“Allow your acceptance of the universality of suffering to be a transformative experience. You do that by simply looking at what pains you squarely in the face and then moving on. You don’t have to move fast or far. You can just go an inch. You can mark your progress breath by breath.” Cheryl Strayed
I ran 14.12 miles…for the first time… I have now officially run more than a half-marathon. The last 3.12 were HARD….PAINFUL….It had been a long time since I’d had a hard run. PAIN as in wait, am I really going to run a full marathon in 3.5 months? As in, did I really start a whole blog based on that decision and announce it to the world in Women’s Running Magazine? As in, my legs feel like lead and am I going to have to run another 12.08 more miles than this on February 14th? As in what in the world possessed me to think that just because I ran a few halfs and felt great, I would be able to double that mileage?
Here is a break down of how it went. I was actually supposed to just run 7 miles with my L. A. Leggers training group, and 14 miles with them the next week. But I knew that I would be out-of-town this coming weekend and not able to get in a double-digit run, so I decided to swap weeks. I joined the Leggers for the first 7, and then continued on my own for the second half.
This is generally what happens when I run. The first 1 – 3 miles are ok. By mile 3, I’m in my rhythm. By mile 4, I feel like I could run forever… Run 100 miles like Dean Karnazes, why not? By mile 8, I usually still feel like I can give Dean a run for his money….I am invincible. By mile 10, I start to think maybe I have less in common with Dean than I thought….maybe I can’t quite do 100… By mile 12, I abruptly go from I can run 100 miles to ok, well, I’m not sure that I can do even 1 more mile….
On this past run, the I don’t know if I can do this went from mile 11 – 14.12. And as the pain and fatigue started to hit my body, I had a whole internal panic monologue that went like this….
Oh shit! There is actually only 3.5 months left until 26.2. I am in pain! I am tired! I am dehydrated. Why did I have 2 glasses of wine last night and not drink a gallon of water after when I knew that I’d be doing this in the morning….I am an idiot. Why didn’t I bring proper fuel…one pack of Gu and a handful of toasted marshmallow jelly beans does not get you through 14.12 miles! Why didn’t I get to bed on time? And then I start thinking about some quotes about PAIN that I have read and have resonated with me….quotes that I have written down or taken screen shots of …. quotes that according to Cheryl Strayed, can act as “mini-instruction manuals for the soul.”
Recently, my obsession has been turning away from Kristin Armstrong and towards Cheryl Strayed. This happened after I read her book Tiny Beautiful Things and wanted to underline every single word. I had read her book Wild a few years ago, and honestly thought …Meh… but Tiny Beautiful Things…. It is filled with wisdom about pain, hardship, and personal growth. After reading it, I want to be Cheryl…. I want to give advice like her, I want to write like her, I want to set up a sleeping bag in a tent in her mind and live there….and I hate camping…. I want to do all of that without having to go through what she has…without losing my mother at a young age or being a recovering heroin addict or hiking 1,100 miles solo through the Pacific Crest Trail….(I’m scared when I attempt a little mid-city LA trail run by myself.)
So at mile 11, I start thinking about Cheryl, as well as some other pain quotes that have resonated with me. I recall one from Elizabeth Carr’s blog Roving Muse that I read and re-read and then wrote down immediately..”Once I figured out during that first marathon that the thing about pain is that it demands to be felt, and once I admitted that I felt it and moved on, I could keep running forever.” Until I read that quote, I was somehow determined that if I was going to run a marathon, I was going to do it pain-free. I’m not superwoman. It’s ok to have pain. It is ok to feel it and still move on. Sigh…relief.
I recalled a quote from Haruki Murakami describing what others say about running, “‘Man this hurts, I can’t take it anymore.’ The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.” I recall reading something years ago from Eckhart Tolle about “the pain body,” but can’t remember if it would somehow apply to running, and I make a mental note to re-read that chapter in his book.
Thinking of these quotes calms me down despite my legs that feel like lead but are still moving, and at a decent pace of still just under a 10 minute mile. I become a little more rational again. I go over what I know. This run today is harder than I would expect for 14 miles because I had 2 glasses of wine last night and didn’t properly hydrate the last few days. I promise myself that for the next 3.5 months, I will limit wine consumption to 1 glass at most if any the night before a double-digit run. I will work on hydrating better all week. I will fuel appropriately. I will sleep properly for at least 2-3 nights before. I will do all the double-digit mileage with my running group when possible. I’ve recently been cross-training more, so my legs are sore from that. On the actual race day, I will have the energy of the crowds and the event which will help drive me. I still have 3.5 months to get my mileage up….the marathon training has really only finally now begun….I will have many more progressively increasing double-digit runs before February 14th.
I need to start mental training. I know that at some point the pain will come….hopefully that point is much closer to mile 20 than 11….and I need to work on my mental game as much if not more than my physical one. I need to channel my inner Cheryl, without having to be a recovering heroin addict and sexually abused by my grandfather as a child, and use pain as an opportunity for growth rather than a reason to hide and scurry away. “Hello fear, Thank you for being here. You are my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.” Thank you for this quote Cheryl…I will see pain and fear not as my enemies but as my coaches.
**The quote from Elizabeth Carr on pain demanding to be felt can be found in her post here entitled Exactly One Year.