Today is Nugget's birthday. Today he turns 2. Today I went for my 20-mile run because yesterday (Saturday, the day I usually do my long runs) DJ Research ran his first ultramarathon (more on that later, perhaps? Still trying to convince him to do a guest post).
Because it was Nugget's birthday, I wanted to be back to my birthday boy as soon as possible, meaning I wanted this 20-miler to happen fast. Or as fast as my aging body could manage. I was out of the house before 6:00am, running with a headlamp because it was still dark out (turns out I didn't really need it, but this paranoid runner likes to be overprepared). I did about 6 miles before swinging by my house again and ditching the headlamp and reflective vest since the sun was now up. I ran another 6 miles before stopping in Starbucks to use their restroom (yay! no port-a-potty stops on this run!). I then headed out for my last 8 miles.
It was at this point that my legs and feet were really starting to hurt. My left calf felt like it was on the verge of a nasty cramp, my right hip was starting to protest this run, and my feet felt like I was running on hot coals. I can't tell you how many times I told myself, Slow down. Turn around. Go home and be with your son.
But I kept going. I kept going because I've come this far, and I've trained so hard, and I'm almost there (race is less than 2 months!), and I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other just a little bit longer.
That was where my head was at as I ran 13 miles, 14 miles, 15 miles, 16 miles...but then I needed something more. The pain wasn't getting worse, but it was persisting, and it wasn't letting me find my zone. I needed to find a different headspace. So I told myself, "Run in your mind. There is no pain in your mind. Run in your mind." I tried to mentally separate my body from the pain, and just thought of myself as a machine. It was tough and a very challenging mental exercise that kept my mind busy. Sometimes I was focused enough that it worked, but other times I lost focus and felt my pace and form slipping.
In the end, though, I did manage to run 20 miles at a 9:10m/m pace, which is one second-per-mile off my target race pace (I'm aiming for a 4-hour marathon). Hopefully I can make it count on race day.
I do want to clarify that at no point during this run did I feel like I was injured or welcoming an injury. The pain I felt was more the standard aches and pains of running a long distance. I knew it was a pain I could push through. Had I felt I was flirting with injury, I would have stopped and just walked home. Been there before and don't really want to go there again.
Whats your headspace on your long runs? What keeps you motivated to keep going?