Yesterday's eight-mile long run was the last one before my Moose Mountain Marathon, and to say I am glad to have made it this far in my training is the understatement of the year. As usual, training did not go exactly as planned. All the hills I had put on the schedule for myself exasperated a running injury I got about halfway through the cycle. While originally I had thought it was the formation of a neuroma, I can't completely discount a simple stone bruise. Regardless, the result was that running was painful, and running hills was completely out of the question. Add to that the brilliant idea I had of throwing in a full marathon halfway through the summer and that inconvenient injury magnified itself to full-on hindrance.
But I got past that. I took time off when I needed to. I cross-trained by riding my bike. I saw a PT. I learned to tape my foot. I started running again with tape. I caught up to where I needed to be on the plan. And, I reintroduced hills. Things went well. Almost too well.
In fact, unlike most other pre-race taper runs, the runs I have experienced in the past couple of weeks have gone amazingly well. I have had a couple that were less-than-stellar due to heat, but really I haven't had that worn out, blah feeling I usually get leading into a race and that has me a bit concerned. That's why when a friend told me I earned a few karma points during yesterday's long run, I started wondering if I could apply them where to I wanted to - namely to my race.
Yesterday's run wasn't supposed to be that big of a deal. Eight miles after weeks of double digits will seem easy to anyone at that point. So, really, I didn't care what I did with it. I got to the PaceSetters training run early, intending to help the organizer for the day. And, although I was there by 6:10 a.m., I found that everything was firmly under control and there wasn't too much for me to do but make some announcements before the event. After the runners took off, I hung out with the kidlets who were stuck there playing games until Dad got back from his run. They didn't mind, and for me that just meant getting to stand around talking to people, also not bad. By the time I got around to starting my run, I had been standing on my feet for over three hours - also not a bad thing. Time on my feet, right?
So, starting my run, I decided to follow the training run course backwards to catch a couple of the water stations we had set up. Four miles at faster-than-usual pace (I was feeling good!) were broken up twice by stopping to gab with the water station volunteers. My plan originally was to turn around at the four mile mark and head back. But then I changed the plan to go a little further out and take a different, shorter route back to the start. I do so prefer loops over out-and-backs. As fate would have it, though, just past the second water station I passed going the other way a lady who was our last 20-mile runner for the day. I cheerfully said hi as I passed but saw from the answer I got - and the fact that she was walking - that she wasn't doing that well. I made it past her and around a corner before I decided I should turn around. Heading back around the corner and seeing that she was still walking, I made a decision that I normally would not make. I decided to strike up a conversation and see how she was doing.
As it turns out, she was not doing very well. It was her longest run ever, she hadn't run very much in the past month, and this was to be her first marathon. Her calves were hurting and she just seemed like she was questioning this whole madness that is marathoning. So, normally, I would have wished her good luck and kept going, but something stopped me. Instead, I ran and walked the four miles back to the start with her. I kept up a whole no-doubt annoying patter the entire way, too. I urged her to run every now and again, and she did. I tried to give her some encouraging pep-talk like conversation. In other words, I did what I could to help her not give up on this whole crazy endeavor.
Why did I do it? I am not sure. Probably for the same reasons I told her. There have been plenty of training runs and races where I have been the one bringing up the rear. There have been plenty of events and training runs where I have been dejected and wondered why I was doing what I was. And, not very often, but every now and again, I have had someone who literally walked and talked me to the finish. And, looking back, I am grateful for that. Because it's in finishing that you know you can do it.
So, good karma? Who knows. I can't help but think (with an amused smile) that this lady may have gotten up this morning cursing me and my cheerful attitude, the fact that I encouraged her to run when all she wanted to do was a shuffling walk. But what's done is done, and I feel I made the right choice.
If she is like me, it may be several years before she knows exactly why she chose to do this event, or she may never know. If nothing else, however, she now knows she can cover 20 miles and even run a bit when her brain is telling her to quit, and hopefully that does count as something good.
So, in the end, my eight-miler turned into a nine-miler with a lot of walking in the second half. I am okay with that, though. It was a good run on so many other levels. Otherwise, during the run, I did wear my new Pearl Izumi Ultra Inside Out Short-Sleeved Quarter-Zip shirt (love the long name) that I ordered from Road Runner Sports, and I have to say I loved it! After calling to talk with a customer service rep last week, Road Runner Sports was nice enough to contact PI and ask for an expedited ship date and they delivered - literally! The shirt was extremely comfortable and I do plan on wearing it now for the marathon. Being as cheap as I am, I am not 100 percent sure if it was worth $65 but it will hands-down be better than anything else I have for a hydration pack. There should be no chafing along the neckline at least.
So, six days until my marathon. I am looking forward to it and a bit in awe of the challenge that it represents for me. Time to start getting prepared for it!