I spent most of week 8 obsessed with the 10-mile long run. By “obsessed,” I don’t mean it would cross my mind every now and again. It was like the elephant in my jello— it’s possible that I’m mixing two sayings here—all. dang. week.
“Ten miles,” my brain said while I was getting my morning joe.
In the shower it said, “Maybe you should shave your pits for the 10-mile run.”
“Ten miles,” it said, while I was teaching my classes. And when my students complained about how much work they had over the weekend, it was all I could do to not yell, “How about you join me for a 10-mile run?”
There’s just something about double-digits that triggers dread. Nine seemed long but doable. Ten, though. Ten seemed right out.
Friday night I plotted my route. It would be five-miles uphill on the out and five blissfully downhill on the back. I’d be running out into the countryside on the shoulder of the road. I worried a little about traffic but knew that it would be light at that time of day.
Plus, this route would take me past my friend A.L.’s house. If she wasn’t home, I could always pee in her shrubbery or snatch some water from her outdoor pump. If worse came to worse and I was willing to beg a little, she would drive me home.
The upside of an out-and-back is that I could convince myself that it was really only an easy five-miler and then an easy five home. The one time my husband referred to it as ten, I snapped at him. “It’s just FIVE. Then FIVE home.” (My husband might need therapy after this.)
Long story short? Ten wasn’t so bad, especially if you hit the turn around and pretend that the previous five didn’t happen. My mantra for the back half of the run was, “Oh, just an easy five. No big deal.” Then, “Easy four. No big deal.” And on and on until it was an “easy mile” home. The whole morning, truth be told, felt like a mini-adventure, like I was a badass explorer out to discover something neat.
Mostly, what I discovered were deer. And a couple of horses, which I didn’t realize you could keep so close to the city limits. I discovered I should probably bring a trash bag to pick up all of the stuff that people throw out of their car windows. Unlike SBS, I didn’t find any cash.
I discovered that I should bring a notebook and pencil because I do some good thinking out there, and it would be helpful to keep track of all of the email/phone calls/stories that I want to get to when I get back.
I also discovered that the uphill bit at the 4-mile mark was much steeper than I’d remembered. Or, to be more accurate, was a lot more steep when on foot rather than in my car.
I also discovered that my brand new water bottle—one of those smallish handheld ones—is perfect for accidentally irrigating my sinuses if I squeeze it too hard while still running. Not information I needed, mind, but good to know.
Then because any lesson worth learning is worth learning twice, I did the exact same thing a mile later.
Two GUs, one at mile four and one at mile eight, helped quite a bit, as did all of the podcasts I had queued up, like The Bugle, because I love John Oliver. (And if anyone can arrange a run with him, I would love you forever and maybe knit you a sweater.)
Mostly, though, I discovered that there is liberation in a ten-mile run. After getting through those first mile voices—the ones tell you you’re tired and old and fat and ... and ... and—I found some peace in knowing that there was nothing else I needed to do but keep picking one foot up, then putting it down, for the next two hours.
It was, in its own weird way, bliss.
I would have laughed my heinie off it you’d ever suggested such a thing even a couple of weeks ago. Yet, here we are.
During the last mile home, I snuck up on Michele, my bookstore boss, and a friend of hers. Scared both of them pretty good, which means that I didn’t sound like an asthmatic herd of wildebeest thudding up behind them. I apologized for not stopping to chat. By that point, even though the run was a great one, I was ready to sit down for a minute.
Once I was home and yelled the word “TEN!” at my husband, I had some celebratory chocolate milk and a shower. Not simultaneously.
Twenty-four hours later, I’m still feeling pretty badass, even though my right calf is kind of complaining. The muscle is knotted in a new way and might have been triggered by the camber of the road. I’m hoping that some extra foam rolling while knock it right out.
The next long run is “10-12 miles.” Should I go for 12? Is it weird to be worried that I won’t capture the same exhausting magic next week? And when is the last time you felt like a badass mother runner?