Long Run Redemption
“We can be redeemed only to the extent to which we see ourselves.”
Run long enough and bad runs are bound to surface. They’re certainly not subtle when they do. Last Saturday I had one of the worst runs of this training cycle, thus far. My schedule called for 20 miles; I could barely make it five. Uncooperative legs, riddled with aches and pains, refused to loosen up. My mind wasn’t fully present and prepared to tackle a long run. It’s one of a handful of times I had to quit early. This time, not by a mile or so, but by 15! I walked home nearly in tears – disappointed, deflated, angry.
As demoralizing as the run was, I knew it wasn’t due to lack of ability. I’d run 20 miles two weeks prior without issue; and I ran 18 miles the previous weekend feeling great. Perhaps it was the result of cumulative factors; maybe it was more in my head than anything. Whatever the reason, I knew I’d attempt long run number two the following morning.
I always allow myself a degree of flexibility in training. Not every training run needs to be spot-on. Workouts get shifted around; pace isn’t always where it needs to be. Usually, I’m content knowing I do my best given the circumstances of the day or week. However, the long runs are the cornerstone of my training. I need them not only to build endurance, but to train my brain. It’s one thing on which I’m working diligently – building confidence to make my race day push. Until November, the closest conditions to race day I get are these long runs.
Originally I told myself I’d run 15 miles on Sunday. Combine those with the junky five from the previous day to total 20 miles. Done. I can manage 15 miles. I would still hit my weekly mileage goal in the end. In reality, I knew a full do-over was in the works. My thoughts were churning. I wanted to make amends and run all 20 miles in one shot. It was a matter of restoring conviction.
Saturday evening, I was in Brooklyn for dinner. Walking, I noticed graffiti (always catches my eye) in a lovely script. The striking white letters on a black post read, “Let it be easy.” I snapped a photo and let the words take root in my brain. Later that night, I did an Epsom salt soak for my legs. Foam rolling unearthed an alarming amount of trigger points in my calves and quads. My legs felt pulverized by the time I went to sleep.
The next morning, my legs were comfortable and ready to run. My brain was also anticipating redemption. I was ready to have a go at those 20 miles. I set out for one of the best runs I’ve had recently! My body felt comfortable the entire workout. I kept my form relaxed, my mind easy. At no point during the run did I have doubts about making the full distance. Everything fell into place and it felt amazing. Looking back, maybe I paced a bit too fast compared to plan. But it was the result of just letting go, enjoying the moment, and letting the miles roll under my feet. It’s a feeling I hope to have on marathon day.
As I traveled the city by foot that morning – with views of the water, skyline, and bridges as backdrop – I thought, “let it be easy.” Not that there weren’t moments I needed to push, or harden my resolve. It was more a matter of accepting the moment and being present. There was no struggle – no coercing my body – just a peaceful run that reestablished belief in myself and my training.
This weekend I learned the bad workouts are just as important as the good. They’re opportunity in disguise. Nothing fuels the fire better than realizing we have a choice to give in or push back. I needed that. I’d rather a detestable training run, with the chance to rectify, than a bad race experience. In training, as in life, the bad days don’t last. Never doubt the difference a day can make.