You just never know. Several folks I spoke with before and after the 16 mile run on Sunday confessed to some level of anxiety. Of course anxiety is the imagination of something bad happening —any number of possible unpleasant scenarios and combinations. Pain/injury, getting lost, thirst, being last, being too slow, difficult recovery, discomfort in any form for any reason. The run is over in such a short time compared to the amount of time I might spend thinking about the team mileage schedule in the green book (the printed 2011 log for the Richmond Sportbackers’ training team) and counting up the 20-mile runs. “How many?” “…and what day is that?” “…what else is going on that week?” “How will I fit that around Sarah’s wedding /the Folk Festival/ …etc.?”
In fact, I had a great run. A plan for cutting a couple miles out (right on Grove and back to the stadium rather than left to the final water stop) may have helped. Before the Sugarloaf Marathon, Amy and Amanda had suggested (during a 2 ½ hour aqua-jog one morning) that I have back up plans just in case something happens. Don and Henry were there at various intervals on the course as were many other families. I had visions of being lost out on the rural Maine highway with logging trucks flying past. The visions are usually so much more dramatic, and entertaining.
I started out the run with one of the guys on the team that I’ve enjoyed meeting, knowing he would want to pick up the pace soon but I enjoyed starting off with him. I ran the next several miles with a guy who was on his first run back after an injury and was planning to do just a short run. The idea of cutting off more than just a couple miles wasn’t anything I had considered. I can think of one instance of my doing on a training run fewer miles than planned. Now that surprises me to write, given how extremely (to a fault, I think) flexible I am with plans. I think it drives my students nuts. It may be one more aspect of running that appeals to me, and that I am learning from. (note: I just now read the course plans on the website and see that written into the plans for a long run are several options for cutting the run short. Suddenly the green book doesn’t seem so menacing.)
Bill (I think that was his name) turned back at some point and I picked up some speed to meet up with two women running a similar pace just a few yards ahead. They were sisters, one of whom had completed— I think she said— 18 marathons and the other, a handful; and one together. One elected to drop her pace back and I ran a few miles with the other. I could tell she wanted to push the pace and I lost them both after the next water stop. I may have spent a little too much time chatting with Winnie, a Saturday coach and one of my inspirations for training with the MTT. (For those unfamiliar, the Richmond Sportsbackers’ Marathon Training Team enlisted more than 1000 runners on 11 teams based on experience and pace. And that’s just for the full marathon. There are also a ½ marathon and 8k training teams.) Seeing a friend—a very strong friend—gave me an added boost and I continued on. I caught up with a pair of guys, one of whom was a trainer from a Saturday team, keeping a brisker pace (about 45 seconds faster) than my normal comfort zone but the coach reminded me to “relax, breathe and forget the Garmin”. I ran a few miles longer with them than I would have if I’d been keeping to, what I thought was, “my pace.” I let him get ahead of me after the next water stop but I kept pace just behind him and a woman in a cute green skirt up Grove (which would have been my turn-around). It was my second visit to see Winnie and at that point I was feeling great: confident and strong and really glad to be doing the entire run. I picked up with the woman in the green skirt, Denise, and the two of us (both of us complaining that the guy we’d been running with was pushing the pace a little too hard) ran the last 4 or five miles in together. The funny thing was that even though we agreed to keep it down a little, we were clocking just about the same pace and the final mile was probably my fastest mile on a long run during this training. Big boost to confidence.
I felt fantastic.Very exciting to talk with several women about the project, on the run and afterwards at the refreshment table.
There is another post altogether about the conversations from that day — all reinforcing some of the critical themes of this project: how we balance the many parts of our life, how running informs the other parts of our lives, how what might be unique to women is this effort to balance so much and never feel like any one thing gets our best attention.
And related to that balance: I took an ice bath when I got home. Don and Henry came up to the bathroom to talk about the dogs they were considering for adoption. Until that morning it had been all Henry’s conversation and suddenly, Don was in on it. One thing about Don is that he is the most decisive person I’ve ever met. He saw the house we now own and did a complete renovation on and fifteen minutes after we looked at it he said, “I’m ready to buy.” He was that way about having kids. It was, maybe, five-minute discussion. Gratefully, I agreed to take Henry to the final Harry Potter movie where I knew I could both spend time with him and not feel pressured to be out riding bikes or going for a hike or even something requiring mental attention. Not want to climb upstairs and take a nap…this might be our pattern: head to the movie theater after a long run. I loved the movie: not at all the maelstrom Armageddon I was anticipating. Henry sat on my lap the entire time.