Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Looking Back

When training for an endurance event, you spend your time looking forward. You go from day to day, week to week, plugging along at your training schedule and crossing off the miles as you run them. You look at where you are and compare it to the challenges of where you have yet to go. But you rarely look back at where you've been. I don't think that is necessarily a good thing. For it is in looking back, that we realize how far we have come.

About four years ago, I got conned into going on a run with my ex and his step-dad. At that point I was mostly playing at running. As in, oh look at me. I run 3 miles, like twice a month; aren't I cool? And they were "real runners." My ex had been running for over 20 years and his step-dad was a marathon runner years ago. I let them convince me to run 4 miles with them after many assurances that it would be a "slow" pace. Hah!

So, the queen of blissfully cool (and agonizingly slow) night running, set off in the blazing sun in the middle of a hot July day for the second ever 4 mile run of my life, with two runners who probably averaged a 7 minute/mile pace. I was trailing them after a few steps, but some how managed to keep up for the first 1.5 miles. By the halfway point I was seriously lagging behind. By mile 3, they were so far ahead of me I couldn't see them. By the time I stumbled through the final mile, they were sitting happily in the lawn, empty water bottles in hand, discussing the plans for the remainder of the day.

Later that afternoon, we went to see a movie. The movie theater has a set of steps leading up to the entrance doors. I was standing at the bottom of the steps, looking up. And my legs hurt so bad and I was so tired that the thought of having to walk up them seriously made me want to sit down and cry. I mentioned that I was unbelievably sore and tired and miserable. My ex's step-dad said to me, "You better get used to it. If you are going to train for a marathon, it is going to hurt." I said, "Yeah, I'm sure it will, but I can't imagine it hurting as much as it does right now."

And I was right. There has never been another run that hurt as much as that one did. Ever! Which is why I so distinctly remember it 4 years later. And here I sit having run 10 miles three days ago. And I'm not sore. As a matter of fact, I'm never sore after I run any more. My knees ache, but that's another issue. They ache when I sit on an airplane or in a car for too long, also, so I don't think I can blame that on the running. I think I may need to give the credit to my dad and my grandma for the arthritis that runs in the family.

What a long and winding road I have traveled. Today, I am smarter and I have learned my limits. I know how to listen to my body; I know which pains to run through and which ones to stop for. I know when to let the faster runners pass me by and when to let them pull me along. I've learned that being faster doesn't necessarily mean being better. I've learned that it does hurt. It hurts more than anyone can possibly imagine. But not in the way he meant. It hurts mentally. It hurts emotionally. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. But it is so unbelievably gratifying that it worth every sacrifice I've made.

Bring on those miles, baby! I can do it!

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