Somewhere around Mile 5 or 6 of my weekend long run, I took time to look around and appreciate the scenery.
By that point, I'd run from downtown Manchester, through a few neighborhoods (some good and some not-so-good), up a long but gradual hill and onto the St. Anselm's College campus.
Somehow, despite almost oppressive humidity and blazing sun, a cool-ish breeze came across the hill. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. The grass was a green as could be. There was barely a sound.
That is why I run -- to see new sights, to appreciate nature, to experience the quietness of running alone, to push myself to do things I didn't think I could do.
I was glad I was feeling well enough to appreciate any of that on Saturday. I'm not so sure I'll be feeling the same way when I see it during the real race.
See, I'll reach the St. A's campus somewhere between miles 18 and 20 -- where runners notoriously enter strange and shaky territory, both mentally and physically. On top of that, I'll be at the route's highest point, which means I will have run all the hills to get to that point, so I just don't know what to expect.
That's why I train.
Saturday's run -- a little short of 14 miles that included every step of the second half of the Manchester Marathon course -- was the first chance I had to actually run the same route I'd be running in exactly three months.
It was way hotter and much more humid than I would have liked. I was drenched with sweat almost immediately and went through two liters of water and some Gatorade --- selflessly hauled around in a heavy backpack by my Trusty Companion while riding his bike in uncomfortable heat, I might add.
As usual, TC was perfectly prepared. Map folded in a pocket, GU and fluids in the pack and ready to meet me at just the right spots. (Would I expect anything less from him now?) Those 14 miles would have been unbearable -- and perhaps un-doable -- without him.
It was the longest run I've done since the week before the motorcycle accident that halted my marathon training last summer.
Not only did it feel good to get over that mental hurdle, it felt great to actually be on the course -- to know where the hills are going to be the hardest, to imagine myself running across the bridge to the West side after completing 13.1 on the East side of the city. It felt great to conquer the hill on Daniel Plummer Road and realize it was nothing to fear.
And honestly, it felt great to just be finished. (Let's not forget it was only half of what I'll be doing in November.)
There's still a lot of training for me to do. It probably won't be the last time I run the course.
Hopefully I can get at least some of the first half under my belt in the next few weeks. And I'll probably follow up with a few more runs on the course's hardest parts. On Sunday, I'm on schedule to run 16 miles -- farther than I've ever run.
It's real now. I will actually run a marathon.
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