I have a confession to make. About two weeks ago, I had a terrible “long-run Saturday.”
This run wasn’t just a bad time. It wasn’t like I had to shorten my run due to weather. No, it was just bad…really bad.
It was one of those runs you want to forget, especially if you are “in training.” Although I will undoubtedly be better because of it, after I finally got home, I must admit I was questioning my upcoming marathon. Was I crazy? If this run literally floored me, how was I going to get through running 8 more miles on May 18th?
The day started out slow. I woke up late (even for a Saturday), made oatmeal, drank coffee, and clicked around online. I did some laundry and cleaned. Before I knew what had happened, it was late afternoon. Oops!
I hurried up and changed into my running clothes. I had to get out there soon to be sure I’d finish at a decent time. I decided to try to run 20 miles! Why not?! I had to do it some time, why not now?
There are some important things to note at this point. These are things that I didn’t notice until after my run, when I was dissecting what went wrong:
- I drank coffee. Coffee can be good before a run, but not only coffee. I had hardly any water.
- I ate around 11 am, and I didn’t eat again. Saturday doesn’t always feel like a normal day, and I guess I didn’t think about lunch. By 2 pm, I had consumed under 250 calories. Considering the amount of calories I’d burn during the run, that was far too little.
- I didn’t respect the run. I think a lot of runners may have fallen into this trap at least once. You’re in great shape, you’re “in training,” so why not just run 20?! It’s funny because, if I had been running a 20 mile race, I wouldn’t dream of fueling up on under 250 calories and coffee.
- I started out too fast. I was so psyched to be running 20, I took off at a pace that can only be maintained by elite runners. Every split got slower, and the drops in speed became drastic.
- I hadn’t had enough rest days. As much as I hate them, rest days are as important as any long run is in a successful training plan.
It was the perfect storm of ignorance and cockiness that left me 9 miles from home with my muscles locking up.
My route was 18 miles, and I knew of an extra 2 mile stretch that I planned on adding to the end. Not anymore! Now, I just needed to figure out how I was going to get home.
I found myself hunched over, frantically gasping for air. Suddenly, my ever-loved running playlist was a huge annoyance. I decided to run in silence. My lips got very dry as I felt dehydration setting in.
I took my Gu and tried to drink from my hydration pack…only to find out that I had done myself another favor: I didn’t bring enough water. Nice work!
Jon was away skiing for the weekend. I had been so excited to tell him about my awesome 20 mile run. Now, I really wished he was home so I could call him to come get me. But I couldn’t. I’d just have to run it out.
The final 9 miles of this run were the longest miles of my life. I would run about a half a mile, stop to catch my breath, walk a bit, them force myself to keep running.
Somehow, I made it home. My time was not good, and I must have stopped over 15 times, but it didn’t matter to me at that point.
I made it home!
I collapsed on the floor of our apartment next to a very concerned kitty. Unable (or maybe unwilling) to get a glass of water, all Lady did was lick my shoe. That would have to do. I appreciated the concern.
I eventually scraped myself off the floor, chugged some water, and threw myself in the shower. I then proceeded to eat everything in sight. It was a tough recovery.
I kept my runs short the week after this bad run. My confidence was shaken. I asked myself: was the upcoming marathon a mistake?
“No,” I decided, “it isn’t.”
I am good shape, I love running, and I don’t quit. After licking my wounds, I came out of it humbled, and eventually thankful.
I realized that all runners, even the most elite, probably have bad runs. I thought about what I could have done differently, and the list was long. I realized that, although that run was tough, it would no doubt help me on May 18th. I had learned what not to do.
Maybe a really bad run should be a part of every training plan!
About a week later, I was watching the Boston Marathon on TV. I was filled will respect and admiration as I watched the most elite runners in the world compete in the longest continuously running marathon in the world. I felt myself choke up as Meb won for the men, the first time an American had won in 30 years. Inspired, I decided to try another long run.
After an appropriate amount of calories and water, I left home with a mission: run smarter. I paced myself, took enough water, and forced myself to smile. I had a great run, 13.2 at above race pace.
I’ll never forget those terrible 18 miles…and I don’t think I want to. I plan to use this memory during the marathon for when I am pacing myself, and for when I feel like stopping.
I think it’s the really bad runs that make the really awesome runs so much sweeter.