At least I can say I did do something today, even though I don't feel that great. In a way, I'm not even sure it's completely due to my physical fatigue and soreness that I feel this way. It's hard to explain, and I even tried to have a conversation with my husband about it last night, but I still don't feel like he "gets it", so I'm hoping that someone out there will be able to relate. See, after all of my marathons, and now I can also say after each of my three 26+ mile training runs during the month of April, for about 2-3 days following I go through this slump. It's more of a mental slump than a physical one, at least I think it is. There's something about the prospect of preparing myself to do something difficult or great or admirable, however it may be seen, during the time leading up to those long runs, which is so exciting and keeps the adrenalin flowing, that is then completely gone the moment I finish the 26 mile distance. It's like a deflation of spirit. Like, okay...I just ran that far, now what?
The stupid thing is, it's not like I'm just so good at running long distances that I need to move on to harder things. It's hard, every time! Every run I (still) feel as though I'm fighting against my natural tendencies to do this running thing. Obviously in some ways I have improved over the past couple of years, like an increase in endurance, less joint pain, fewer GI issues - all those problems I had when I first took up running have certainly decreased in intensity. And I can't say enough about how following Jeff Galloway's Run/Walk/Run method has made it possible for me to go farther and longer. But as I sit and think about each run after the fact, I still can see where I need to improve, how I would like to do better, where I'd like to be stronger.
Another stupid thing about all of these thoughts going through my head is that I honestly tell myself (and others) all of the time that I don't really care about my "times" or how fast I am, I know I'll never be a very fast runner, and that's why I like to go long - because I truly enjoy being out on the road, moving along at whatever pace my body feels comfortable, enjoying the excitement and adventure that comes with traveling so far away from home and then back again, carried only by my own two feet. And that is really, truly how I feel.
But then, every once in a while, apparently near and around races, that little flicker of competitiveness kicks in, even though I'm really only ever competing with myself. For example, I knew going into my run on Monday that my friend would "push" me to run a faster pace than what I'm used to, but I had prepared myself for it and actually accepted the challenge. When my legs were aching with miles to go, I knew I was going to be more sore than usual and my recovery might be a little tougher. And even when we were at mile 25, and she seemed to have boundless amounts of enthusiasm and energy and I was shuffling along, completely knowing it was all mind over body for me at that point, I was trying to internalize what she was saying to me about how proud she was that I had pushed myself past my own limits, maintaining a consistent pace that was faster than my legs were accustomed to, that I was doing something I hadn't done before and I was about to have my best 26.2 mile run ever, even if it wasn't in a formal race setting.
And now what does this mean for me? I don't know. I really don't. I felt pretty stoked about having finally broken through that 5 hour barrier, and it was sure fun to share that excitement with my running friend who really seemed to understand what it meant for me. But when I tried to share the enthusiasm with my husband, and with another friend, and even through other social outlets, I didn't quite get the same response - instead, more of a "Wow. You ran another 26.2 miles. Cool." This short-lived feeling of satisfaction made me realize that I must stay in touch with those intrinsically rewarding feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction and growth. It really doesn't matter who ran what, when or how fast. We each have our own journey.
"Get Out and Live," just as the slogan for the Ogden Marathon says!