"Just go home," I told myself , about one mile into yesterday afternoon's sixteen mile run. "Turn around. You can get your long run in later in the week." I was weary after a lock-in with nine youth from church on the night before, and a morning service project with those same youth pulling invasive English Ivy out from a hillside at a local nature center.
And so as I struggled up and down over the rolling hills of the first four miles of my workout yesterday I tried to talk myself out of the run, until finally my legs and breathing fell into a steady rhythm as the route plateued and then headed downhill toward the Potomac River, where a wonderfully flat three mile stretch of a canal tow-path awaited me.
In the final few miles my doubts returned. "Stop here, call Jessicah, get a ride home," I told myself as I ran past a grocery store. And again, at a split in the path where I could have made a quicker route home – but would have falled short of the sixteen mile goal – I once again tried to psych myself out. "Go right, head home, be done." My knee began to ache. Finding the strength to stride over curbs and onto sidewalks became a serious challenge.
Nonetheless, I stuck to the plan and finished the run strong, despite the wicked hills that I faced after about mile ten. In fact, this was my best long run to date – I hit every mile under 9:00, and my half marathon split was much faster than my time at the Richmond Half Marathon two months ago.
Yet when I got home I was worthless. My body was extremely achey, and despite stretching, my muscles siezed up, making it very hard for me to move. I couldn't eat much, I was thirsty for hours, and I was exhausted. I fell asleep about 90 minutes after my run, woke up a few hours later, and then went to sleep for the evening.
Ever since running the Richmond Half Marathon in November, I have been eager to run a marathon. I chose the National Marathon on March 26, because it would give the motivation to train during the winter. Furthermore, I loved the idea that I could go Couch-to-26.2 in one year.
(I began running last April, after 17 years of inactivity. At the start, I couldn't run for two minutes without getting winded, but thanks to the Couch-to-5K program I got to the point where I could run a full 3 miles. I wrote about my return to running in a blogpost last June, Getting Reacquainted with Running).
But I'll admit that I'm having doubts. I got my butt kicked on – and especially after – yesterday's run, even as I put in one of my best workouts to date. About 20 hours after my run, I still feel like garbage. Do I really want to keep doing this to myself? Perhaps I should dial it back and run the half marathon instead? Or, should I be preparing for and recovering from my long runs differently, so that I'm not in such horrible shape a day later?
I'd greatly appreciate any advice that my running friends can share. I'm not sure if I'm simply being plagued by fickle doubts – as I was on yesterday's run – or if I indeed need to dial it down and get more mileage and fitness before I try to conquer the 26.2.
I know I can run a marathon, but simultaneously, I'm not sure if I can … right now, anyway.