Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Two Miles in New England

"Mile 20 is nicknamed 'the Wall' because that is where normal people's bodies start to break down. But you aren't normal people -- you're marathoners."
-3:45 Pacer, Baystate Marathon, 2015


My head is in a fog. I would expect this kind of thing at 3am, but this is 3pm and all I can think about is going to sleep. This is a far cry from the days when I'd get up early, the beneficiary of some unexpected wellspring of energy to set out for six, seven, or eight miles. It was uncomfortable, sure, but my mental toughness was uncompromising. 

Like that run where I fell down? I was half way through a seven mile tempo run, pushing a seven minute-per-mile pace and lost my footing. Gushing blood from my kneecap, it just made sense to finish the run. I mean it was going to be seven miles either way. The look on the face of the guy up early getting his newspaper when I ran past his house. The quiet hush of the city streets as the sun started to stain the sky a dusty blue.

Why can't I find that? Where the hell did it go? That was an incredible feeling, and I loved it. I was fearless. I mean, running has never been comfortable. Learning to run is all *about* being uncomfortable, and learning to love that feeling. Right now I'm refusing to go lay down. I'm refusing to go take a shower, or eat a snack, because I know those things are distractions from getting myself out the door and moving. It is a tough thing to hold myself to, but in the long run I'm not going to be happier from taking a nap right now. In the long run I'll be much better off from summoning the will to get out the door.

I used to be that guy who fell down at least eighty-percent of the time. Now I feel like I'm him ten-percent of the time. I get little fluttery glimpses, after mile one, where it feels playful. A few strides after mile four, or an unexpected tingling in my legs when I see a big hill. I need to get that back.

So I'm pushing through an even tougher wall, and putting on my shoes to head out for a two mile run. If I can cover two miles each day, maybe add an extra mile on a day where the weather is nice, maybe I can help build this back into my life. This is going to be a balancing act, for sure. Too many days on, I'll burn out. Too many easy, lazy days, I'll spiral into depression. I need to watch what I eat more carefully, too. Food can have a profound effect on my habits.

I feel excited, and also a little scared, that I got into the New York City Marathon for this year. It is always around my birthday in early November, and this year I'll be running it when I am thirty-two years of age.  I'm hoping the motivation I'm feeling for it keeps me moving. I'm reading (and listening) to Meb Keflezighi's book Meb for Mortals to try and keep that going. I'm also planning to re-read Amby Burfoot's Big Book of Running. That book helped stoke my original enthusiasm for endurance running, so I'm hopeful about using nostalgia to rekindle that fire.

Heading out the door, I start out easy, because I know there are miles to cover, and this is about base building. There's some hills to climb, some slight variations in the terrain that make things interesting, but otherwise this run will be mostly unremarkable. For a time, a couple of years ago, I viewed my feet as a completely acceptable method of transport. I'd drop the car off in the shop, run home, run back to the shop. It was a neat experience -- a novelty to me, more than anything else. I kind of wish I could do that now, but with other people to transport it seems less realistic.

Looping back around, and now I'm running on the shoulder of a highway. I mean it's basically a highway. It is a two lane thoroughfare with a shoulder, where the speed limit is forty-five but everyone does sixty. I'm not particularly scared of these cars, everyone stays in their space, and the area off the shoulder is heavily wooded so it allots me plenty of extra room. This is the kind of place where I could turn down a side street, and happen across all manner of wildlife in the early morning hours. Deer, rabbits, my favorite opossums.

I have a spectrum in my head for how proficient one is at running. Somewhere in the middle, if you're like me, you're chugging through the miles at an easy pace, and you're doing it to better yourself, or because you like being outside, or because it fills some time. That's how I see the opossum. On the other end you have unicorns. Unicorns are graceful, they're efficient, they're quick. They're the mascot of the Boston Athletic Association and therefore the Boston Marathon. I'm not a Unicorn, not at this stage of my life, anyway. I'm an opossum, and I'm fine with that. You never know what the future will hold, though. Maybe someday I'll feel differently about doing all the really hard work to run a faster marathon.

For today, I'm happy to cover my two miles and be home. Slowly building myself back up to where I was.

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