This post originally ran on the Runners High blog that I sometimes share my running exploits on with other runners. Saturday, Sept 29 will be my second 22 mile run.
It’s sort of a funny idea, you might think I would be more confident about what is ahead after finishing my first of two 20 mile runs before the tapering period leading up to the Columbus Marathon. After all, I’ve been here in training before, twice.
Instead my experience is all backward. I’m probably more conservative and uncertain with my hopes than I was that first time I broke the 2-0 mile marker.
Before the very first 20-mile run I ran for the 2010 Flying Pig Marathon training schedule I was excitedly nervous about completing it. Mile after mile running the 20 I felt I was dominating it. When I was finished I was the cock-of-the-walk, sure I would dominate all those hills along the Pig route and come out feeling great about my time, the run, and myself.
Then I gained experience. I confidently ran into a wall at the Pig around mile 18 — walk-run, walk-run,walk-run for eight miles — while nursing not two, but four stress fractures (matching pairs in my right and left tibia). I pushed too hard, I over-estimated my fitness, underestimated the course, and ignored the warnings of more experienced coaches. When those coaches said start out conservative, gradually increase speed, and then let loose, if you feel it, toward the end, I probably should have listened.
I marked the second set of 20s I ran this spring with constant and neurotic worrying that my injuries would reappear and pitted those insecurities against my ego telling me I wasn’t pushing myself fast enough. I don’t even remember my 20 mile run times, or whether I enjoyed the runs, or how I felt. I just kept feeling to see if my legs ached the way they did the year before. I wanted to stay healthy, yet I wanted to push myself hard to do better. I kept seeking out some magical balancing act between the two so I could match my friends’ improvements in time and speed.
In Pig marathon two I learned at least half of the success of endurance running is in the mind. I was so conflicted and nervous on race day, it boomeranged back on me physically.
When the stomach did protest too much during the first half and I had to stop at mile 13 for a Port-O-Potty break I tried too hard for a couple of miles to make up time and then I realized my spirit wasn’t in it because the game plan was ruined. I hadn’t planned on how to deal with the unplanned or unexpected. I actually ended up further away from my goals than the marathon before.
So, here I am, the third go around, the sixth 20 miler or so and I’m not nearly as certain in how I will do in Columbus as I was for the first Pig, nor am I as conflicted as when I trained for the second. Before the start of the run today (a Saturday as I write this) a coach told the gathered runners the 20 miler is not the race, start out 30 seconds to a minute slower than your goal pace, pick it up gradually, and if you are going goal pace or slightly faster after mile 15 and feel good, then you’ve done well.
The little group I ran with did well measured against that yard stick. We had negative splits and I was well within range of setting a PR on Oct. 21 if all the variable are as good as what they were today. But again, every run is its own. There is no absolute certainty, only a plan to reach a goal and a prayer.
We’ll see what I have to write about this set of training 20 milers in a little over a month