Be strong in the mind and you'll trick your body into thinking IT can be strong too!! Just say to yourself, "Self, I know you THINK you are incapable of running 8 miles, but believe me, you can actually do this". Then repeat that same thing about 5,000 times during the process of constantly propelling your 200 lb dead weights back and forth over the black top, and sure enough it's done! Or, as Dory would have sang to herself if she had legs and was in a completely different movie, "just keep running, just keep running".
In all seriousness, if you would have asked me two months ago if I thought I could run a half marathon I would have said, "no way....not in a million years". It's amazing how fast a million years go by. Finding the right motivation, keeping your mind completely numb of the reality of the effort, pain, and time it takes to run more than a 5k, and comitting yourself to utter humiliation if you fail...yeah, that'll pretty much cause you to continue to move your legs forward no matter how bad you wanna stop.
Saturday was my longest run ever. I'm going to say that every time I write this you know? Because just about every Saturday - until taper - we add another mile or something. And every time we add a mile, I start to panick. What if I can't do this? What if I get to the mileage I got to last Saturday and my whole body shuts down? What if I don't bring enough of those nasty jelly beans to gag on at the half way point and I pass out on the road and my coach doesn't see me DEAD on the sidewalk???? OH MY GOSH!! Nah, not gonna happen. I'll be fine. And I was.
Saturday morning started out like every other Saturday morning run (HAHAHAHA). I had a peanut butter sandwich to "fuel up", laced up my shoes and headed out the door before 7am. What the HELL has happened to me? This is NORMAL? Geesh. Anyway, this time was actually a little different. It was a big group run. So there were tons of people from south Charlotte ready to run with us. The cool thing about the group run is they have cheering crazy people at the water stops. It sounds cheesy and it kind of is, but it's motivating cheesy. I loved it. Round about mile seven, it was EXACTLY what I needed to keep going.
The not-so-cool thing about a big group run is there are more skinny people to make me feel intimidated and freaked out that they are thinking that dimple in my right butt cheek really needs to be covered by something a little thicker than spandex. Heck, I think it every time I slap those suckers ON! SPANDEX....sigh. Everyone is faster than me. Jen said, "Don't let it bother you". I told her, "I dont'". I lied. I do let it bother me. I don't want it to, and I hate that it does. In the back of my head I'm thinking, "those skinny hussies are faster than me!". But I shouldn't let it bother me. And so, next time I will think on more positive things. Like what flavor goo I like best.
The BEST thing about the race? Jen Biela. Did I mention her yet? Oh, only five hundred times? Well, I can't help it. She's totally motivating. She runs with me on Saturday and Tuesday. She runs because she was diagnosed with a type of lymphoma a while back. She went through what she affectionately refers to as the "trifecta" treament. I can't remember everything that's involved, but it has something to do with chemo and and medicine and something else. I have a hard time thinking past the "I was diagnosed with cancer" part of her speech. It gives me the hibbety jibbeties, and I've gotten to hear it a couple times. It's so hard to listen to, yet so beautiful to hear her triumph over it at the same time. You rock Jen Biela. I'm glad I met you, and I'm really happy we're friends.
Physically this was definitely the most challenging run so far. Remember that sandwich I mentioned earlier? Yeah that was NOT the problem. The five people who told me to give up red meat while running can now officially say, "I told you so". About half way through the run I had the dreaded "stomach incident". There are actually good things that come out of these incidents. My "good thing" was adding a couple of 10th's of a mile to my run as a result of having to go the opposite direction to the local Harris Teeter to....well....you know. And all because the night before my husband cooked me my annual birthday steak on the grill. And I ate it. And I regretted it the next day. And I promise I won't explain exactly how. All I know is, I got some weeeeiiiiird looks from the early morning cashiers at Harris Teeter when a red faced, chubby lady in spandex came quickly shuffling through the front door heading DIRECTLY for the bathroom. Nope...no mystery THERE.
Anywhoo. I had my usual first two miles of pain and suffering typically equivalent to that of being forced to watch an episode of The View. Actually the intense burning in my shins and cramping in my calves is no where NEAR the excruciating pain of listening to Joy Behar's nasty voice, but nasty none the less. The funny things is, I'm getting used to when my body "loosens up". I know when it should happen, and I can actually feel a general warmth easing its way down my legs and into my knees. And then BOOM I'm off. Yup, my pace increases from probably a 16 minute mile to a 15.5 minute mile. Yes, I know there are 86 year old ladies who can walk faster than that, but it's MY pace and I love it. Around mile five I felt my usual knee pain, but interestingly it didn't get WORSE. It just stayed the same. Here's where the mental game gets really tricky. Between the crazy wigged ladies and guys clanging bells and the "woohoo"ing us through the water stops and the mentality of believing I was actually going to FINISH eight miles that day, I did not in any way fail myself. I just kept going. I have no clue how. I just kept the legs going forward. I was tired. I was sore. I wanted to stop. I was actually starting to fantasize about my squishy bed at home and how comfy my pillow is. But I kept going. I just had to. And Jen was running with me and I totally couldn't look like a failure in front of her. So we finished it.
We ran to the finish area and I almost died. The "mental game" stopped. I could barely move. My knees were screaming at me. My legs were cramping, and I had to EAT. I knew I was delirious because I looked up and saw that group of "south Charlotte Skinny hussies" running to the finish line. For one fleeting second I actually thought to myself, "Holy crap we beat them". Then I remembered they ran 13 miles or something. It took us the same amount of time to run 8 miles as it did the skinny hussies to run 13 miles. Okay fine, I'll stop calling them hussies, they aren't really hussies anyway. They just look better in spandex than I do.
Every time I run I learn something. I learn that I CAN do this. I can run farther. The pain does go away. I can get up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning. I can talk to people I don't know without dying. I can improve my distance and my time. I can. And when my 5 year old says, "I can't", then I can say, "Yes, actually you can!".
What better thing to learn on your 35'th birthday?