If running is a solitary sport, then training for your first Half-Mary during the worst winter in recent memory is downright reclusive.
Here I was last Sunday, at somewhere around mile 6 of my first 10 mile run ever. Twenty minutes into digesting the first of two energy gels and stopped dead at the bottom of a colossal hill, under the guise of needing to check my dog’s feet for salt burns. My dog was fine. It was me who needed a health check. Or maybe I just needed my head checked. At 31 degrees I had labeled the weather “warm” (in relative terms), I was wearing shoes with 3 millimeter thick soles and separated toes on frigid slush country roads, with no sidewalks; I was standing on golf ball-sized blisters on both feet from a 4-mile (sans socks) altercation with a treadmill two days prior, I had unwisely chosen to wear my lighter running gloves, and I was just plain not in the mood to run. I would have started crying at this point, but any available facial fluids were already running out of my nose. It was here that, despite my patient canine companion, I was feeling the most lonely I’ve ever been since I started my second running life.
I’ve appointed this degradation of sanity “my second running life” because until last June I’d only been sort of jogging on and off for nine years, and never really taking it seriously. I never tried to run further than 2 or 3 miles at once and I never paid much attention to form, stamina or proper footwear. I hurt my knees and ankles a lot, and then that would stop me for awhile. It wasn’t until I discovered the whole minimalist running movement that I realized I wanted to enter races and get better at running. And that is the point at which I became truly mad.
So, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that I’m alone at this junction. Who wants to run ten miles at all, let alone ten miles in the freezing cold on a dreary Sunday afternoon in January? And who would want to be next to me right now, anyway…shivering, snotty and grumbling to myself about a colossal hill in front of me that, by the way, isn’t really that steep at all? No, I shouldn’t be surprised that 100% of my jogging pals had dropped out of my “fun weekend run” circuit by the time I was up to 8 miles. Training oneself to run a half-marathon doesn’t sound like much fun to the rational person. But to me, 13.1 miles is glory at its finest, and I am going to finish training for it even if it kills me (something I’m not entirely ruling out). And it all begins with this hill.
But since running is so darn lonely these days, I have had plenty of time to deliberate upon the many things I’ve learned about myself over the course of this mental illness (it also helps me forget that gnawing pain in my left arch that started back at mile 7). I’ve listed some of them below, as it helps me to mantain lucidity if I can remember that this is actually a useful learning experience.
- I can run more than three miles. The last nine years have been a bunch of pretense and foolish whining.
- it doesn’t matter if I run with music or without. Rhythmic sounds do not make those last two miles magically go by faster.
- running at neck-breaking speed for the next fifteen seconds does not make them go by any faster, either. Moreover, landing on your face at the back of the treadmill is embarrassing.
- guacamole and chocolate is not a good dinner to have the night before a 10K race.
- there is an art to performing snot-rockets that is particularly vital to learn if you don’t want to wash your gloves after every run.
- underwear is unnecessary. Why waste a pair of skivvies just to run in them for 40 minutes? They always get twisted and bunchy anyway.
- the best way to silence a room is to ask if anybody wants to join you at next weekend’s 5K race.
- the second best way is to talk about how many miles you plan to run tomorrow morning.
- you don’t need to wear a lot of layers out in the cold if you’re going to be running. Frozen sweat is quite unpleasant.
- running 10 miles is somehow twice as hard as running seven.
- going to races by myself is not fun. There’s nobody to talk to at the number pick up, at the starting line or at the coat check, and the Post-Race Victory Lunch just isn’t the same when I’m eating it out of a Wendy’s bag on the drive home.
- the worst time to think about next week’s long run is right after this week’s long run.
- 48 degrees is not that cold; it’s actually the perfect temperature for running outside.
- I appreciate my dog Oscar, because he is always willing to run with me, any day, any distance. Everyone else refuses to commit.
- running works better than fiber (just think about that one for a second).
- removing teeth with a plastic spoon might be more pleasant than running for an hour on a treadmill.
- A Camelbak filled with 50 ounces of water weighs 50 ounces more than it did when I tried it on at the store.
- It is my personal opinion that people who run full marathons are utterly and irreversibly deranged. And that people who run ultra-marathons simply cannot exist.
- I am an outdoors person. I love beach, trail, grass, warm breeze and the summer sun. If I lived in San Diego, I could get all of those things on a run, every day. I still haven’t learned why I continue to reside in New England.
- just because I ran 20 miles this week doesn’t mean I can eat at Five Guys and still expect my muffin top to disappear by summer. I’m over 30 now.
- only three people on Facebook give a damn about my 4-mile fartlek time, but even if nobody did I would still post it.
- I feel I am an Enlightened Runner because I run in minimalist shoes, and a Rock-Star because I run barefoot in mild weather (well…some of the time, anyway).
- I sort of like it when people call attention my barefoot running ways. Even if is to tease me mercilessly.
- the most exciting thing that ever happens during a run is seeing another runner. Other crazies make me feel more validated.
- I am always a little disappointed if the other runner is wearing regular running shoes.
- I’m kind of a slow runner. Even when I think I’m running fast, I’m still pretty slow.
- now that I have my very own Garmin watch (thanks, hubby!), I get to see exactly how slow I am in vast, glorious detail.
- Buying BodyGlide is an embarrassment on par with buying condoms or Vagisil. But going without it is far more terrifying.
- sometimes the best runs start with a hangover.
It’s times like this I am glad I can learn anything from my madness. Because my 60-pound dog can’t pull me up that hill, and if I can’t remember why it’s all worth it, then then it’s really going to suck to see my husband’s disappointed face when he comes to pick me up in his SUV.
So, anybody want to join me for next week’s long run?