Last weekend I had a really shitty long run. You know which ones I’m talking about. The kind where your pants are falling down, your shirt is riding up, and your headphones feel like they are hitting your eardrum. One of those.
It should have been a breeze, since I only had 6 miles on the schedule (at what point in my life did it become ONLY six miles by the way?) but for some reason I was gasping for air with every street corner I turned. I told myself I would get 3 miles away from the house so that I’d be forced to do the full 6. But after cutting some corners I called it a day with 5 and some change. It just wasn’t happening.
This of course caused one of those “What the hell am I doing?!” moments. I only had to run 6 miles and I failed at it. How in the world am I supposed to get my body to run 20 more? I know, I know, bad runs happen. But knowing that still doesn’t stop the panicked thoughts from happening.
I’m attempting to become a grown-up runner these days, so I pushed back my worries and looked ahead at making my next run better. I had 9 miles to do, and toyed all week with making part of it a 5K I’ve run for the last two years. I knew missing the race would make me sad, but I hated the thought of how slow my time would be (I’ve PR’d in that race both times). Eventually not missing out on the first race of the season with my running group won me over, and I signed up on the last day. I decided I would run 6 miles TO the race and meet them for the last 3, that being in the race atmosphere with my friends would give me the push to finish my run.
It was a cold, drizzly, slushy morning as I headed out the following Sunday. Each mile that passed was another mile closer to meeting my friends, and all 6 were relatively painless. I found my buddies, chewed down a few beans, and we headed out to the start. For the first mile or so I cruised along, feeling the energy of the people around me. And then my legs started to remember they already had 7 miles down. They got tired. And heavy. I lost my friends, people started to pass me. For a second I felt embarrassed and then I reminded myself “Dude, you’re training for a $%*!-ing marathon”. I kept trucking.
I knew I had less than a mile to go but my legs were so tired. I was cold to my bones, and my shoes were so wet they felt like bricks. I wanted so badly to slow down, to walk for just a bit. I tried to think of anything and everything to keep my mind off of it: What song was going to come next on my iPod? What was I going to have for breakfast after? Which side of the road would my friends who were there cheerleading be on?
And then I saw it ahead of me. The unmistakable orange zest. A Boston Marathon jacket. There’s nothing in the world that I want right now more than that jacket. And while finishing these 9 miles wasn’t going to earn me a jacket, it was going to put me one step closer. So I locked my eyes on that orange zest ahead of me, and I didn’t take them off until the finish line was in sight.
One step closer.