Conquering the mileage one mental step at a time

  • This was printed in August of 2013 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 12th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

I ran 20 miles on Saturday. Twenty.

It was something I had never done before – in fact, my longest run before that was a little

less than 14 ½ miles.

It was a big jump in distance, but I had to do it to prepare for the Santa Rosa Marathon,

which is 17 days away. Now I know I can finish the marathon – and I’m pretty confident

that I’ll cross the finish line still running, not crawling as I had previously imagined. If I

can run 20, what’s another 6.2?

I couldn’t have done that 20-mile run without my Madera running buddy, Audrey Crow,

and her husband Kenny, our “eagle.” He rode his bike along our course, ready with water

and snacks when we needed them. Thanks, Kenny!

Our group started the run at 4 a.m. (I’ve told you, we’re crazy!) Fourteen of us ran the

first five miles together at an 11-minute mile pace, then Audrey and I took off and ran 15

miles at a 9:30 per mile pace. We spent most of the run chatting and laughing, talking

about the food we’d love to eat (you get hungry when you burn that many calories.) We

fantasized about walking into the ice-cold San Joaquin River at the end of our run.

Around mile 17, the conversation stopped. My breathing got a little heavier; my quads

started to ache, and all I wanted to do was finish those last three miles. So, logically, I ran

faster.

“Let’s get this over with, Audrey! Come on girl, we got this!” I yelled over my shoulder.

She’d only had one hour of sleep before the run, so she was getting tired. But we finished

those 20 miles less than a half hour later, right at the fresh, freezing, beautiful San

Joaquin. I stripped off my shoes and socks and got in the water up to my thighs. I stood

there until I couldn’t feel my legs anymore.

Distance runners are known to take ice baths after grueling runs to reduce swelling and

tissue breakdown. We spend miles and miles beating up our legs and muscles; the cold

therapy works to repair what we’ve damaged. I definitely recommend a dip in the river

after a long run because I can actually tolerate it. I’m a sissy when it comes to a true ice

bath, which consists of adding a couple seven-pound bags of ice to cold water in a

bathtub and climbing in.

I treated myself to a 60-minute Swedish massage that day, although I don’t think I really

needed it. I scheduled a sports massage for this Saturday, though, just in case. With 22

miles on the training schedule that day, my legs might be asking for it.

On Monday only a few of us showed up for the scheduled 13-mile recovery run at 4:30

a.m. Coach cut us some slack though, and said to run for 10 minutes and then walk for

three minutes, repeating that sequence until we had run for about an hour and 15 minutes.

We ended up running just over seven miles.

During the run we talked about how many more training days we had left. I asked if

everyone was glad that Saturday would mark our last distance run. Another run said it

wasn’t our last one, but I disagreed.

“The following Saturday we only do 13 miles,” I said.

“That’s still distance!” my running buddy said.

Oh yeah, I forgot. It’s funny how my mentality has completely changed during the last

half of marathon training. Running anything short of seven miles almost feels like it’s not

even worth it, unless it’s a speed workout or hill repeats. I walk around saying things like,

“only 13 miles” and “just an easy 10 miles.”

It’s hard to believe that just two months ago I ran my first half marathon. Now I run the

distance of a half marathon – or more – every Monday and Saturday. How did running

become so easy?

That’s an easy one to answer: Hard work. Dedication. Persistence. (Insert any other

motivational poster word here.)

If I can do this, anyone can do this. The hardest part is conquering the miles mentally, and

then it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other — repeatedly.

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