Last Saturday, I ran 8 miles.
To some this may seem like a lot. To others this is isn’t even close to a long run. But to me, this was big because…
…before Saturday I had never run more than 6.5 miles at any given time.
In my life.
As I’ve described in detail, my relationship with running has had its ups and downs over the years, but it’s been a part of my life since I was 14. Up until recently, running meant lacing up and heading out for 2-4 mile runs just to be outside, get out of my head, and move my body. As I’ve started training and signing up for races over the past year or so, my running has evolved. I realized that I often find myself saying “I’m new to running” when it’s just not true. I’m not new to running; I’m new to racing. I’m new to training. I’m new to watches and paces and proper footwear and long runs and running with friends and recovery. What used to be a completely solo, leisure activity is now more active, more interactive, and a larger piece of my current life pie.
Last fall, when I signed up for my first half marathon, the race was almost a year away and I decided to leave training to Future Brittany. She’d be sure to buckle down and work hard and be badass and running 13.1 would be noooo problem.
Surprise, surprise. The months flew by and I soon realized that I had to hop on that training wagon before it was too late. I was attending November Project regularly along with a few runs and yoga sessions per week, but still no long runs. I realized that I had to think about what I wanted from this half. Why did I sign up? What were my goals?
My goal for this half is simple: to have fun and run farther than I ever have before. Since it’s my first, I’ll PR just by crossing that finish line. I’m not going to put a ton of pressure on myself to be super speedy, but I do want to enjoy myself. However, to run 13.1 miles and enjoy myself, I’ll have to train. It’s that simple.
This realization was enough to get me going. I downloaded a training plan, and started tracking my mileage and pace consistently for the first time. Everything was easy peasy for the first month. But then I saw 15km on the docket. A quick Google calculation told me that this was just over 8 miles. (8.08, but who’s counting? —>me) For whatever reason, that number gave me a little lump in my throat. Okay, this is real. I did sign up for a half marathon. And it’s in Canada. And I’m flying out there. And I convinced many friends to join me. So there’s no backing out and this.is.happening. While 1.5 miles isn’t a ton to add to my “longest ever”, it was the fact that I’m usually pretty wiped after 6 miles that had me nervous. What would I feel like after 6.5? Would my body start to ache and prevent me from finishing? Would my side stitches take over? Would my legs just suddenly fall off? That last one seemed unlikely…but how could I actually know for sure that I could handle 8 miles?
I had to just try.
This Saturday. I’m going for it.
On Saturday morning I rolled over at 7am and realized I should get up and head out right away. But I didn’t. I wake up early all week, and it felt so good to just lay in bed. I soon began to justify why I shouldn’t go for this 8 mile run. Tomorrow it’s going to be 5 degrees cooler so I should go then. Tomorrow I will be able to get up right away and eat something. Today I don’t have time for food and I want to be sure that I’m fueling before runs. Tomorrow is better.
Luckily I voiced these concerns to my boyfriend Chris while I ate a tiny bowl of oatmeal with some almond butter and a few slices of banana (already subconsciously prepping myself for a run). He quickly reminded me that excuses are like pennies (and also bagels? marmalade? See vid below): Everybody has ’em and they all STINK.
“Five degrees? You’re worried about five degrees? It’s a Saturday morning and you got 9 hours of sleep and you’re not hungover. It doesn’t’ get better than this!”
The man had a point. In fact, he was so convincing, that I used his same points to convince him to join me for the first few miles. Wahaha.
Soon we were out the door and cruising along. I had planned a “tour de reservoirs” loop around Brookline and Jamaica Pond, but after our first time around the Brookline Reservoir, I asked Chris if he just wanted to loop around there. Chris stayed for another loop, and then decided to head back home since he’s recovering from an injury and didn’t want to push it.
As soon as he left, I missed the company. This in itself was shocking. Not because Chris isn’t great company (he’s actually the best company) but because I normally prefer running alone. I think because I’m still working on my pace and finding my groove, I get frustrated by not being able to keep up and just have more fun on my own. This is slowly changing, but I didn’t realize how nice it was to chat and run at an easy pace. My goal for the day was to run 10 minute miles since I’d never run this far and just really wanted to see that distance checked off. I was surprised at how easy this pace felt.
Before I knew it, I had run 6 miles. Two more shocking things happened during this time:
1) I kept looping around the same reservoir. I kept telling myself that I should veer off onto my planned route because the idea of laps makes me want to vom, but I just couldn’t tear myself away. It was so shady, breezy, and FLAT. My calves were still super sore from the NP stadium and hill workout that week, so flat just felt too good to quit. The Brookline Reservoir is almost exactly one mile around, so I think it was also just relaxing for my mind to let go of thinking about navigation and just relax into my pace. I kept switching directions after every mile to keep myself entertained.
2) I didn’t listen to music or podcasts. I almost never listen to music when I run, but I do love to catch up on my favorite podcasts. I think it sometimes feels like multi-tasking and a fun distraction. But on this run, my phone decided it wasn’t feeling so hot and just abruptly shut off. I took it as a sign that I should just listen to my breath and enjoy the gorgeous day and it couldn’t have been better.
I felt a lag in stride around mile 6.5. That was just my mind getting in the way, you say? Correct. I powered through, and soon found myself elated. My watch said 6.8 miles. I’d already won! 7 miles. 7.5 miles. Victory was in sight!
I decided it was time to head toward home (about a mile away) to give my mind a break from the loops and to feel like I was heading toward the finish line. I was so surprised and thrilled about how great my body felt that I found myself picking up speeding and ended in a full-out sprint. Just because I can and my body is amazing and I’m stronger than I think I am and I can run 8 miles and then run more and I’m totally going so fast wow wow wow!!!!
I stopped at 8.1 miles with a new milestone checked off and a grin on my face. I had made this a way bigger deal in my head than it needed to be, but the 8 mile monkey was off my back. I felt a wave of confidence rush over me as I realized that I could probably comfortably run the half now, and I still have more than a month to train.
I’m comin for you SeaWheeze.
And the best part is, this weekend I get to 9 miles. 🙂