We're deep in the throes of marathon training now!
Last Sunday I joined over 4,000 runners as we attempted to tackle the full three loops it would take to hit the 18 mile mark.
I was a bit worried because my mileage has not been as high as I would have liked it to have been at this point, but that is partly why I committed to The Tune Up a few weeks back. I decided I would be content to hit 15 miles, since I figured I could at least go that far without risking an injury by over doing it. But in the back of my mind I knew, if I made it as far as 15, I would be too stubborn to throw in the towel only three miles from the finish (even if I had to walk turtle pace through the last stretch).
I knew as soon as this race started that it was going to be my kind of day. The slow and steady long run pace always seems to suit me and I was finally surrounded by other runners taking the same approach.
The toughest part of a truly long run, for me, is the mental aspect. One lap at a time, I told myself. And so it went. As we came through the first four miles or so we passed a table with Powergels of every flavor imaginable. I had a pocketful of shot-blocks, but after some stomach troubles from the Bear Mountain Marathon, I knew I have to continue to try different fueling solutions. Two months out from the marathon, it's now or never eh?
Strawberry-bananna- with caffeine!- good enough for government. I took it with water, and continued back up cat scratch hill, with some good conversation in the form of a Judge John Hodgman Podcast to help keep my mind occupied.
The first 6 miles went great- I was feeling good, and ready to really dig into things. Around mile 10, back on the west side near the 72nd transverse, the fuel boxes were starting to really look like a hot commodity.
Runners were grabbing gels by the handful and I grabbed an extra on the off chance that they would run out (spoiler alert, they would). Another strawberry-bannana carried me swiftly back up through the second lap.
My pace for the first 12 miles was just about 2 hours- right on my nice and easy goal pace. I hope I have the time to work on a little speed in the next few weeks, but my #1 mantra is "Pacing, pacing, pacing; Don't burn out." You're doing great, I tell myself- someone's gotta keep the mind in a happy place.
And then it began. Around mile 13, I felt like I had a pot of coffee sloshing around in my stomach. I ate a pretzel or two, I sucked the salt off another one because my mouth felt too dry to choke down one more. Maybe it was the Gaterade? I thought, mental note, hold off on the Gaterade and take the water intake down a notch.
By mile 16 I was in a bad way and had to make a serious stop at to hop into the boathouse restrooms. Such timing! I was grateful for that at least.
Back on the course my stomach was churning, like heartburn and a million other stomach grievances. At least I wasn't focusing on my potentially tired legs. Up Cat Scratch one more time- and then the crowds- and the final chute to the finish.
It was wonderful. And I got bleary eyed thinking of everything that had taken me here, in the past three hours, the past nine months, the past two years. And just less than two months I will finally be running through Central Park with tens of thousands of others runners, each with their own story, each finding their own meaning in that finish line.