Sunday’s Long Run (2/19/11)
It is bittersweet to see the end of this half-marathon season approaching: March 6 is just two weeks away, and on the calendar I have one more long run (110 minutes!) and the big race itself. I’m equal parts happy and sad to finish the job, and I’m a little nervous about meeting my goal of running a sub-two-hour race. I’ve never done it before, and with the crazy weather patterns we see here in Texas, it could be a piece of cake or it could be the hardest run of the year.
I’ve never trained this much for a half-marathon before. Right now, I feel like I’m running a half-marathon every weekend. A ten-mile run is very close to the half-marathon distance. Add on top of that the time spent running and the recovery process and you can see why my Sundays have been devoted to long runs. Part of me will be elated to see my weekends revert to a more typical pattern of cooking, relaxing, and some fun [easy!] exercise.
But I don’t want to mislead you or myself here. My training has been largely enjoyable. As I set out to start my 100-minute run on Sunday, I felt a surge of happiness, like, Ah, here we are again! In sneakers, in the sunshine, ready to claim another ten miles of this town. It was a wonderful feeling, one born of the discipline that it takes to be able to run eight, nine, ten miles week after week. I love that feeling of being able to set off on a long run and know that my body will be able to handle it. I may be sore and tired afterward, but it’s a recovery that I can handle. I am hoping that my recovery from the half-marathon will be easier and faster than in the past because I’ve been so diligent with my training runs.
I anticipate that in one very important way, the half-marathon will be easier than all the long runs. For once, I won’t be alone out there, running double-digit miles. I’ll be with fellow runners, and there will be spectators cheering us on. Whenever I run a race, I pretend all the sideliners are cheering for me. It helps me run faster! I’m always so touched to see all these kind-hearted strangers at the race, whooping and clapping and celebrating the race as we zip by them, clocks ticking and hearts pumping. I feel such a surge of love for our spectators and for the sport of running itself, which adapts to fit whatever we offer it. Sometimes we offer up ourselves, one lone runner, and we get a moving meditation of sorts. Other times, we give ourselves by the dozens, the hundreds, the thousands, with timer chips laced to our sneakers and legs ready to go the distance. The feeling I get at the beginning of a race is only comparable to the feeling I get at the end of the race: from We are going to do this to We did it. As much as I am looking forward to those feelings at the Armadillo Dash in two weeks, I know that the days following the Dash will be bittersweet as I give my legs the time they need to recover from their efforts. I’m reminded of something Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay Compensation: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something. Every evil has its good; every sweet its sour.”
This season of running has been more sweet than sour. March 6 will be the sweetest run of all, and I can’t wait.