Last Saturday I ran 9.2 miles. I did a mile more than the training program I’m following for a half-marathon I’m running April 1.
The run felt good, both during and after – even when I fell halfway into it, hitting the pavement first with my palms, and then rolling onto my back to keep my face a safe distance from the busted concrete of the sidewalk.
A woman across the street pushing a stroller stopped to check on me. “You okay, honey?” she yelled.
I gave her the thumbs up and hollered back that I was fine, but my pride was a little sore. Within seconds, I was back at it only to pass another runner coming toward me with his hand held out. Having watched my tuck-and-roll, he gave me a high-five and knowing nod.
I ran the rest of the route without incident, and only wanted to stop during the last push – a mile-long, uphill stretch. But I didn’t stop. I pushed it even harder at the top of the hill with two-blocks to go.
It was exhilarating.
Today was a different story.
I had mapped out a ten-mile loop around New Albany, Indiana – the closest “urban” area to me where I can run mostly on flat ground, and mostly on sidewalks. I had an alternate cross-through at the end where I could keep it at nine miles if I decided to end early. Either way, I would still be on track with the miles I needed to cover according to my training program.
I ended up not going until later in the day, just after 1:00 p.m. I had a cup of coffee in the morning, a banana and a couple handfuls of almonds. This was on purpose, I don’t like starting a long run with a lot of food that may or may not decide it wants to digest itself smack in the middle of my run.
I think this is where things started to go wrong – my late start, and my lack of nutrients, no water. Two miles into the run, I stopped.
I said that out loud as I stopped, my headphones in my ear with Ira Glass telling me about two women who had been switched at birth. The fanny-pack contraption I have that carries my car key, my pepper-spray, my phone, my debit card, a $5 bill and a pocket knife (because I’m a woman and pepper-spray may not be enough) felt heavy and wouldn’t stay in place – even though I ran with it the two previous Saturdays without a problem. The wind was blowing against my face so loud it was drowning out Ira’s “This American Life” intro. I felt both hot and cold at the same time – cold from the wind hitting my face, hot because I had on a long sleeve thermal shirt and neon yellow sweatshirt over it.
Nothing felt right. So I stopped.
Just over a mile later, after walking up a slight hill and through the parking lot of the Indiana University Southeast campus, I started running again. This time I lasted a mile and a half – the entire stretch of the only road on today’s path without sidewalks. As I came to its end, I had already decided that I was going to walk again.
My internal dialogue was constant stream of reasons to stop running.
“Maybe a run-walk-run-walk will be good for you, help quicken your pace.” (Also, my pace right now sucks – I’ve run 20 miles a week since January 1 and still can’t beat an 11:30 mile on my long runs.)
“Sometimes, you just have bad runs.”
“You’ll still have your 20 miles for the week – you’re just walking a few of them.”
I ended up walking more miles than I ran, and didn’t even do the ten or nine-mile loop. I cut it shorter – taking the fastest path back to my car after my final go at running failed to last a full mile.
Before driving home, I tracked my exact route in my car to see how far I made it. I did eight miles – most of which I spent bitching at myself. At the five-mile mark, my low-fuel warning light dinged on my dashboard, adding insult to injury.
Waiting in line inside the gas station to pay for fuel and a bottle of water, I had to hold back tears because I couldn’t make sense of how I ran nine miles last weekend, but didn’t get past mile two today.
I know the big picture here. I still did eight miles, even if I walked most of them. I will log 22 miles for the week, which means I made my 20-miles-a-week/500-words-a-day resolution, a running goal I haven’t missed since I made it January 1. (Fifty-six days in and there has only been one day I failed to log my 500 words.)
Runners have bad days. We all have bad days. Sometimes things don’t go the way we want, and it makes us feel like shit. We get teary-eyed standing in line at the gas station behind someone buying four Monster energy drinks while the smell of fried whatever burns our nose. We come home and bitch at the TV because UK is playing Florida: “I hate both these teams, is there anyway they can both lose?” we snap, as if the TV cares.
And, eventually, after browsing a bookstore and picking up two Amulet books for your eight-year old, and two books for yourself (“The Magic of Memoir” with essays from some of your favorite writers and “Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life” because how can you say no to that title). And, after getting take-out sushi from your favorite sushi place where you eye one of your old bosses, but avoid him at all costs.
And, finally, after getting your 500+ words in for the day (1,001 to be exact with a blog post to boot), you start to feel like not finishing a 10-mile run isn’t the worst thing in the world.