I looked at my calendar this week and realized I was just past the halfway point between my two winter half marathons – I’m not sure how that happened so quickly! To be fair, it does feel like quite awhile since I was in Florida, having an amazing time running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and fueling up with all the delicious allergy-free treats on offer. But I thought that it felt far in the past because of the winter weather we’ve been having in the Northeast…the realization that it was over a month ago crept up on me! I’ve got less than four weeks to go until the New York City Half Marathon.
While I’m sure lots of seasoned runners think nothing of running multiple half marathon distances in a compressed period of time, it’s a first for me. I cut back during the two weeks after the Disney half marathon, running only 4-6 miles a few times each week. About two weeks after the race, I did an 8-miler, and today was my longest in-between run of 10 miles. At this point in my running career, I consider anything over 8 miles to be a Long Run, and this one definitely felt that way!
Long runs don’t feel different than short distances just because of the length of time your body is in motion. In fact, I find that it takes me a good three miles to get into a run, and once I hit mile 5 or 6, it’s easy to keep going for another few. Any little aches or pains usually fade away (they come back with a vengeance post-run, but that’s another story!) What I really need to keep me going is to focus on something positive. I don’t necessarily mean that I need to think happy thoughts – in fact, I’ll often devote a lot of time on long runs to thinking through a problem, something in my life that isn’t going quite the way I’d like it to. I’ll usually have found a way to put a new spin on an off-kilter situation by the time I’m ready to cool down. There’s something about being out of doors and in motion that puts all the little things in life in perspective, and my long runs give me the chance to take a metaphorical step back and gain that perspective, while also literally moving forward.
Today, I shoved all thoughts of law school and my impending graduation and relationships and my upcoming dinner party and literally EVERYTHING ELSE out of my mind. Instead, I ruminated on running (of all the things!) as I ran. More specifically, the time I’ve spent running. Just under a year ago, I was gearing up for the same race, my first half marathon and only my fourth race ever! Looking back, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come – two years ago was the first time I ran a 5k distance without stopping, something I never dreamed of doing. I was the girl tried to get out of running the mile in gym class by bringing a note from my ballet teacher saying it was unsafe for dancers. Even when I started jogging as a coxswain, it was never more than a mile and change down the river path or around Oxford, and always with plenty of walking. Now, I have two half marathons under my belt, a third coming up, and a fourth already on deck for September!
If I had told my 13- or 16- or even 20-year-old self that this is where I’d be at 23, I wouldn’t have been able to believe it. And that’s something I need to keep in mind. A long run is the perfect time to refresh my memory, because even if I feel a little sore for the first few miles, or the wind is a bit harsh, or I’m certain I won’t be able to finish – I realize that every step is an achievement in and of itself, pushing beyond imaginary limits into a new realm of possibility. It’s a wonderful thought, an even better feeling, and today, it was just the fuel I needed to finish 10 miles strong.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to refuel, because even the best mental state requires a plate of healthy, delicious and nutritious calories to maintain! I’m thinking a few muffins for a quick protein and carb fix while I whip up a plate of eggs and my special pancakes…
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