20 Miles: A Retrospective.

Upon reflecting about yesterday’s 20-miler, I became increasingly concerned that I would not finish the marathon in the time allotted. I asked my dad, who ran the marathon sometime in the late 80s, if I would still get a medal if I was not an official finisher. He said he wasn’t sure, but what mattered was that I ran it, not that I got a medal.

I explained that that was all well and fine and everything, but… if I was running the damn thing, I wanted a medal.

He said something to the effect that the medal wasn’t important, that the medal, in fact, would be in my heart – my fortitude for running, for trying, for finishing – official or not. But, he said, if I didn’t finish officially, he’d give me one of my brothers’ track medals… and hopefully that would help.

I would like my own medal, though.

I’m not quite sure what I was looking for yesterday, and – as I examine and re-examine – I probably wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. I woke up an hour later than I wanted to, ate greek yogurt and some mini crackers, stretched a bit and set off to run 20 miles.

In retrospect, I should have eaten more.

I got through the first mile okay (way better than my 18-mile experience!) and stretched once more when I got to the lake. I ran simultaneously with CARA runners, who were participating in the Newton Ready to Run 20-Miler (a race I could have signed up for to alleviate the pain of running alone, but I didn’t want to spend $65 to run a distance I could just do by myself). We weaved in and around each other about three times, and once I high-fived someone who thought I was participating in the race.

I felt like I was doing really well through mile 5, reserving my water intake, not running incredibly fast (still having trouble with a consistent pace, however), remembering to breathe (yes, almost a year later, this is still hard for me). I decided to turn around at mile 10, even though it would mean going all the way back north. When I ran the 18-miler, I ended up by Navy Pier, and became increasingly worried about getting lost and losing track of the path. Even though I didn’t get lost on that adventure, I still wanted to make it as easy as possible for myself.

And that’s when I started to notice that my stomach was full-out growling. And I knew that I was fucked.

I quickly downed some Gu chomps (a gift from a friend during my 18-miler that I never used; a good thing, too, because in all of my wisdom… I forgot to get more).

I started to stumble a bit after that, but I recovered for the most part. I continued on with my intervals and somehow made it to mile 15. I remembered how I felt when I did the 15-mile training run, and how awesome I felt there… I tried to rev myself up, but it didn’t exactly work. In the meantime, my left earbud decided to call it a day, and every now and then, it would crackle into existence.

Just in case you were wondering – if you’re running a long distance and you can feel it becoming a losing battle, a simple annoyance such as a malfunctioning earbud becomes a MAJOR PROBLEM.

By mile 16, my Garmin was starting to blink that its battery was low. I figured things would be ok, because the same thing happened on my 18-mile run… and the battery never died.

I was wrong.

In retrospect, I should have charged the fucking thing the night before like a smart human being.

I started to really falter at that point. I didn’t want to run anymore, I didn’t want to walk anymore. I just wanted to be done. I tried to run and couldn’t. My brain was still functioning pretty well at that point, and so I kept trying to reason with myself… Why wasn’t I just pushing through this? Was I hurt? Was something wrong? Was I frustrated? Was I angry? And on and on.

I got to mile 17. And walked a lot more than I ran.

I got to mile 18. And my watch died.

And my soul died with it.

My only saving grace was that, at the point, I knew exactly where I was, and where I needed to go to finish. Regardless of all my inner bitchings about wanting to be done, wanting to be faster, I… just… kept… walking. Kept looking at my phone. Kept being really sad about how this was all ending.

I got to mile 19 and thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I just ran this last one? I’ve run a continuous mile like 4 times. I can do it for this.”

And I started… and stopped. At that point, it was 12 noon – and since it’s Chicago and all, everyone was outside. Trying to run around them was like a suicide mission. I walked and then pitifully ran the last quarter mile and made it to 20 miles.

So… I did it. Am I happy about it? Only sort of. If I do this kind of performance in the marathon, I’ll probably get done around 6am Tuesday at which point I’ll drown my sorrows in breakfast and mimosas. I mean, yes, I stuck it out… I finished. I practically crawled across my finish. But did I do it in the way I wanted? No. Do I still have a ton to work on? Yes.

Am I running out of time? YES.

Am I feeling sort of lazy and mostly like a shithead? OF COURSE.

So: here’s the plan – EAT. BREATHE. WALK FASTER. HYDRATE. GET HEADPHONES THAT WORK. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAZINESS AND NEEDING TO SLOW DOWN. DON’T CONFUSE SLOWING DOWN WITH WEAKNESS. FINISH STRONG, HOPEFULLY WITHIN THE ALLOTTED TIME BECAUSE I REALLY WANT MY FUCKING MEDAL.

Have a good night, everyone.

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2 thoughts on “20 Miles: A Retrospective.

  1. Liz says:

    I understand the need for that medal as validation, but how sweet of your Dad. But if I hadn’t gotten a medal for the half, I would have been sad, and no amount of justifying not getting one by counting the number of needed toliet breaks would have made me feel any better. (Did any of that make sense?)

    I think your plan looks good. Eat good foods. Drink water..I know you hate it (which is hard for me to understand. I love water. Water and milk 4 life!) Take your time and you’ll finish! There’s my non-official in anyway advise. Really proud of you for doing this!

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