Last Friday was the first of the two long runs marked on my marathon training schedule. The recommended distance was 20 to 21 miles. Since it is fall, the long runs are usually plotted out along a relatively flat course. On the one hand, thank goodness. Cincinnati’s 7 hills and river valley mean brutal inclines when running long distances. Spring marathon training, though cooler weather-wise, is always little more challenging because, for some reason, hills are par for most marathon courses.
On the other hand, the amount of hills also means limited options for flat long distant course. I chose a simple out-and-back starting at the city’s riverfront and following a river road out to a municipal airport with a five-mile running-biking trail around it. There is also this lovely wooded connector trail to a second park with a 2 mile loop in it. Basic running calculations suggest a run out to the second park, one loop there and then a run back to complete the airport loop before heading home should get you 21 miles.
It was very overcast and cool the day of my run, which made the deal even better. I swear though, I didn’t get a very exact reading from my TomTom multi-sport GPS watch. It had me going at a slower pace than what I felt I was running. Eventually, I just quit caring. I was having one of those runs where I felt I could go forever. Once I got out to the secondary park I hit just about 10 miles. As I finished my first loop I decided to go ahead for a second one.
I had loaded my iPhone full of podcast and realized by the time I finished the second one, a story I was really digging would be over and it would be time to stop to down a Gu and some water.
My run back was going pretty well up to about mile 18. It wasn’t until then that I started to feel some mild tightness in my right calf. Nothing unbearable, just the normal signs that I was getting up there in mileage. I was starting to remember the brutal feelings we runners get as we approach the end of a marathon, a feeling I usually forget until the next race.
As chance would have it, the particular podcast I was listening to at that moment, and I can’t even remember which podcast it was, quoted a popular phrase from Winston Churchill. The circumstances in which he made his comment that gets quoted were much more dire than me running a silly race, but still, the words hung in the air before me as I ran .
‘If you’re going through Hell keep going’
Now, I know I heard this quote before. But I don’t think I had in this particular context. It felt like a mantra, something to be emblazoned on a shirt. At that moment it made perfect sense considering where my mind was drifting.
I finished my run at mile 23. I contemplated going on for 26. I thought better, grabbed a protein shake immediately and took an ice bath shortly afterward. I think I ended up walking 4 miles after I ate dinner that night too and had minimal soreness the next day.