However, my perspective is changing. I’m coming face-to-face with my dreams and realizing that listening to my body also means that when my body is telling me it CAN do something, I should do it. My body is telling me that running 50+ miles is just fine. It is telling me that I can push when I’m on the track once a week. It is telling me that faster paces – paces that would have completely scared me months ago – are safe. My body is telling me that yes this is hard, but I can do it. Keep listening, keep respecting – and keep going. Keep chasing that dream. Go.
Yesterday my long run was 16 miles. The first 10 were to be at an easy pace (somewhere between an 8:30-9:00 mile) and then the last 6 were to be at marathon race pace (an 8:00 mile). I have been running my long runs consistently around an 8:30 pace, so I felt confident that the first 10 miles would not be a problem. The 6 miles at race pace after that though, those would be tough.
I’m always a little nervous to turn up the speed and run at my race pace on a long run. What if I can’t do it? What if it feels SO SO hard? What if it makes me doubt myself? What if I find out that I’m being unrealistic with my goals? These thoughts skip through my head. It scares me to go there, to go to that place of discomfort and to face those negative-thought demons. But I know it is worth it. It is an essential piece of smart training. It’s good for my body to move at that pace. It’s good for my mental strength and stamina. I do it because I have to.
The first 10 miles were just what I hoped they would be. I ran with my friend John. We had never run together before so the conversation kept us going and we were comfortable and happy. I saw my friend Karen out on the trail a few miles into the run. Karen was out there running the longest run of her life – 11 miles (GO Karen!!) – in preparation for her first half marathon. She is a dear friend and a neighbor of mine. The kind of person you meet one time and just know you will be friends with for all of your life. We “get” one another in the best of ways. I find that often times the two of us will be talking and there is just so much unspoken understanding and comfort there between us. I am blessed to call her my friend. Anyway, I saw Karen the day before, on Friday as we were picking our kids (we both have three) up from school. She told me that she was feeling really nervous about her upcoming long run and that her husband had told her not to be nervous about it because, after all, “it’s just running.” I love the simplicity of this comment. Of course, I know that for most of us it’s never really “just running” – because we pour so much of ourselves into our training, and we give it so much more meaning and so much more weight than just putting one foot in front of the other – and this is one of the reasons I love the sport as much as I do. BUT … when all of that becomes overwhelming and we begin to doubt our capabilities and feel all up in our heads about it … I think remembering that it is “just running” can be really helpful. So I tried to remember that yesterday after I saw Karen. She was smiling so big and shining so brightly out on that trail, and I took that energy with me as I passed her. I carried it with me the rest of the way. I just ran.
Miles 1-10: 8:40, 8:42, 8:24, 8:20, 8:38. 8:46, 8:34, 8:46, 8:28, 8:14.
After 10 miles it was time to turn up my speed and test out those race legs. Time to switch gears. John and I decided not to chat anymore. We agreed it would be better for both of us to just turn inward and be silent. To not waste our energy on chattering. We picked it up and it felt so good. But we were running way too fast and we both knew it.
Miles 11-12: 7:33, 7:39
The goal was to stay at an 8:00 pace for the last 6 miles of our run. We looked at one another and laughed at ourselves. What were we thinking? We still had 4 miles to run at that pace which meant we needed to slow down. Pacing properly can be a tricky thing. It takes practice and self control. We were right on target for the next two miles and I was pleased.
Miles 13-14: 8:02, 7:57
At this point, John started to get tired. He was coming back from an injury and had run a 15 miler in the middle of the week and was starting to feel the effects of it all, so he slowed down and told me to go on ahead. We would see one another at the end of our run. I had two miles left to run on my own. To hang onto my race pace. And then I saw Karen again. She was smiling. She was running and she looked so proud and happy. It made my heart soar to see my friend.
I imagined myself coming into the final two miles of my marathon on March 17th. I scanned my body and asked it how it was doing. My body said GO. I looked inside my heart and asked myself a simple question.
Do you think you can do this, Jess? Yes, I think I can.
Mile 15: 7:38
I think I can. I think I can.
Mile 16: 7:31
I know I can.
Total Miles: 16
Total Time: 2:11:53
Average Pace: 8:14/miles