9 MILES: RAW AND UNFILTERED
Believe it or not, I actually got the idea for this post title from an evening spent socializing...at a bar.
Running has always been one of those topics that I find super hard and frustrating to describe or even talk about in any conversational way. It's almost impossible to put into words how it feels, the effect that it has on a person both physiologically and psychologically. Sure, most people have ran a mile or two before, usually not under voluntary conditions, but still. People know what the act of running is, and 9 times out of 10 they hate it. Think it's a waste of time, and that anyone who actually derives any joy from it must be at least a little bit mentally unbalanced.
Okay, that last one may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point. It' such an awkward thing to talk about and get non runners to wrap their mind around. And, that's exactly the thought that was going through my mind during today's 9 mile run at a few particularly trying points. People know I'm a runner, that's non secret if you take a scroll through any of my social media platforms or simply drive through my hometown between the hours of 5:30 and 7:00 a.m. People can physically see you out there, pounding the pavement, and still not really know "that" side of you.
Nobody sees you waking up in the early morning hours, tired and definitely not in the mood to run.
That is by far one of the biggest misconceptions I have come across. People just sort of assume that you wake up 6 days a week wanting to run x amount of miles. Yeah, most of the time that is the case, but it does take a whole lot of self control some days to not just turn my alarm off and go back to sleep. Which, is probably why most people don't leave their longest run of the week for Sunday's. But, I really do enjoy the solitude of Sunday long runs with almost no traffic.
The first lap of what would be a long, 1 hour 28 minute and 53 second run went by okayish. Slow, but when you're on a mission to run 9 miles...a slow first 3 miles is probably not the worst thing in the world. Unfortunately, that slowness sort of made it super tempting to just call it a day and stop after that first lap. Not even 3 miles in and already struggling mentally+physically...lovely. However, I told myself that I had really no other option but to trudge on since I am quickly running out of time to get these long runs in before my half in like 3.5 week and OMG HOW IS IT THIS SOON ALREADY I STILL DON'T KNOW HOW TO PROPERLY TAPER!!!
With each step I took from there on, I just kept reminding myself that my gel stop was almost there.
Although, I would have been happy to get a break at the rail road tracks and wait for a train to pass through. I mean, the humidity was at like a 1,000% this morning and I have been pretty scared to run in a sports bra lately (which idk if that makes sense of not, but I'm not going to fight it at this point). As I cruised down 11th street, I thought to myself, "this really isn't so bad. I'm not in any pain and it really helped a lot more than I thought it would to just change up the music I was listening to, 9 miles is going to be a piece of cake."
Well, let me tell you, that whole running is easy and fun and not stressful at all feeling didn't last for all that long, because before I knew it I was at my 4 mile gel break and freaking the freak out. Sweat was pouring off me, there was a random car coming down the road, and I just knew whomever was driving it was judging me for taking this gel break (paranoid much?), but I know from past experience that if I try to take my gel while I'm running it makes me sick and is also just really difficult. So, of course I had to take a longer stop than normal because you can't have some rando see you sucking chocolate cherry flavored goop out of a packet. It looks just as sketchy as it sounds.
I reluctantly got back to running after that...wondering how these next 5 miles would go. And if running "just" 8 miles would be acceptable.
Keep in mind, that prior to this run I hadn't ran 9 miles since July 15th. And that run was a complete shit show...so l really needed this run to prove to myself that I still had the endurance and mental strength to go that distance. And as I trotted along the four lane, getting ready for lap number 2 down 11th street, I obviously was doing a lot of second guessing. Were conditions really favorable to run that far today? Why on earth had I not stretched Friday post workout, or at least post bar (although, to be fair, the last thing on my mind after 8 Bush lights was stretching)?
The farther I ran, past the 5 and 6 mile marks, I just kept anticipating things falling apart. The sky was growing more dark and ominous by the minute. When was the pelvic or hip pain going to flare up and force me to stop in my tracks. I haven't fallen in a while, so I'm probably do for another battle with the pavement soon. Even as I paused on Main Street at the 7 mile mark to adjust my ear buds, I didn't really think I would go 9 miles. I tried my best not to look at my watch at this point...but of course I glanced the time and knew that these last 2 miles were going to be long.
The trick during times like these, when the wind is barreling against you, is to convince yourself that you WILL outrun the storm.
You tell yourself that the lightening is just a side effect and doesn't pose any danger at all. You run around in circle, down the twisty trail, willing your watch to reach the 9 mile mark. You don't just want to run 9 miles, you want to run 9 miles in a faster time than you did 3 weeks ago, and beat this storm. And, so you bust out a 9:45 final mile. You get inside the gym just moments before the down pour begins. And, perhaps most importantly, you beat your prior 9 mile time by almost a full minute.
So, if you ever see someone out running. Or if you know someone who is a runner. Just know that you can't possibly really know that side of them until you experience it first hand. The self doubt, the tears, the unbearably painful chafing, it's all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being a runner. The inner dialoge, the mind games you play mid run when all you want to do is quit, that's the real, raw stuff. The stuff you can't possibly put into words, or express in simple conversation. It's what makes running such a powerful thing.