Today I ran my longest run since last December when I completed the Run To Stay Warm Half Marathon, my third Half of the season. It has really taken a long time to get back to where I once ran carefree at long distances. I blame some of this on Arizona; so many difficulties running in heat and bright sunshine for me. It's odd to think about how much fear I felt prior to my last brain scan, that it was the MS and not the desert heat that kept me at or under three miles for so many months.
Today, I ran 9 miles.
I know one of the defects in my running is that I often start fast and then peter out toward the end. I do this on short runs and long runs alike. I did this at the Eugene Marathon in 2012 and I blogged about that experience: click here to remember.
Today, I intentionally committed to running slow. My Coach, Joe Henderson, has a wonderful book out called: Long Slow Distance. I often screw up the book title because there is another great book out there about Joe called Slow Joe, by another writer. At any rate, Long Slow Distance outlines a method that works, or has for me. The proof is that when I first started running with Joe's group, I was encouraged to go slow, increasing my long distance runs each weekend, but not overdoing it during the week. As a result, I started the Portland Marathon slow and I finished slow, but I finished! I also finished happy, smiling (some ugly-crying), and breathing strong. I was not over-fatigued, dehydrated or exhausted. I felt good. Seriously. 26 miles later and I felt good. Slow, steady, increasing mileage just so, week after week. I am grateful for this wisdom from Joe. I only wish that it was always in the forefront of my mind when I start my runs. I thought about it a lot during the Portland Marathon and again today.
Today, I let the group go on. I watched as they slowly gained distance ahead of me. I felt okay with that, too. I didn't feel the need to be something that I am not. Usually when I am trying to stay up with the faster runners, it is not a competitive thing, nor am I trying to prove anything. Nope. My typical motivation is camaraderie, conversation, company. I enjoy visiting when I run. It helps keep my mind off of the task. This morning, as I watched the pack move farther away with each half mile, I felt okay. I didn't question whether nor not I was on the team. I let them have their pace and I let me have mine. It was just perfect...
...until about mile 7.
At mile 7, I had just come off the Autzen Bridge and set my resolve to finish, rather than to finish without walking. I had started an inner dialog with myself as to whether or not I would walk. Usually when this happens, I give in to the loudest voice justifying a good, slow walk. But there was another voice in there, too; a quieter voice, This one told me to keep going, reminding me that I had started slow on purpose, that my work was carefully measured this morning, that I felt fine and could easily continue. Then the louder voice picked a bench up ahead and told me "when I get to that bench, I will walk." Still, the much more calm voice reminded me that I still felt good, that I still had energy and strength in me. I passed the bench.
I thought back to a time during another training run--I think it had been 13 miles for the Eugene Marathon Training in 2012. Jeff McKay, one of our teammates, had ran back along the route to run me in. I wished he was there now, if for nothing else than the camaraderie, conversation, company that I mentioned I needed earlier. I thought about Stephanie, too, and how much I love to run with her and visit, but then my loud voice scolded me that I am now too slow to run with Stephanie and that I should just walk and stop this foolishness of wearing myself down. I thought about the team and how they were kept waiting on me because I am slow. I had a few more negative thoughts that crept in there, but I continued to run.
Then, just like a wish, Jeff McKay appeared on the trail in the distance. He was headed in my direction, smiling. I waved and said "fancy meeting you out here." He told me that he had come to run me in. Thank God!! And he did. He let me go slow, too. He offered encouraging thoughts including a story about a gal on the team a few years back who had struggled with the last few miles of the Newport Marathon (a race on my bucket list). And before I knew it, we were back at Oakway Center.
I don't know if I will ever be one of those people who gets to run others in, but I am so grateful that they are out there. I am also grateful that they show up just when I need them, and not only during running.
Today, I learned something about myself that I think I have suspected for a bit and that is that I am okay just the way I am. Slow is okay. I learned something about our team too: I am a part of it. As we rounded the bend back to the meeting place, many of our teammates were still there cheering me in. What a rush! If you have an opportunity in your life to be a part of a team for any purpose, check it out. I am grateful to my team and to Jeff for the extra effort today. And I am grateful to Joe Henderson for giving us the team and the method, and also his wisdom and words. Joe writes in Long Slow Distance, "...pleasure is our most important single experience in running." And today was a pleasure, for certain.
I was able to run 9 miles. Able.
Each step purposeful and measured and slow.