I’ve said many times that the first mile of any run is the hardest. I mean this in two ways: 1) Because you have to convince yourself to start the run to begin with…you have to get dressed and get out the door. and 2) The older you get the stiffer you are so it takes mile or two (or four in my case) to even loosen up or warm up to settle into a run.
But this weekend? It wasn’t the first mile.
I really love trail running and since I am always meeting friends for the trail runs (there’s always someone needing trail miles this time of year) it’s no problem getting out the door to start the run. It’s easy! Trail running is fun! I get to see my friends and spend time in the woods and for X amount of hours the only thing I can think of is: Where Do I Put My Foot To Keep From Tripping? So the first mile of a trail run is EASY!
But as soon as you’re around 75% in on your desired distance? It gets much harder. Whatever distance that is! If you’re going for a 5-mile run? Everything after 3 starts to be daunting. 10-mile run? Mile 7 starts to get ugly. If you’re going for 20? It’s mile 14. You find that your legs are getting tired and maybe you’re stumbling more because you’re not picking them up as high and sometimes you’re cold and wet and you just want to be DONE.
The course my friend and I had planned for Saturday was 23 miles and when we got to the bottom of our last climb of the day we stopped to stretch and I said, “Okay. I have to be honest now that we’re finally to the bottom of this climb. I spent several miles trying to stop myself from suggesting another climb out so we could cut the run short.”
And do you know what she said? “Me too.”
Turns out we both spent a few miles after that 75% was done, considering a quicker way out and back to our cars. But we both kinda knew that if we suggested it OUT LOUD, we’d both end up cutting the run short so we were trying to convince ourselves to not even pose it as a possibility. It wouldn’t have cut too much off the run and it would have had us doing another terrible climb out, so it wasn’t too hard to resist the urge to take that “shortcut” – but either way. WE WERE BOTH DOING IT. We were both fighting that internal struggle to bail out earlier than we had intended.
Miles 1-17 were easy. It was those last miles where it took all sorts of mental gymnastics to keep from cutting the run short.
Sunday I had a similar issue. I wanted at least 13 miles for the day, but would have loved 16. This was going to mean I’d have to take on some miles after the big group was done and that’s always tough to do. But then I got a panicked text from Donnie that Nikki’s slumber party had run out of donuts, so I had to just leave when everyone else did. This meant I still needed 3-6 miles even AFTER I got home. So, I decided I’d do it on the treadmill where I could at least zone out to a podcast to make it through. I kept moving at home so as not to get too stiff, I got all of the girls fed and then sent home and then I headed to the YMCA where all 6 miles took mental push to crank out.
BUT I DID IT.
Two days where getting out the door was easy. The first 75% of the miles needed were easy. But both days I had to really dig deep to stick with the plan and get the full day’s miles in. I did 40 miles in 2 days and while I’m hurting and sore today in ways I’ve never been sore before (I did 64 miles for the whole week) – I’m super proud because I pushed past those VERY STRONG urges to bail and got all of the miles in that I needed.
But it’s hard. Every part of me was giving me every excuse to cut the miles back…and good excuses too! We had slumber parties and family dinners this weekend. I already had a good high-mile week but was exhausted from wedding and travel stuff from the last week. I NEEDED A NAP. But I stuck it out. I pushed through. And I’m more proud of the last few miles of both days than I am of a lot of running accomplishments.
I guess Dad’s favorite saying applies to race training as well as live: The Journey is the Reward. I know I’ll be proud of myself come race day(s) – but it’s the training days along the way that were hard that are much more of a reward than the race day itself.