The Big (Running) Leagues

You guys, I’ve reached the weeks where the mileage gets crazy. The point at which people always talk about when marathon training, mostly because they can’t wait for the taper. It almost feels like I should be running the race like, tomorrow. But I still have a month to go, and to be honest, my motivation is draining a little. I haven’t done as well as I have in the past about keeping my mileage up during the week – or getting at least one longer 6- to 7-miler in between Monday and Friday. But I’m hoping to change that.

I do have a lot to update you on, though, considering I’ve a few runs that were longer than I’ve ever done before…and have told you about zero of them. I’ll start from the top:

The 14-Miler
Way back on August 27, I kicked off my “I’ve never run this far before” mileage. And this one was definitely a confidence booster. I started in Astoria and headed over the Queensboro Bridge – which has become one of my favorite spots in the city to run – and toward Central Park. By the time I got there, I was 4.43 miles in and I got to tackle the remaining 10 with some company: two former co-workers aka friends. I was a little nervous to run with these two: Laurel has done, I believe, nine marathons already. She’s qualified for Boston and when I creeped on her race time on a 10K, she averaged a 7:30. (For some perspective, I’m lucky if I finish a run in under 9:45.) The other lady in training, Maggie, also ran a marathon before and I don’t know for sure, but I think she’s speedy too. I’m not great at pushing through a long run while also trying to push my pace, so you can see why I was anxious about keeping up. But it worked out so well. I felt great through the majority of the run; it only got a little dicey at the end. And we averaged what I think was a 9:37ish. (I can’t be sure because my phone died and Laurel had to tell me when my mileage was up – they both had a little further to go.) I felt so good after, I was excited to get back out to run again. We also celebrated with a pretty awesome brunch, where we all not only ordered our own omelets, but a serving of lemon ricotta pancakes for the table, too. #carboloading #orcalorieloading

My First 16-Miler
And this is where it took a turn for the bad. I literally almost cried out there when I was trekking through Central Park for this doozy. I felt like I was going to puke or pass out or just start sobbing — and doing any of those things in the middle of NYC just felt like something I wasn’t up for. Miles 10 to 13 were the worst, which just made me more sad when I was trying to push through, because that’s not even half the marathon. Granted, the day was super hot and humid. I started later than I should have (considering the heat) and I did an out-and-back run for most of it. (I’ve realized that kind of messes with my mindset; I’m much better at running straight to a final destination.) I was tired, then just getting upset that I was tired and thinking to myself, “this is exactly how I do not want the marathon to go.” I stopped at basically every water station I saw, jumped through the sprinklers at one point to cool down a little and had to take a few minutes to walk here and there. In other words, I was just miz. And then disappointed. And then even more nervous for November 6. The most important thing though: I actually finished. And I finished with a 10:06 average pace, which was wayyy better than I thought I did.

The 12-Miler Recovery Week
I ran the Friday morning before work on the weekend of September 16, because I was headed out of town and knew I wouldn’t run. (Drag 30th birthday brunch = no longer in a physically healthy state to move my body very far out of bed, let alone run serious miles.) I ran from my apartment to work, another one of my new favorite activities. I had to make the route longer though, so I did a half lap around the reservoir in Central Park and then went all the way over to the West Side and down along the Hudson River. (If you’ve never run along this path, you must check it out.) It’s so pretty over there and actually quite peaceful, especially at 7 a.m.

The most important thing about this run was that I came to a revelation: I need to just enjoy the run more. At mile 8, I kept thinking about how tired I was and how I couldn’t wait to be done. But while I was mentally complaining to myself, I wasn’t enjoying the activity anymore and only thinking about it being over. Then, I realized, Mal of course you’re going to finish this run, no matter how tired you are. So you might as well enjoy doing something active outside and take in the awesome scenery. That’s when I decided that I would no longer yearn for the cool-down portion of the workout or the gallon of water or chocolate milk I’d chug at the end. And instead, I actually tuned into the noises, sounds, smells and sights around me and really embraced them. (In other words, I was being mindful. I hope Gabby Bernstein would be proud.)

It’s seriously an awesome thing to be able to see so much of the city by foot and it’s even cooler that my body has carried me through so many miles. Ever since that day, I’ve been telling myself to just breath and take it all in.

16-Miler, Round 2
Hello, Mal, you’re back in action! This run felt great and I was honestly a little giddy going through it, because it felt so good. I only had a few miles (probably more like quarter miles) that I was regretting my life choices, but for the majority of the run, I was just happy and proud to be out there. I took a somewhat different route from Queens to Central Park, this time heading up along the East River. (It was nice to be back on my old turf – I lived on the UES for five years.) I decided this path might be a good option after attending an event about negative splitting a marathon — aka running the second half faster than the first, something only about 4% of marathoners do (you can imagine why). There, I learned that miles 23 to 26 of the NYC marathon are pretty difficult, considering there’s a decent incline going up 5th Avenue. So I decided to tackle that, so at least I would know what I was in for come race day. Mental note: it’s definitely not easy. I was only on mile 7 when I got there, so I can only image what 23 is like. The good thing is now I’m mentally prepared to take it on. And I’m also hoping some cheerleaders on the sidelines will help. I still got through this run with a smile on my face and even a little sprint to the finish (look at me!).

In other news, my appointments at physical therapy are going well. Though I’m still having IT band issues and I’ve started to get pain in my hip (which apparently might be tendinitis, but I’m trying to ignore that), I feel pretty good. I’m not sure my body loves me for putting it through so much stress and I still don’t have the fueling down quite yet, but I’m feeling good! That’s all a girl can ask for.

Tomorrow I tackle 18 miles, and I’m back in Pennsylvania for it. I’ve recruited my parents (or just one of them) to keep me company on the bike. Wish me luck — and I hope to tell you about it sooner rather than later this time!

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