My legs just stopped turning over at a pace which could be labeled a run. It was the 10th mile of the weekend long run and the late-morning summer sun had come out, all bright and hot with just the wrong tinge of humidity to the air. The road curved up in a slow, steady hill the kind that doesn’t look intimidating. The kind that is a nice challenge at the start of your run.
Near the top, my legs decided to walk. I made to conscious decision. They just stopped running and started walking. The pace was still pretty decent. It wasn’t a walk of surrender or disappointment. It was a walk to finish up the run.
Sunday’s long run was 12 miles “as you like” which means that I can pretty much run any type of course at any pace. And any pace is usually code for easy pace. It’s a concept that intellectually I understand but have had a difficult time putting into practice. Shouldn’t I be trying to work hard all the time when I run?
But these last few months of enduring track workouts and true tempo runs have allowed me to cherish the easy runs. There is nothing to prove on a long run. The point, at least for me, is to get the miles in and make it a quality run — however quality may be defined that particular day.
Once upon a time, picking my route for an “as you like” run would have involved flat roads. Possibly roads with only downhills. Now, I look for the challenge and even though my run wasn’t traditionally “hilly” it had some short, steep climbs and a few rolling sections. The weather conditions were challenging, too, and by the time I hit my first water stop and paused to grab a drink and gel, I could tell that my face was starting to develop a nice crusty coating of salt. Margaritas anyone?
My internal iPod played some of the normal songs on its usual playlist (like Jay-Z’s “On to the Next One”) and some new additions (like Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” courtesy of the wedding I attended the night before) and it helped to take my mind of the heat, the humidity and the pain of the run. This was a hard run. No way around that.
My walk on the final hill of the day did nothing to deter my spirits, because it felt natural. It felt OK. It felt almost strategic. When I hit that last mile and my mind desperately wanted to walk again, I didn’t. That would have been a different kind of walking — the kind where I thought the workout was too hard, where I thought I wasn’t good enough.
In my third year of endurance sports, I’m finally starting to learn the difference, learning to trust my body and to develop enough confidence to get to the end in a better fashion than I had imagined.
Saturday brings my next event — the Welland Triathlon. The sprint distance is a 750 meter swim, a 30K bike and a 7.5K run. And finally, I’m starting to feel ready. These long hard runs do more than just prepare my body. They prepare my mind. And I might just have the confidence to go out and enjoy my race.