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Recommit (Mile by Mile)

February 4, 2012

Most seasons, after we race, my training partner Little G and I go immediately into a rest period. We cut down on our running volume, cutting out all speedwork and long runs, and giving our legs time to recover after the hard work not just of the race itself, but of the weeks it took to prepare for it. In this particular season of racing, however, the Miami Half doesn’t represent a finish line but rather a marker on the way to the true goal–the completion of six half marathons in six consecutive months. With that in mind, the typical rest period that we’re used to taking after race day wasn’t a realistic option, especially when we remember we’d like to do well at the last event on the schedule, the Ultra Michelob Challenge at Gasparilla, which will require that we have plenty of miles on our legs.

We gave our legs a day and a half or so to recover, and then on Tuesday night we went out for a short shake-out run. We went very slowly; we both felt just slightly sore from the race, but we knew, even from the first mile, that running was exactly what our sore quadriceps needed. We got to talk about what we loved about the race and what we wished we’d done differently, and so it was very much a post-race run both physically and mentally.

Yesterday, I ran four miles by myself, and today I got up before dawn with a double-digit run on the training schedule. Now, like I said, normally, this would never have been on the schedule six days after I raced a half. But I’m facing down another half marathon in two weeks, and then thirty miles of racing two weeks after that. So there’s not a lot of time to sit around and rest on my laurels. Though I knew I didn’t have to do this run at race pace, or even do all twelve miles, I also knew I had to put some kind of longer run in.

I was bummed already because I knew Little G couldn’t come with me; our schedules just aren’t compatible this weekend. I set out a few minutes after six, and I was predictably slow. Though I have my weak left knee taped with my much-adored KT tape (I picked up some of their new Pro version at the Miami expo), my muscles were still very much feeling the exertion of last week’s race, especially those last three miles where I unexpectedly asked them to drop the pace by fifteen, then thirty, then forty-five seconds each mile. As if that weren’t enough, we’ve had very strong winds in these parts the last few days, and any time I turned east, I felt as if a physical force were pushing against me, further slowing me.

Generally, when I train, I can face down a long run of any distance by preparing well in terms of fuel and route planning. I pack my fuel belt, dress for the conditions, and start out. I’m not a run-walker, and I run in a fairly predictable cadence until my next planned fuel stop, generally every four miles, after which I will resume running again. In other words, I don’t usually require a lot of walk breaks or stops.

Today was another story. I had to stop almost at the end of every mile and literally recommit to the run all over again. Yes, I will finish this. I will not turn for home from here. Instead of taking the turn that leads me home, I will deliberately choose the road that takes me away and adds distance to this run. And I will give myself permission to stop again in another mile. It was not a fun run, but this is what distance running is–discipline and commitment and putting in the work because it has to be put in. I’m not injured or in pain or even–when I really think about it–that tired from the race. I’m just cranky, and out of the habit of running alone. And it was windy. Those are not good reasons to shirk on a run.

I actually managed to pick up the pace at the tail end of the run, and I am satisfied with my descending overall splits: 10:13, 10:09, 10:01, 9:49, 9:42, 9:30, 9:24, 9:11, 9:07, 8:50, 8:31, 8:19.

I’ll make a quick, and obvious, spiritual and life application: sometimes, life, too, requires that kind of day-by-day, or week-by-week, recommitment. Though the Boss and I have a happy marriage, I remember a season when life, generally, was somewhat dry. It wasn’t that we were going through a great crisis like abuse or infidelity, it was just one of those patches where marriage required a week-by-week vow: I will not run from this. I will not take the turn that takes me away from what I promised. I will deliberately choose the road that takes me toward him, and adds intimacy and longevity to our marriage. And I refuse to give myself permission to choose differently.

Recommitment. It’s a good thing. In running. In marriage. And in life.

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