Oh my goodness, I could write for who knows how long about those race day nerves.
The fact is, it’s a combination of excitement and anxiety. We work hard to become better runners. It matters to us that it goes well. We want to run the workout, or the race, that we believe we are capable of running. It’s never easy. Never. We know without question that we will be faced with adversity. Maybe it’s physical – we struggle with stomach issues or a cramp or heavy legs. Or maybe it’s all in our head, and we battle negative thoughts, we doubt our abilities, we want to quit. Anything can happen, and will happen, but it is up to us to determine how we will react to it and how we will get through it. Because the fact is, we WILL get through it. We can get through it feeling strong and triumphant, or we can get to the other side of it feeling defeated and down. I believe this is up to us.
Today I had 16 miles to run. I’ve run several 16 milers over the last few months and have been hitting them right around an 8:05 average almost every single time. The distance wasn’t necessarily what was making me nervous heading into it – today’s run was different because it was my intention to run those last 4 miles at my goal marathon pace (7:40). That was going to be a challenge on all fronts – physically, mentally. Even emotionally.
With overlapping vacations for both me and my running buddy Chris, it had been 4 weeks since we’d had one another to share the miles with. I enjoy solo runs, I really do. But I am telling you having someone to run with who will push you when you’re not feeling it, or reign you in when you’re moving faster than you should, or maybe even make you laugh when you’re drifting into a negative space in your head – that is something so valuable. I treasure my running partner more than he will ever know. I believe in him and I know he believes in me. We’re in this together.
Before we set out today, as we walked to the trail head, Chris and I talked about our pace plan. We agreed we would start slower, and work ourselves into a groove closer to an 8:00-8:15 pace, so that we would have enough energy in our tanks to crank it up to race pace for those last 4 miles. We executed it exactly according to plan, and I am proud of both of us.
Miles 1-12: 8:46, 8:27, 8:07, 8:12, 8:11, 8:11, 8:04, 8:10, 8:12, 8:04, 7:57, 8:01
Along the way, we laughed. We sang (it’s true). We talked about anything and everything. At times he had me laughing so hard that I was sure we slowed ridiculously (we didn’t). Other times our conversation was so much fun that I sped up unknowingly and he had to tell me to slow down. I had stomach issues and had to deal with them, but since we were together it just wasn’t so terrible. It was FUN. I have really missed running with my buddy.
When it was time to crank it up to race pace, we stopped talking and dialed it in.
Miles 13-16: 7:41, 7:24, 7:26, 7:36
We drifted apart a little ways through the 14th mile. I could feel him behind me and asked him if he was okay. He said he was fine – but I should go ahead, I was running faster than race pace and we both knew that. It was where I was though, and where I felt I needed to be.
You have to GO there if you want to GET there.
The last two miles felt like the end of a marathon. My legs were getting tired – SO tired. But I had to get to the other side of this run! I had to get it done. So I asked myself what I would do with tired legs if these were the last two miles of my marathon? If I slowed down or I walked, it would only mean I am on my feet longer, and that would be miserable at this point. It’s not like doing that would make it hurt any less, or make me feel less tired! So I told myself to JUST KEEP GOING. I imagined my body like an efficient machine, I listened to my footsteps and I hung onto the cadence. One foot in front of the other. This is what it feels like to push through tired legs. This is what it feels like to GO there. I am going to have to work for this! I am going to have to learn to push through feeling tired and crampy. I am going to have to push through the negative thoughts and wanting to quit. I am going to have to believe in myself, to believe that what I am setting out to do is something that I AM CAPABLE OF DOING.
Today’s long run goes down in the books as one of the best ever. Chris rocked it and finished very soon after I did. I am so proud of my buddy – who one year ago was only just beginning his journey as a runner! We had an awesome time together today and we are both going after big dreams this fall at MCM. I’m so excited. I know it won’t be easy, but without a doubt it WILL be worth it and we will even have some fun along the way.
Do you run with a buddy for your long runs, too? What do you think about long runs with race pace miles at the end? What do you tell yourself when you feel like giving up and slowing down towards the end of a race or long run?