This is a picture of me and Shawnna at the end of our 20-mile run yesterday.
I'm not positive that our smiles are genuine, but at least there are smiles. After 20 miles, that's something to note.
I ran 20 miles. Yes, 20 whole miles. In one day. During one run.
It almost seems surreal to write that -- like it must have been someone else out there running those miles. There's no way that I could have done that, right?
But I did. And honestly, I'm pretty proud of it. I don't often say that or acknowledge the successes as much as I probably should. I often look at these things as just another number on the training calendar, another thing to do before I can complete the marathon.
But every once in a while, I need to stop and remember all that I've accomplished. I've come a long way (literally and figuratively) since that first team run where I ran/walked the two miles on the training schedule, since my first 5K, since the Disney Half ... and a whole laundry list of other memorable moments.
Now I've added a 20-mile run to that list.
I awoke Saturday morning with more than a few pre-run jitters. The weather was cool, and although it was still dark, I could see that it was cloudy. Perfect for a few hours of running.
Having properly prepared my run necessities -- GU, water, Gatorade and plenty of Glide -- I laced up my sneakers and stepped outside with Rebel to let him do his thing before I left. Almost instantly, the skies opened up. Rain poured down hard. And it was cold.
Can this really be happening... again?
Luckily, the downpour only lasted a few moments (soaking me in the process, of course), although a steady drizzle stayed with us for most of the day. At one point, just before the 10-mile mark, another deluge of rain soaked us again. But that's beginning to be the norm for us.
I'm seriously starting to think the sun never shines on the Manchester Marathon course. At least not for any run more than 10 miles.
I suppose it's good training, preparing me for any weather Mother Nature throws at me on marathon day. Still, there's a little part of me that hopes Mother Nature has a sort of barter system, which will reward runners who've sloshed through many, many wet miles with a cool, sunny race day.
The run was relatively uneventful -- except for the seemingly high number of weird people we passed.
There was the grocery bag-toting guy who "looked right through us" near Hillside Middle School. There was an overly friendly gentleman (I use that word loosely) on Hanover Street. And a homeless guy on a bicycle on Elm Street, his bike piled with bags and clothing, making a call on his cell phone while a gray cat popped its head out from his jacket.
I could not make this stuff up. This is why we run in pairs.
Shawnna and I spent the time catching up with each other, covering every topic you could imagine, only sometimes mentioning the little aches and pains that come along with running these distances.
Neither one of us felt as good as we did on our 18-miler a couple of weeks ago. When you run consistently and put in the kind of miles that we do, you get used to having good days and bad days.
Running the course is becoming second nature. I'm learning where I might need to push a little harder, where I might have to dodge traffic and where to look forward to downhill breaks. We had our water stops properly planned and fueled up with GU at just the right times.
My Trusty Companion met us along the way, water in hand, to check on us and to see if we needed anything.
He noted later that we weren't as chipper and friendly as we have been on some of our other long runs. It's true. We were a little quieter, a little more focused on just getting it done, a few miles closer to the Bite Me Zone.
We'd been running about three hours when we passed the 18-mile mark on Daniel Plummer Hill. Two to go.
Those last two weren't easy and they weren't pretty. I pulled myself along, trudging up the hill, and throwing my fuel belt to TC because it was adding to some of the stomach issues I was starting to experience. I didn't need fuel for the last two miles.
With about a mile left, my body really wanted to stop. My legs were starting to feel stiffer and the muscles in my lower back were tightening. When we stopped for water, my body fought me as I tried to get it started again. Each step was painful as I eased back into a rhythm.
So, this was marathon training.
At one point, a voice inside my head told my body to keep going, it's just another mile. The voice was so deliberate and so focused that it was almost startling to me. It was like something inside me was mentally pushing me forward. It knew the milestone was within reach.
Eventually, and without much fanfare, we passed through the gate on a footpath on the St. A's campus.
TC was waiting for us. We had some water, snapped a picture and jumped in our cars. We weren't looking to hang around chatting. We were tired, sore, wet and cold.
Luckily, I'd planned ahead and gave TC a comfy sweatshirt to bring to me at the finish line.
I couldn't wait to get my soaking shirt off. It was cold and plastered against my body. I was already shivering. I stripped off my running shirt in the car on the side of the road. (Don't worry, it's pretty secluded and, truth be told, after you've just run 20 miles and you're freezing, you might do things you normally wouldn't do.)
The post-20 day was relatively low-key by design. I took a warm, massaging shower while TC made me a delicious plate of pancakes when we returned to his place. I ate one-and-a-half and some orange juice before my stomach wouldn't let me take in anything more.
My stomach had been bothering me, straddling the line somewhere between queasy and crampy for the last few miles. The feeling stuck with me for a while. That was something new.
Snuggled in TC's sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants, I got under the covers and settled in for a good, mid-day nap. I awoke with my stomach still feeling a little uneasy, but otherwise pretty unscathed by the long run.
My legs were only slightly stiff. Soon enough, the stomach issues passed without incident and we made plans for our own mini-tour of downtown Manchester restaurants. We ate, drank and people-watched at some of the best and newest spots.
It was perfect celebration of the 20-miler.
I ran 20 miles. Yep, it still seems strange to say that.
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