Yesterday I ran 18 miles. I have never run that far, and I find it hard to believe that anyone else ever has either, because that is a long way. I am happy to report, though, that it went very well. Keeping in mind my ultimate goal of 8:00 miles for the marathon (which is now looking more like 8:20, maybe) I aimed to mosey along at a nice 9:00 pace for the 18-miler, following my training plan. After a glacially-paced first mile at 9:30, I did a fine job of keeping it between 8:15 and 9:00 for the rest of the race. For the final mile, I wanted to finish strong, so I really tried to keep up a good clip, regulate my breathing, and end on a high note. I was pumping my legs, eyeing the finish line as it approached, systematically overcoming runners ahead of me, and after I ran through the line I checked my watch and was shocked to see that I ran that last mile in 7:31. Unbelievable! Where does this come from? How am I doing this?
I had a huge grin on my face for the next few moments as I shuffled along the line and got some Gatorade and an apple. I really didn't think I had it in me to run 18 miles, let alone run my 18th mile so well. This training program is actually working, apparently. (Incidentally, my average mile time for this race was 8:35, which was great, considering that I was trying to go even slower.)
Some more good news: the thigh/knee pain I've come to live with and accept, like a prominent mole or a conjoined twin, was nowhere to be found. Instead today all of my leg muscles are generally throbbing, and the muscle behind my left knee is pulled so tight that I can't quite extend my leg. I am trying to keep my limp under control, but it was well worth it.
Some good or bad news, as you look at it: my ipod battery died at mile 8 of the run (leaving me ten miles to go), so while I got some good thinking done during the race, it looks like it may be time for me to go blow a couple hundred bucks at the Apple store and come back with an awesome new ipod, one a' them fancy square kinds. I'll keep you posted. (I also have amassed some good new tunes lately: the new Kanye album, which is way better that I would have expected, the new Britney, which is undeniable, and a little touch of Reba for those tender post-run moments.)
A few weeks back I realized that this marathon is much more than the 26.2 miles I'll be doing in a month. I've come to consider each training run, each dreaded weekend long run, as a part of it, too. So even when I think to myself, I'm going to run a marathon!, I remind myself that I am running it already, and I've been running it for 14 weeks now, and what happens during that last 26.2 is merely the icing on the cake.
This is the marathon!