NeologisticsRunning → Endurance

To Endure Is to Endure

Last week I pumped up my mileage to over 41, as I begin to ramp up for Grandma's Marathon in June. Adding as little as 5% to one's established weekly base means being tired almost every day.

I knew that I had to run 15 miles on Saturday. And I was forced by circumstances to rest entirely on Thursday, so needed at least two miles on Friday. What would have been the sensible thing to do? To jog a very easy two miles on the track, treadmill, or even an equivalent effort on the elliptical trainer, then do about twenty minutes of weights and stretching and go home and relax.

But NOOOoooo! I had to get on the treadmill, set it for 2.5 miles, and after the first 0.2 miles set it to a speed I would find difficult to duplicate if I were running in terror from a rapidly approaching tidal wave!

When I was done I had set a PR for two miles on a treadmill by exactly fifty seconds! That's a distance where world record holders shave their times in hundreths of a second.

Of course, the stretch was good for me, once I could again breathe well enough to tell a paramedic my name. But I felt a mixed emotion of pleasure and guilt, like a big fatso who has just consumed a whole box of Godiva chocolates; I knew I would pay for it the next day.

On Saturday it was a little chilly for Arizona (in the low 60's), and threatening rain. And sure enough, my legs were throbbing. So instead of running my favorite outdoor hilly route, I opted to do a nice disciplined indoor run again at the gym. Fifteen miles is 171 laps. That's 684 left turns.

Mentally I was very up for it. And I was properly hydrated, but a little full of food.

I hadn't gone two laps when I knew this would not be my day. My legs were like tree trunks. My back hurt. My form was terrible. And misery of miseries, I was already gasping for breath, and it wasn't opening up. It was going to be a very long afternoon.

I'm a familiar sight around Bally's gym, especially to others who run. It's the customary thing there for runners to offer encouragement as they pass each other. Almost everyone runs faster than me, but in three years I've never seen anyone who consistently runs anywhere near as long. So the encouragement I get is usually offered over the shoulder by passing runners.

A fit 30ish woman named Paula, who plays in the Phoenix Symphony, has been showing up almost every day for about three months. She runs a solid five miles every single day at about an 8:30 pace. "How are you doing today?" she asked the first time by. "TERRIBLE!" "What's wrong?" "Everything!" I gasped. "I'm running fifteen today and I can barely breathe and am hardly moving!" "You can do it!" She said she missed a day and was hoping to do ten miles to make up for it.

Two laps later Mike from Eritrea got on. He usually runs shorter distances, from three to five miles, but sometimes up to ten, often at a sub-8:00 pace. When he's sloughing off he'll run a couple of miles two paces behind me. "How far are you going today?" he asked. The stock question. "Fifteen, but I feel TERRIBLE! I should have rested yesterday." "You can do it! You're looking good." Mike was planning to do about five.

I appreciated the encouragement, and it really did pep me up briefly, but I did not `look good.'

As I continued, my misery increased, though I eventually started to consume enough oxygen to stop gagging. On this run I chose to run forty laps (almost exactly 3.5 miles) and walk one, while chugging down all the Gatorade I could consume in that distance. I just turn the gallon bottle upside down and hold it to my mouth, swallowing once or twice, and stopping to breathe once or twice through my nose, repeating as necessary. I look like a jet plane being refueled in flight. Oh how sweet those "rests" are!

And whenever Mike or Paula passed me they'd say nice things and occasionally offer high fives. "Keep it up! Good job! Looking great!"

About two or three miles after Mike started, he was walking. As I went by he said, "My right knee is hurting!" "Ah well, better take care of it. There's always another day." Then Mike disappeared.

Just a few laps later Paula, who rarely breaks, was walking. Then she ran again. Must've been taking a walking break, I thought.

But just two or three more laps later she was stopped and off the track, having gone about three or four miles total. Then she, too, disappeared, but never offered an explanation why she bailed out.

"To endure is to endure," I told myself. How could I call myself an endurance athlete if I don't endure? I was not injured, just proceeding more slowly and with more labor than usual. So on I went.

There is a mantra I repeat to myself often while doing long runs:

The time passes and so do the miles.
The time passes and so do the miles.
The time passes and so do the miles.
The time passes and so do the miles.

I knew when I started that it would be about 3:30 before I was done, even if I had a fabulous run. It wasn't 3:30 yet, so why fret about it? I reminded myself: "It *won't* be 3:30 for X amount of time yet, and meanwhile, there's work to be done. So just shut up and run, you big sissy!"

So I obeyed. And at the end of my 171 laps I felt no less satisfied, having done a 41-mile week and a long run following a significant PR day than if I'd breezed through the whole thing.

Experiences like these are why they call them "training runs." It was practice for better things in the future. My pace stunk. My chest heaved most of the way. But my mind and my will carried me the distance. And holistic runners know that those elements of our being need the work just as much as our bodies.