Lately I've been contemplating what drives some of us to run for recreation, and more particularly, to run long distances. I've come to realize that in order for someone to be willing to put their body through the tough physical demands and mental and emotional frustration that often comes with long hours of training, there must be a unique desire to achieve something greater than what has yet been achieved. For most dedicated runners, it's more about the intrinsic rewards received than it is about making physical changes to the body or just getting in a little exercise. Sometimes those feelings of satisfaction come from an individual run, sometimes they come from a season of training that culminates in a race.
I feel I've been somewhat sidelined during my training for this marathon. My focus has been a little blurry, my thoughts a little scattered. For a time I became distracted with various other goals, some of which conflicted with a hard-lined marathon training plan. When I was forced to deal with a back injury a few of weeks ago, I started to feel even more discouraged and my love of running waned.
On Saturday, despite the fact that at most I had run 6 miles at once for almost 2 weeks, I decided it was time for me to go long. I put a few new songs on my mp3 player, geared up and hit the road at 6:30 am. For the first 15 miles, I ran alone. The weather was fairly calm: 45 degrees, mild winds. I breathed deeply, ran easy, and soaked in the mountain air and sky around me. I thought about how much I used to love getting out for a nice, long run on my own. I never really cared much how fast I went. I just went. Around mile 13, I started to feel a few drops of rain and the wind starting to pick up. I called my friend and trainer, Misty, who was planning to join me for the last few miles of my run. I let her know it was starting to rain, but she didn't care. She met up with me as I reached mile 15 and together we ran the last 5 miles, rain blowing sideways, pelting our faces as we tried to carry on a conversation. When we reached our destination (the gym, which was at 20 miles total for me), we were both drenched and my legs were completely fatigued, but then I looked at my 6 months pregnant friend with her post-run glow, dripping wet hair and giant smile on her face, and I heard her say, "I love running in the rain!" I was flooded with those familiar feelings of gratification. I had run 20 miles, and I felt surprisingly great. As she and I stood in the hallway near the weight room where my husband was working out, she said something to Chris about how wet, cold and tired I must be after running so far, to which he lovingly replied, "She brings it on herself!"
Yep, that's right. And now I remember why. Now I remember why I love running so far and so long that it feels as though my legs may give out at any moment. I cling self-righteously to my reasons for giving myself black toenails, hamstring and calf twitches, ravenous hunger pangs, wind and sunburned skin (some days!), blisters and potential cramping in pretty much any, unpredictable part of my body ~ I love to run long! There really is nothing else that compares with the feeling of accomplishment after keeping your legs on the move for so many miles...and the motivation comes from the heart.
In response to the horrific tragedy that occurred at the Boston Marathon on Monday, I have seen a lot of posts on Facebook showing support and offering condolences to the runners, victims and their family and friends. One of quotes that stands out to me the most was one that said, "If you're trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target." Well put. In the end, we will all run on.