After running over a thousand miles last year, I have hardly run at all in 2010. Regular visitors here will know some of the reasons. I shan't go into them again right now. Suffice it to say, a number of conditions have not been ideal. However, with the San Francisco Marathon just weeks away, I decided yesterday that it was time to test whether I might really be up for it.
I discovered long ago that, at least for me, marathons are more about mental resolve than physical ability. In order to challenge both I hit the road yesterday with the goal of running a 15 miler. I have not run that far since the Santa Barbara Marathon last December. If memory serves, ten's as far as I've gone. I knew that trying for 15 was breaking one of the major rules of distance training, namely, don't increase your mileage by more than ten percent at a pop. Yesterday's run was an increase of 50% over my last ten, which was last week. My hope was I could still draw on the core fitness attained during the 12 in 12. Physically, honestly, I was pretty sure I could do it. In my head, maybe not so much.
I didn't run the Los Angeles Marathon earlier this year, even though I was signed up and had journied south to do it. The day before I realized the mental reserves were depleted, and I knew this race was going to require a lot of what was gone. Since then, I have been struggling to figure out what it is I love about the marathon. I've been asking myself, why? I haven't found the answer. I hoped I would rediscover it yesterday.
The first three miles were tough. I had forgotten it usually takes me 3-5 miles to really warm up and get into the whole groove. The conversations going on inside my head were not pleasant. I was calling myself names and going over a long list of things I'd rather be doing. At some point I convinced myself I was in for the long haul, but knew that I'd have to force myself to complete the task. So, seeing the course I'd set was an out-and-back, I committed to making it to the 7.5 mile turnaround. Knew that if I made it that far I'd have no choice but to finish, as I'd have to go home. The turnaround point was a Starbucks, so I promised myself a small coffee...and a breather.
That worked fine...but I still wasn't feeling the magic....and I still had 7.5 miles to go. Shortly after I began the return leg I remembered there have rarely been moments of joy during a distance run. Sure, I get those after it's all over, with beer in hand. At about mile 9, "it" all came back to me. I remembered that, in every one of the 30 marathons I've finished, there came a time when I realize that, in order to finish, I'd just have to resign myself to slogging it out. Looking for the magic is pointless. It's mostly about just deciding....to keep going, or to quit...and being prepared to deal with the consequences.
I finished my 15, and was more glad that it was over than I was that I'd done it. Not sure what that says about the upcoming SF Marathon. At this point I am committed to it. I need to do it in order to discover why it is I do them at all.
For all my running friends who still get "it"...I am envious. Enjoy!
Despite everything, for now...