me, is in maintaining enough positivity and (forgive me) JOY that it is fun.  And to make it fun all alone without my friends for camaraderie and laughter and self-deprecation?  Even more of a success as far as I'm concerned.

And then I came home and Sandi massaged my exhausted legs (I KNOW....) and enjoyed, to the fullest extent possible, the feeling of overwhelming satisfaction, completion and pride for the rest of the day.  It is this, perhaps as much as anything, that makes me train for marathons.  Yes, it's the space away from home, the staying in good shape, the having something that is just for me.  But, also, when you are a mom who gives so much to the development of two other human beings,  stretches of time can pass when no real sense of attainment or success is felt.  It's hard to feel accomplished at driving, cooking, grocery shopping, folding laundry and refereeing fights.

But when I'm out there on the road for hours, pushing and working and smiling to myself because I'm DOING IT?  Somehow, over and over again, it makes me whole again. 

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