It’s the home stretch. My body is tired, but it still has the drive to keep going. My mind is set on finishing and there has not been a single doubt lingering that I won’t be able to meet my goal. It’s my last long run before my half marathon, 12 miles on a warm almost fall day along the beach. The big one is still ahead in two more weeks. Race day. I feel confident. That’s because it’s in the training runs like this one where the magic happens. These are the runs that count, that prepare the runner for their event. Knowing that this long run is the final one before the big run brings up feelings that are so hard for even a writer to express.
I was about 7 miles into the run when this beautiful prose came into my head. This happens a lot when I am thinking and running and start to write in my head. The words vivid, painting a picture perfectly of how I was feeling at that moment. But now sitting here to see those words in the flesh is just not possible. These were fleeting thoughts that my know tired mind can’t conjure up.
I do remember thinking about how it has all come together. All the sweat and hard work bring tears to my eyes. It is emotional, to say the least about getting this far in training. A sense of pride and accomplishment warms me like a blanket, hugging my insides. I am a stronger person that I was just 12 weeks away in all definitions of the word.
I This isn’t my first rodeo so I know I can go the distance. But this training was more about letting go of fear. Fear of injury. Fear that I couldn’t perform the way I would want to. Fear that I wasn’t fast enough. I know that I am fast. And have the potential to be fast even long distance. I know that I am strong and continue to get stronger with each run.
The training cycling has gone so fast and I’ve seen results that I always felt were a bit out of my reach. This includes getting a sub 30 5k and places twice in 5k races. I’ve run my fastest mile at 8:31.85 and was almost a minute shy of a sub hour 10k (at 1:00:51). These are all goals I’ve been in my running journal this year and crossing them off one by one makes me realize how much I am capable of and I can only wish that I continue to reach for greatness in my running career since it is only a fingertip’s reach away.
I chose to run at Sandy Hook beach in New Jersey for this last long run—mostly from the advice of my coach Jen to run a flat course since race day is flat. And since my half marathon is at Sandy Hook, it served as a trial run for the big run.
I will say I had to face elements like the wind smacking me in the face. It seemed to pull my body back as if it didn’t want me to take one more step. It took a lot out of me to get through these sections.
The funny thing about a long run is how the runner goes from such highs and lows in the same workout. The beginning I took off with my two (faster) running friends and was able to keep us the pace and chat with them and it felt effortless. By miles 3-6 my tune had changed and I began to question my sanity and why it is we runners do this to ourselves. Why am I running ah half? Why am I forcing my body to push the pace and exhaust itself?
But I held on.
After fueling up, I pulled back and let my friends speed up. I wanted a good time, but I knew I was on the road to burn out if I pushed too much. My last half was at 2:28:04. I started my training with the goal of 2:27 or better. My dream goal would be a sub 2 hour, but I know that I am not quite there yet. What I think I can shoot for is a 2:15.
I was alone and locked in my focus. I picked up the pace when I felt good. And when I did, I felt so good. I thought positive thoughts and pumped my arms and lead my stride with my hips. I was in no pain (former ankle injury and recent hip soreness) and felt like I was flying. I was on target pace.
I was alone and began to slow to an almost stop. There were a few times at the end where I had to actually stop. A quick run to the bathroom and some gulping of water. And then the forcing my body to keep going. I literally said outlaid at mile 10, “I got this.” Usually, mile 10 is a great mile for me. This is because I know how far I’ve come and what is another 5k? But this time I got slower and more tired. But I pushed through and although didn’t finish fast, I finished in 2:08:28. With just one more mile to go and some extra pushing throughout those last miles, I think reaching my 2:15 is possible.
I have to be honest with myself and know how competitive I am. I know I will be disappointed if I don’t get my 2:15, but I will take anything close to it. I know anything faster than my last half marathon is a huge accomplishment. Finishing, in general, is a huge accomplishment.
It’s bittersweet to end my half training, but ready for race day!