It was the worst of runs, it was the best of runs

high five

It’s funny how you never know which way a run is going to go. Well, actually it’s not funny at all – not when it goes wrong. I am slightly superstitious about my runs, especially the long ones. Things have to be juuuust right; I need have remembered to do the Vaselining (yes, I use that as a verb), my laces need to be double tied, my phone has to have full battery and the GPS needs to have full bars before I head off. Stressful business. Also, I need to have eaten something, usually a banana or a small bowl of corn flakes before – I have been known to have a meltdown previously when we were out of the latter. I don’t have much time in the mornings so there isn’t usually more than 30-60mins between eating and running. So after breakfast I do some of my physio exercises to get my body used to the idea that it will have to move soon but also to remind it that it needs to decide if that cereal is going anywhere. And I (try to) go to the toilet as many times as possible in order to avoid hanging out with my pal, The Gingerbread Man. The long runs mean a lot to me. I call them my mental health runs as they are my chance to be good at something. To do something that makes me feel strong and capable. It’s where the lazy, neutered cat inside me becomes a growling, leaping tiger. So I really don’t want to fuck them up.

I do these long runs on Saturdays (with some exceptions). They do tend to ruin my Fridays a bit as I can’t quite relax. I don’t want to drink more than a beer or a glass of wine and just want to crawl into bed early. I am always filled with this nervous energy in anticipation.  Same thing this weekend. I had done the interval run on Tuesday and the hill run on Thursday. So not a huge amount of running (though those totalled 23km combined) but still a nice, varied week. I did my prep routine and plopped half a Nuun electrolyte tablet into my water – I love the taste more and more, it’s like bubble gum. Out I went. The weather was a mix of sun and cloud but the one thing that didn’t change during the run, was that it was very windy. Blow your toupee off kind of windy. And unfortunately “fill your eyes with grit” kind of windy. But hey ho, a bit of wind keeps you cool.

Oh boy, were my legs stiff. And tired. The first kilometer was, as usual, a battle of will to keep going. It always is the hardest. Well, the second kilometer is pretty bad as well. I decided to mix up the route a bit so between the 3rd and 4th kilometer there was a nice, steep hill which woke me up. It got the old pecker going but I also found that I felt almost stronger going up a hill than on the flat. That must be due to using different muscles. (YES! Those exercises work!)

By the time I got to the park I was 1km up on the usual distance at that point. I did my routine up to 20km and still felt good so I left the park and headed towards home with the mind to do a bit of extra.. At around 22km I thought I would do “at least” 25km as I had done that before. Maybe 26km just to beat the previous distance record. Except when I got to 25km I had already made up my mind to do a bit more. The running felt so easy, the agony of the early kilometers was but a distance memory. I looped around North West London, I was on Abbey Road a few times, cursing the tourists blocking the pavement waiting to do their funny walk on the famous zebra crossing. I was near Lords Cricket Ground and around St. Johns Wood. I came back to my ‘hood and ran to the park where “my” track is. I ran and ran and felt I could have kept on running forever. I kept having these visions of falling into my husbands arms, crying happy tears while he hailed me as the next running legend. So I turned to run home.

When I got there, after a 3 hour run, my husband was still in bed. He saw my disgusted face and pointed at his phone: “Lions” (rugby). I took my phone, shoved it to his face and said “me”. It took a while for him to take in the numbers on the screen: 30.18km, in 3:01:13.

Let me say that again. 30.18 kilometers. This is 18.75 miles. 3 HOURS of running.

There were no tears or a big scene but the look on his face was priceless. 30km is something that I knew I could do after I did my 25km run weeks ago. But at the same time I thought it would be a toughie. Yet, there I was. I felt absolutely fine. I had just ran for 3 hours without any gels or anything other than my electrolyte water. I had only had a small bowl of Corn Flakes in the morning so how my body sustained this, I really don’t know. I still did my physio exercises, lunges and squats after the run but I would be lying if I said I did them with gusto.

So I had a good run. I had a really good run. I now have my sights on 35km, a step closer to running a marathon distance. I won’t plan this, it will happen “one of these runs”. Maybe on one of the runs that start like this one did – burning lungs, tired legs and thoughts of quitting. But if there ever was inspiration to keep going, then this is it.

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