Keepin' It Real...

Today I ran 20 miles.  The first 20-miler of this marathon cycle since I missed one due to spraining my foot.  I'm kind of used to being the crazy-runner-chick in my circles.  And often I encounter people/friends just starting out that ask when it gets easier.  Well, folks, I'm going to keep it real... it doesn't.  I'm here to admit that I struggle on most runs... both physically and mentally.  I rarely have "fun" during a run.  I'm here and I continue to run because I like the way I feel after - the accomplishment, the feeling of strength.  I like what I'm doing for my health.  I like what it teaches my children about being active and healthy. 

I've done 12 half marathons, and I've had people comment "oh, that's easy for you" as I head out to embark on another.  I'm here to say that 13.1 miles is never easy for me.  Some runs are less of a struggle than others.  Some runs I recover from more quickly than others, but 13.1 miles is still a challenge and a long way to run!  Every run should be celebrated as an accomplishment, even if it's the 100th time you've done it.

This was my 4th time running a distance of at least 20 miles.  It never gets easier... and as if it wasn't hard enough on my mind and body, I had some other things to contend with - constant 30mph winds with gusts up to 40 (really getting sick of the Texas spring wind), a cycling race that had gobs of cyclists zooming past me at high speeds pretty consistently, and pretty toasty temperatures...  not to mention my foot, that I thought was healed started really hurting around mile 15.  By time I got home, it was surprisingly sore.  There were no less than 100 times I made the decision to quit the run and go home.  When the winds were particularly gusty and I felt like I was standing still, I decided to go home and finish the remainder of the run on the treadmill.  As those cyclists looped me for the 4th time, I decided I would just finish one loop (9 miles).  I finished that loop and did my normal routine, which includes going to my car, wiping my face with my towel, guzzling some gatorade, and refilling my water bottle and replenishing my GU.  By time I sat there for a couple minutes, I decided I should at least try to get in a couple more miles... after all, I was paying for a babysitter.  So I made the decision to run until I at least hit 3 hours on the clock... which based on my current slower-than-normal pace (due to the wind), would let me run 3 more miles out and then 3 miles back.  I had a hard time pushing through those 3 miles, but when I got there, I was at a slight downhill and thought, well, I'll just go another 0.5 so I have 16 on the books and just have to do 4 when I get home.  I hit 12.5 on my Garmin.  At this point, I knew if I just went 2 more miles out, I would be golden and would get my 20.  That 2 miles was a tough struggle, but somehow I pushed through it.  Then comes the tough part... I'm at 14.5 miles... because of where I was on the lake, I could keep circling which would put me at my car at 18 miles, then I'd have to pass it a mile and come back.  I knew where I was mentally, and decided that would be a no go... so I turned around and went the way I came which meant it was 5.5 miles to my car.  The wind really picked up, and I wondered if I made a bad decision... but eventually my watch clicked over to 15.5.  This was the perfect spot, mentally... because at 15.5 miles, it doesn't matter which way I go, it's 4.5 miles to get to my car.  Once I'm at that point, I *know* that I'll get 20 miles in, even if I crawl.  It was a huge mental pick-me-up... and surprisingly my legs and speed even picked up a little.  It was hard every step of the way, but the difference between the first time running 20 and the fourth time running 20 is simple... I know that I *am* capable of 20 miles.  Once you know you are capable, there's a confidence that pulls you through the inches... it doesn't make it easier... but "I can't" is one less mental battle you have to fight.
So for those of you out there starting out... remember that every mile is an accomplishment.  It's not "just" 3 miles... it's 3 miles that once upon a time, you couldn't run all of.  It's miles that the 99% sitting on the couch didn't accomplish today.  And to the families and spouses of us crazy runners... just because it's our 50th race and not our 1st, doesn't make it any less of an accomplishment... every run is an achievement.  Every run is a mental and physcial battle.  And every single run, it's a blessing to have support and cheers!!!
Whether you put in 1 mile today or 20 or even more... congratulations on getting out there and getting it done, even if it was hard, even if you went slow, even if your body aches... you did it!