Running relationship status: it’s complicated

A year ago this weekend, I was exactly half way through my 22 week training plan for the Raleigh Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon – my first and only to date. Week 11 was the 15 miler, a run I remember very distinctly, mostly because it was miserable. My training was done without an official partner in that no else who was also running a spring marathon was by my side for the majority of my miles.  What I did have, was a group of great friends willing to tag along for a good chunk of many a grueling run, and on days like Sunday January 19th, 2014, this was a life saver. (Side note, I’ve now typo’d marathon as marathong at least four times. What Freudian brain happening is going on that leads me to keep adding that ‘g’? Okay, back on track.)

That Sunday, not a speck of sun slipped through the clouds, and the wind was howling at speeds up to 20 mph bringing the 40 something temp down to a feels like freaking freezing. The plan in place was for the run to start with Rebecca; for us to log roughly 11 together; and for that to end around our houses at which point I’d add 4 or so more alone. Plans shmans. We took a new route, and much like many of our other let’s explore Mebane adventures, wound up a bit lost. To be exact, we ran to another city. After more than an hour of headwind chapped lips and numbed noses, we rolled past the Welcome to Haw River sign. That was neat. Turning right on Highway 70, we had a good 5 miles back to our hood, and had Rebecca finished it out, she’d have run the whole 15. Oops. In the end, she stopped around 13, and I somehow found the strength to power through two more. Because, as another running buddy once told me and I’ve oft repeated to find my way to the finish, any idiot can run two miles.

While not every footed feat leading up the big race was as fiercely unpleasant as my fifteen, training in general was tough. Clearly, or else more people would do it. Most marathon training plans call for distances up to ten miles during the week, which I chose to ignore given that working full time and momming two little ones made anything more than a lunch break sixer a pipe dream. Unless of course I opted to get up before 5 AM, and no. Just no. I’m dedicated, and maybe a bit crazy, but not so much. The long weekend runs are what I hesitate to undertake again. Once up into the mid teens, it became an all day affair – planning, prepping, running, stretching, recovering, and then really wanting to do nothing more than lie around lazily until sleep. With only two days most weeks during which I could enjoy some family QT, giving up much of that in the interest of training was not an easy decision. On the flip side, the sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction I enjoyed after completing a daunting distance was powerful. A sort of high that helped to offset the pain and exhaustion, and kept me going week after week.

At the end of the race, I hobbled my way through the bevy of bevies (I swear they gave me 12 different things to drink) and found a nice cool spot on the cement on which to place my back. Supine for several minutes, I seem to recall (Pete recalls more clearly, shall we say adamantly) swearing off marathons for the rest of time. But as one little old lady on the way to the car offered in the form of advice, as I navigated three stair steps like a baby just learning to walk, “you won’t be ready for the next until you forget the last.” Little old lady also chose to divulge that the Raleigh Rock ‘n” Roll was marathon number 142 for her (or some absurd number like that), so maybe her age was allowing her to forget more rapidly than me. At that moment, I was depleted, I’d accomplished my goal time (minus a few minutes!), and imagining reaching the point where I’d forgotten enough to want this experience again was just not possible.

A month or so later I signed up for the Bull City Race Day Half Marathon, taking place in October of 2014. Training for a half is remarkably more reasonable than that of a full, and so this didn’t for a minute seem like a bad idea. As the race approached, however, I was overwhelmed by work, the weather was horribly hot and humid, and I had almost zero interest in readying myself for it. It was this aversion to training that lead me to commit to avoiding races for the foreseeable future and I’ve stuck to that commitment to date.

Pause for a brag moment… despite my attitude toward the Bull City event and what I consider to be subpar efforts preparing, I still somehow managed to PR at 1:42:29. I was pretty damn proud of myself. But still! No more races. I wanted a break from running obligation. I wanted to get back to a place where I ran for the sake of running, for my mental and physical health, and as something pleasurable that took me away from the crazy of my day. Not as a must do lest I fail to reach a goal. I may be running less than before and this may be leading me to have to reconsider the quantity of calories I consume, but I’m certainly not beating myself up if the weather is off or I’m just plain tired and don’t have it in me to hit the pavement. Norah on the other hand, is holding me to a higher standard. In the car, discussing my recent half marathon with Pete…

N: Mommy, what kind of race are you talking about?

Me: A half marathon.

N: It’s a marathon?

Me: No baby, just a half marathon.

N: So it’s only half?

Me: Yes.

N: So you’re not going to get to the finish line?

(Thanks for the support sweetheart!)

This conversation took place awhile back. But for some reason, despite its silliness and the fact that I would never let my darling daughter’s misunderstanding of race distance be the impetus for me to rethink my sabbatical (right?), it’s playing in my head. And for some reason, I’m thinking about running a marathon. So much so that I messaged a fellow runner on Facebook to inquire about his future plans for tackling the 26.2. It’s easy to sit here and think about doing it again. It’s easy (ish) to find a race that works with my schedule and register. It’s like medium easy, bordering on difficult, but not nearly as hard as the actual training, to convince Pete to be on board with me doing this again. And it’s easy to imagine myself at the end of the race, after months of hard work and dedication, feeling ecstatic about my triumph and almost equally ecstatic for the pile of food and gallon of beer I’d be consuming before heading home to soak in a bath and then sit on my ass for the rest of the day. The hard part? Maybe I forgot…

XO. S.

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