About the best thing I can say about Sunday’s 14 mile run is that I had the good sense to hide a frozen bottle of water at the midway point. That was a genius move, past me. The rest? Not so much.
Let’s focus on what worked. That mostly thawed but still delightfully chilled H2O gave me the will to slog on through 100 percent humidity (not hyperbole) and intermittent visits from Voldesun. It wasn’t pretty and I wasn’t happy about it. I nearly punched a dude who kept lapping me on the high school track, which is where I did my last few miles. He did absolutely nothing to provoke my ire, save that he was all sprightly and energetic and I was all demoralized and mean. I’d like to say that the better angels of my nature held back my fist. Truthfully, I just couldn’t catch him.
Next time I see him — and because this is a small town, odds are pretty good that I will see him — I am going to make sure he knows that I was on mile 12 of a long, long, long run through really challenging circumstances. Any other time I totally could have kept up with him. Or, more realistically, come up with some witty bon mot as he passed me by. We all must play to our strengths.
The worst part about Sunday’s run is how completely my coping skills failed me by the end. By mile ten, the voices started up, the ones that remind me that I’m so very slow and carrying too much weight and an idiot for even thinking I could run ten miles, much less 26. 2. And on and on and on.
You know that voice. As one of the mother runners from the Little Rock Retreat said: I wish the voices in my head weren’t such assholes. You’ll never see that quote on one of those inspirational running memes on social media — and not just because of the mild swear. We want all of our runs to be majestic. And, yet, well. Sometimes, they make you want to punch the sprightly young man on the track.
Usually, I can rally some sort of positive thought but after a week’s worth of hot, humid weather and grimy, miserable runs, I just had nothing. All that kept me going was the knowledge that I’d soon hear Herr Garmin the Second beep its 14-mile beep and then I could stop. Oh, stopping. Sometimes I love you most of all.
I did, however, figure something out while I was slogging though my 14-mile existential crisis: I can endure almost anything if I know when it will end.
This is why labor freaked me out so much. No one could tell me exactly how long it would take because, of course, that is not a knowable thing. If I’d known for certain that I would have to get through a 500 on the standard 1 - 10 pain scale for exactly 63 minutes, I could have been one of those laboring women who bite down on a stick and get on with it.
For the record, I was not that woman. With baby number one, after hour eight, I would have been happy to let them put a needle in my eye if it would have eased the pain. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.
Also for the record, mad props to those who labored and delivered without pharmaceutical help. Good job, you.
What I realized on my run, though, is that even the most demoralizing slogs have knowable ends and that that is what makes it possible for me to do get through them. Unlike so much in life — from parenting to eldercare to intractable work problems, etc and so on — a marathon will stop 26.2 miles from where you started. Odds are pretty good that I can endure whatever it takes to get there because I know that I won’t have to keep going for some indeterminate or unknowable distance. I’m pretty sure my stubbornness will get me through, even if it isn’t pretty or, frankly, fast. Even if the voices are particularly assholelyish that day. Provided, of course, that my legs stay attached and functional.
I’ll take this revelation into this Saturday’s 16-mile long run, which I’m certain I’ll get done. I’m still going to hide my frozen water bottle, even though the weather looks like it’ll be less punishing this weekend.
Have you had any great epiphanies during your runs lately?