she’s going the distance

Inspired by my sister, a distance runner, I decided to try to run double digit miles. Let me preface this by saying I am not a distance runner. A 10K is just about perfect for me and nearly all my runs are around an hour, if not less. But in order to challenge yourself, you must try something new. I started out by going to a running store and getting the long-distance runner essentials:

Then I planned my route. Then I procrastinated a day. And finally, I did it.  I started off as I always start off: good. I am a competitive person, even especially against myself and I like to keep my pace between 8 1/2 and 9 minute miles. I record my runs with the Nike+ App and I like to always beat my average pace (which is sometimes detrimental to me because there are times I haven’t run because I didn’t feel I could run as fast as I’d like recorded).

This will be easy, I thought to myself. I’ll be done in an hour and forty-five minutes. But after my first five miles, I hit a hill. A big one. My pace slowed to a crawl. One foot, then the other. Left, right. Step, repeat. Just keep going. Don’t give up. Very slowly, but surely, I overcame the hill. Then there were some glorious downhill moments when I felt like I was flying. I stopped into gas stations to refill my water bottle twice along the way, thinking of Cheryl Strayed in Wild needing a water source. I felt like a warrior, like her, despite the fact that she hiked for 100 days in the mountains and I ran for two hours and I am nothing like the warrior Cheryl is.

Distance running is a matter of endurance, both physically and mentally. If you think about running, you will quickly get disheartened. In fact, half a mile in, I almost turned back because I thought, I’m not even 5% of the way done – this is going to be endless. Instead, I thought about other things – what I had written that day, what I would write tomorrow, the books I’ve read, the books I want to read. I quickly learned not to worry about speed (by the end of it, my 8 minute miles had slowed to 11 minute miles), but rather about finishing. This is a feat. I equate it to graduating college – no one cares what your GPA was, just that you did it. 

After that big hill, I ran by my old apartment, by the route Steve and I used to walk each day. I ran by the spot we were at when we got the call that we had won the bidding war and this house was going to be ours. I recounted our excitement, our jumping embrace. Then I ripped open my GU and sucked it down. It felt natural to be eating near that apartment I had so many meals at earlier in my life. And I kept running. Down more little hills, up more big ones. I ran until my phone died, then I kept running until I made it home.

I did it. I ran a little over eleven miles. Although that isn’t a distance run like real distance runners do, it was a good starting distance run for me. Without training for it, I did it. And if I add a little each time, competing against myself in distance rather than speed, I can keep going farther and farther. My legs are jelly now.  Last night I made a comment about getting a chair lift for the stairs to Steve that he thought was a joke but I was mildly serious about. But the pain is an inevitable result of the pushing. I pushed myself into new territory that I had no business being in, but I faked it until I made it. Today, I recover. Perhaps I’ll go buy myself a S’Mores frappuccino.

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