After I posted this here, this post was picked up by Runner’s World and printed (with a few edits to clarify things for their readers) in their Other Voices Blog.
To prepare for the Bob Potts Marathon on May 20th, I’ve been increasing the distance of my long runs. I’ve done 13, 15, and 16 a few times. This week I plan to do 20 miles! The long runs are exhausting and I know the marathon will be even more so. I’m already looking forward to celebrating and resting on May 21st.
But one thing that has been cool to see is how my body responses to being pushed slightly farther each week. Each week I wonder how my legs will feel and so far, on each run they’ve felt slightly stronger. That doesn’t mean I don’t have pain. I have ongoing pain in my left leg—the calf looks the worst, but I have more pain in the thigh area, where damaged nerves give me a continuous pins-and-needles feel (like a sleeping arm that won’t quite wake up).
Usually during the first mile or two of a run, the damaged nerve pain intensifies for a time until everything is in running mode again, then it decreases to being a slight annoyance. Then during the last few miles, I have the normal aches and pains of a tired body being pushed beyond its comfort zone.
Aside from the physical, I’ve found one of the toughest aspects of a long run is mental. I’ve been doing my long runs with Bev, Deb and Tab… three friends that are also training for Bob Potts. We usually chat at the beginning, but most times the conversations dwindle to short spurts here and there as the miles increase.
So then the mind games begin.
I think back to the hours of physical therapy I did. Turn my ankle left forty times, right forty times, up and down, around in circles. Pick up a towel with my toes, forty times in a row. And repeat it again and again and again. If I did that, I can do this!
I think of the many others that have run long distances and survived. I write fabulous blog posts or begin the outline of my next book or rehearse conversations that I want to have. I repeat mantras… One step at a time. Doing what I can. Because I can.
Recently on a long run, I remembered a mantra that David Willey, Editor-In-Chief of Runner’s World, shared in a pre-race strategy session at the Philadelphia Half-marathon.
“Run the mile you are in.” - David Willey
At the time I dismissed that mantra because when doing short distances, if I only think of the mile I’m in… I start a run or race too fast. I have to think of the entire distance I need to cover, so I don’t start too fast and run out of energy before I reach the end.
But as my miles have increased, I have grown to love that mantra and I’ve dubbed it my long-distance mantra. After five miles or so, my early energy and adrenaline is gone, so I don’t have to be concerned with pacing myself, I naturally gravitate to a snail’s pace.
Then my thoughts want to turn to how much farther I have to go… and that can be overwhelming. (and sap energy!) After finding myself feeling overwhelmed a time or two because I focused on how many more mile I have to do, I’ve been trying to only focus on the mile I’m doing at the moment.
Instead of stressing about how much farther I have to go, I run the mile I am in.
It’s hard to describe the difference it has made to not think about the five, ten or fifteen miles I still have to do, but to focus on the mile I’m doing. Along with not sapping my energy needlessly, I enjoy the sights and sounds around me… which is beneficial in many ways, including preventing stiffness in my neck and shoulders.
Come to think of it… isn’t that also true for the rest of life?
Focusing on the moment is ten times more pleasant than
tiring myself thinking about future moments that aren’t here yet.