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It was bound to happen sometime. And now it has. Fresh on the heels of my best long run ever (last week’s 18-miler run at an 8:20 pace), I ran a 2:55 on today’s 19-miler.
Many factors contributed to by big choke. Among them: it was the first long run I have done at the lake house since the fall, it was a new (exceedingly hilly) course, the temperature had gone from a balmy 60 degrees on Thursday to a freezing 32 by Sunday morning and (probably most importantly), I had skipped Tuesday’s 12-miler and doubled up miles later in the week to make up the time.
In total I ran 45 miles last week, 40 of which were in the past four days.
Of course, even with all these truths, I was pretty unnerved by the running so poorly. I wanted to be cool and all “hey, the bad runs make us stronger,” but was instead crying, screaming obscenities and cursing my father for suggesting this new, mountainous (ridiculous) route.
Even as I feel like a failure, I am trying to be grateful. Because much as it pains me to admit it, the bad runs really are important to have. Because now I am figuring out what went wrong (um, hills, hills and more hills) and how I can make the necessary changes to avoid those pitfalls for the actual race.
As always, running is a metaphor for life and I am a firm believer in the idea that awful, bad things must happen so that we can appreciate the good things. This is not to say that I want all my runs to be bad, but the pain and exhaustion and total defeat of a bad run helps my muscles and psyche grow to face the challenges ahead.
And so, I accept my bad run. But I do not surrender. I accept exhaustion, hills, and not wanting to move another inch but pushing forward anyway. Because I will hit a point—maybe at Mile 15 or 22—when I want to stop running, when my legs are cramping and I can no longer care whether I qualify and all I want to do is sit on the ground and weep. And when that happens, I will remember this run.
I will remember the run shining in my eyes (because it was cloudy when I left and I skipped the glasses), the dryness in my mouth, the rubber-band softness in my legs and the whimpering desire to bag it all, grab the iPhone and call for help (good thing there is no reception in the boonies). I will remember feeling all those things and running anyway. I was not fast (9:15.Sob.) but I was running. My legs were moving and I was pushing forward even though every part of me wanted to stop.
And you know what, I am stronger because of it. I really am.
So thank you bad run. I have taken your lesson. And I am using it to make me stronger. You aren’t going to make me stop.
Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.