Week 9 of marathon training brought on the 16-mile run, my longest run to date! And it sucked – BIG TIME! But I’m getting ahead of myself……
It was a sunny, cool morning when I headed out. The first 3 miles were great and I was feeling optimistic about completing the run with no problems. After all, I got past the first 3 miles and now all I had left was a half-marathon – something that I’ve done several times. Once again, I did 2:1 run/walk intervals which puts me at my race goal pace of a 12:00-13:00/mile pace. After 45 minutes, I ate a Clif Shot mocha energy gel. I was also sipping Gatorade and water that I had brought in my hydration belt. Things were going well and I just kept telling myself that if I could get to mile 10 with no problem, then I’d only have 6 miles to go and I’d be good. I got to mile 10, and then to mile 11.
And that’s when things went downhill. At this point, I had eaten two more energy gels, Huma Chia Seed Mocha flavor. By mile 11, I felt like I was going to throw up. And I also felt like I was going to poop myself (sorry if that’s TMI). That was when I seriously considered just stopping right there and heading home. So I started walking and after a few minutes, the stomach issues passed and I felt better, so I started back up with the 2:1 run/walk intervals. Those next 5 miles were challenging, to say the least. Every inch of my legs ached, particularly my glutes. I was afraid to eat another energy gel because the thought of eating one made me feel nauseous, and so I continued to sip my water and Gatorade and I tried to quiet the thoughts of doubt creeping through my head.
Those last 5 miles, particularly the last 3, were completely ran on mental strength. Quitting was not an option, although I seriously wanted to. But what really dominated my thoughts by that point was this: there’s no way in hell I can run another 10.2 miles. NO WAY. And that really got to me and when I did finally finish the 16 miles, I started to cry. (Thank goodness there was no one else around!) I cried because for the first time, I started to have doubts about doing a marathon. Doing 16 miles was HARD. How would I ever be able to do 26.2?
I walked home, stretched out, and cried some more. I hurt all over. I was exhausted. I just kept thinking about how I still have to add on 10.2 more miles in order to do a marathon and all I could think was I CAN’T. I just can’t. At the pace I run, that’s two more hours of running. TWO HOURS! Ugh.
I drank some water, then cherry juice, and I took a hot shower. And then I cried some more. Good grief, I’ve not cried that much in a long time. But I felt so damn defeated. And tired. So damn tired.
Once I showered and got dressed, I tried to eat something, but my body was still rebelling. I did manage to get a bagel with some peanut butter and a banana in me, but my stomach was still not very happy. Then I had some coffee because for some reason after long runs, I crave coffee. I sat outside, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and soon the feelings of exhaustion and defeat started to leave me and I started to feel like my old self again.
We had dinner with friends, sat outside around the fire pit and I started letting myself think about the next long run in two weeks: 18 miles. I remembered that when I was training for my first half-marathon and I ran 10 miles for the first time, I felt this same way. I didn’t think there was any way I could run an additional 3.1 miles because getting to that 10-mile point was so incredibly hard and I just didn’t think that I had it in me to do more. But you know what? I came back that next week and I ran 11 miles and it felt great! And I also went on to do a half-marathon. So I hope that this weekend experience is the same thing. I hope that I somehow find the strength to do 18 miles. And then 20, and so on until I achieve a marathon.
Right now, I’m not really sure if I can do a marathon. But at this point, I’m not giving up and I’m going to keep training. I hope I have the strength, both physically and mentally, to do this. I know my body continues to surprise me. My legs keep moving, even though they’re tired. My heart stays strong, even though my head tells me to give up. As long as my determination holds out, I can and will do this.