23 mile training run is now in the books! I got it done despite it being one of my tougher training runs to date. Due to the pace group I am a a group leader of, we have a certain pace range to maintain on long runs. This is determined by magic mile time as well as weather conditions. So, we had to slow it down this run and use a 10:30 interval. This means, run for 10 seconds and walk for 30 seconds. That is definitely hard to do. Previously, we have used 15:30s and that too wasn’t the easiest to do. It feels very jarring to run for 10 seconds, then slow down to a walk for 30 seconds and so on. Thankfully, during weekday runs, we use 30:30 intervals.
We started the run at 3am. This is due to the hot and humid weather conditions that Florida brings us. As many miles as you can get done before the sun comes up, the better. It’s rough getting up at 2am to get going for a 3am training run, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do! There were eight of us crazy early folks meeting up for the trek. We had our lights on and began our morning run.
The first miles weren’t too bad. Now, the new intervals of 10:30s weren’t my favorite. But, I kept a positive outlook and kept moving onward as I chatted with my group. We even joked about how silly the interval was with such a short time of running. It’s always the joking and stories that get you through those long miles.
By the time we got back to the school (our starting/ending spot), we had done 10 miles and it was just before 6am. I wasn’t feeling the greatest, but I wasn’t too bad at that point. This was the time to grab water, any nutrition from our cars, and to pickup/drop off some runners. Most of the 3am group was doing longer miles though, so we mostly did a pickup. The runners joining us had anywhere from 6.5 to 11 miles. We all gathered up and headed out for one of our 3 mile out, 3 mile back routes for the first group of folks. This provided the group with another water/Gatorade support stop and a needed restroom break.
This was my 13ish mile of the morning and now I was feeling the run more than before. I was feeling tired and overall sluggish and was getting a headache. With ten more miles to go, I knew I needed to suck it up and get it done. About six of the group headed back toward the school and the rest of us headed off to continue our morning adventure.
Our program director had come up with the idea to do a Scavenger Hunt starting with this weekend’s run. This was a great idea and it was at this point that we all started to talk that up. Of course, the fact that it was now light out, was helpful in that regard. What we had to do was find certain things on the list (things like the number 26, number 13, wildlife, etc.) and take a group photo with said item. Not everyone in the group had to be in it, but at least some folks. One of the girls kind of took charge of the project which helped get everyone motivated. Looking for things on the hunt list became a fun distraction from the long run.
When we headed back to the school again, I was at 19 miles and hurting. My back had decided it no longer wanted to play. It was complaining the most it has in a long time. I wondered if it was the short run interval that was the issue along with the slower pace. Either way, I was having to push myself mentally into getting back out there once we stopped for water, iced towels and other support at the school. I am so thankful for my group running friends because this became a moment I needed them. One got me an ice pack for my back, while another gave me pain reliever for my headache. Running friends are the best!
A few of us had some miles to go, including some of my group friends who had moved up a group recently. We combined forces and headed back out to pound out the miles together. Encouraging one another that we could and would do this meant a lot. After some walking, we all decided to give running again a go. This time, we set our timers for 30:30 intervals. Part of me was excited for that, yet another part not so much after putting in almost 20 miles. No matter what pace you do a long run like that, it still hurts.
The first couple of run intervals really hurt, I won’t lie. We all felt it and expressed as much. But, once we got into it, I felt okay. It was hard, but I knew I was going to get it done right beside these great friends. Before I knew it, my watch hit that glorious 23 mile mark. Despite how sore and exhausted I was, it felt awesome. That feeling of finishing a long, hard run is so rewarding. It’s another reminder that I am capable of so much. Endurance running has taught me how strong I really am.
There you have it, my second to last long run in preparation for my dream race, the NYC Marathon. I won’t tell anyone that training for a marathon is easy, because it most definitely isn’t. But, the feelings of getting those miles done are like nothing else. Every long run completed is an accomplishment no matter what pace or level of a runner you are.
Marathoners are a crazy kind of breed, we are like no other. These long, hard runs as well as the races themselves teach us so much about ourselves. We learn how truly strong we are as we run. Despite the struggles we go through during those miles, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.