When I first started running, I always envisioned the sun rising in the East with glorious sunbeams coming over the horizon as I laced up my running shoes, ready to begin my day by attacking the road.
I woke up this morning to the beginnings of an ice storm, the temperature was slowing plummeting to below freezing, and my running log had me down for 16 miles. Yikes.
I got out ahead of the storm, and had to concede the roads to the rain as I drove over to the gym. I also decided to extend the long run another two miles due to the fact Christmas travel had me short for my base mileage. I also synched up a new Nike + iPod running system for the workout. After a 1.25 miles of trying to get the thing calibrated (I knew I was running better than 11 minute miles!), I finally began my workout.
Having begun a new training cycle since my last marathon on October about a month ago (about 5 weeks), my legs still were not back to marathon shape. Add to that the fact I had not eaten properly the night before. I was literally running on empty. The first few miles I was barely able to hold a 9:45 min/mi pace, about 25-30 secs slower than I can comfortable run a 20+ mile run. After pushing some thick Powergel and Gatorade, I felt the sugar kick in, and before I knew I was back to my normal pace. Two and a half hours later, I stopped, checked my Nike + for my pace (9:08 min/mi!), stretched and got out of there. The ice was sarting to form, and I wanted no part of it.
I have always found the middle part of the run harder than the beginning or the end. You lose your motivation and sometimes pace because you are too far gone to stop, but too far from the finish to feel that pull you get from almost being done. Today just underlined that. My mind wandered (did I get that loan application to the loan processor? How is the status of the Johnson loan progressing?), I hadn't eaten properly, and I was depressed from a bit of a Holiday Hangover. The guy from the army running with his fully loaded backpack (is he REALLY running that fast with that thing on!?) only dampened my spirit, dousing it with a healthy dose of inferiority. He stopped after a few miles, but I doubted my ability to run with that thing for more than a mile. Than I remembered I was on mile 14 of an 18 mile run, and it wasn't so bad.
But I finished. I guess the experience of pushing through the troughs of other long run propelled me through this workout. This prepares you for those last few tough miles of the marathon, you pay your dues before you can even see the starting line.
I always hope that someday all of this work will payoff. Only God knows what that means. I like to think this strange compulsion to run is part of a bigger plan, one that I won't understand until the right moment.
Until then, I'll just keep running, hoping I don't run out of gas.