Yesterday, I had the day off from work and my daughter was at preschool, so I decided to go for my 20 mile run and complete the last long run of marathon training. I ran the two miles from my house to the interurban trail system, and then ran trails all the way to the 10 mile point before turning around to run back. This was a really important experience in many ways. Primarily and obviously, the physical and mental exercise of running 20 miles was solid preparation for the upcoming marathon. My training guide merely suggests two consecutive weeks of 18 mile long runs, but I felt the need to complete one 20 mile run before race day. I am glad I did. I hit highs and lows at different times than I did during a 16 or 18 mile run. The other valuable experience from yesterday’s run was that after a warm and dry summer, there was a complete deluge. It was raining in heavy sheets. The likelihood of some rain on a race day at the end of September is relatively high, so this run… while completely miserable at times due to the weather conditions… prepared me for that possibility.
I approached the distance as 4 blocks of 5 mile intervals. I slowed down every 5 miles to eat GU and drink a Gatorade/water mixture. I averaged 11-minute miles. The hardest point for me was at around 12 miles. It was terribly wet and I was in the thick of the woods with nowhere to go but all the way back home. It was at that point that I conceded and gave myself to the long run. And once I completely capitulated to what was ahead of me, it all somehow eased up. I felt the spirit of the marathon wrap her arms around me and run the rest of the way home, carrying me along. No, I did not consume any mushrooms on my trail run… but I did enjoy this somewhat rare runner’s high-induced visualization. I could actually feel mother marathon’s arms draped around my shoulders (in my head, she looks like Grete Waitz by the way).
Three months ago, my long run was 5 miles. Yesterday I ran 20. I am impressed by what the human body can achieve. I’ve had my ups and downs during training, but I am really happy to be here. I have tons of drops in my jug now. I feel great today and I am thankful that I have not experienced injuries during this training. I credit following a gently progressive training program.
And now, the tapering begins. My mid-week runs will not change this week, but my long run is only 9. My intention for the weeks ahead is to nourish and rest my body for optimal performance on marathon morning.