Yesterday I broke the 20 mile rule in marathon training. I ran 24. It took a lot of debating with myself whether I should run that far or not. I read every article I could find on the subject of “The Long Run” and every single one of them told me not to. Every coach and training plan claimed that there was nothing to be gained beyond 20 miles beyond an increased risk of injury. And this all made tons of sense. Except that I felt that I needed to run it.
My friend and training partner & I decided that just getting the distance done would be beneficial for psychological reasons. Sure, 20 miles is tough, but I kept asking myself if I could then pull off another 10k. We agreed that since we still had 8 weeks until the race, it would be a good time to test ourselves. And, as long as we did it together (and slow enough) we could probably run forever.
Then Marianella was attacked by shin splints and pulled out. I started second guessing the workout. Was this a dumb idea? Maybe I should just run the standard 20…after all, all these experienced athletes and experts were saying that’s what I should be doing. I was afraid to do it alone. “Well, that is the battle you are fighting,” my husband said. And he was right. I am doing this alone. So, at Stupid-Early am, I laced up my shoes, strapped on my water pack and headed out. It was a very long and very lonely 12 miles out and 12 miles back on the Hop River & Airline Trails (a part of the East Coast Greenway). The out was steady in the 9:30 range and the back was in the 8:45 to 9:10 range, with the last mile at 8:00. I’m not gonna lie; it was hard. It was very hard. At mile 17 I wanted to be done. At mile 18 I was attempting to convince myself to stop and walk. But I was stronger than my brain and I finished running and I finished strong.
You see, this was not an exercise of muscle, but of mettle. As much as we need to train the body, we also need to train the mind. A marathon is a grueling distance that can be hard to prepare for mentally since an athlete can’t train the full race distance like a 5k or 10k. A marathon is pretty much run on the faith that it can be completed. When the athelete begins to doubt herself she begins to run into trouble. Several times a week a small voice in the back of my head tells me I can’t do it; I’m not conditioned enough, I’ve been through too much, it will be too hard. But, I think that voice has now been gagged.
There are risks that coming with running too many miles, but for me those risks were worth it. I needed the ego boost. I went out to battle a four-hour training run, and with mind over matter, I overcame it. By challenging myself to go beyond the 20 miler, I was able to stretch myself physically, mentally, spiritually. My mind is limber and strong. I am ready.