Things are going well: I’m nailing every workout; I’ve been training full-tilt for almost 14 months and haven’t been injured; I’m adding mileage and intensity and I’m feeling great.
This is exactly where I want my running to be.
Often we look at races as major tests of our fitness, the demarcation points along a continuum of steady training. Both past and future races can come to define our progress as we strive to become stronger and smarter athletes.
But how often do we really stop to reflect on the running we’re doing right now – the steady, anonymous miles that fill the training schedule each week? Is it just a means to an end, merely an effort to influence the outcome of a singular event that might be weeks or months away?
I’ve had some great runs in the past week and they have made me realize how much I love this. I love the distance – double-digit miles several days a week and 22 miles in a single weekend run. I love the speed – almost 12 miles last Wednesday at an overall pace under 7 minutes. I love the strategy – finding the right combination of fueling and clothing and pacing that make a great run come together. I love all this running.
I don’t remember enjoying marathon training this much either of the two times I’ve done it before. I fought with injury and motivational issues and neither race ended how I would have liked. But this time around I look forward to every run, no matter how challenging it might be. Other runners have asked how I can run 22 miles without company or even an iPod to distract me. I ask: Why would I want to be distracted? I want to be aware of every moment, every footfall.
But why do I love it? Certainly there’s the satisfaction of successfully completing the types of runs I mentioned above. And, yes, there’s the comfort of knowing this training is setting me up for a solid performance on race day. I’m sure all the endorphins play a role, too. But there’s something more: It’s the knowledge that it can’t last forever.
As much as I’d like to keep doing this indefinitely, I know that it’s going to come to an end. I’m expecting to give everything at Shamrock and will likely be unable to jump back into running immediately afterward. Plus there’s the fact that, after 14 months of this, I can’t keep asking my family to let me venture off for 3 or 4 hours on weekend mornings.
The biggest factor is that we’re having another kid (woohoo!). Our second daughter is due in late June and that will necessarily curtail my high-mileage hijinks. After my first daughter was born I hardly exercised for almost five months, until I finally saw what was happening to me and decided to make a change. I have already vowed to not let that happen again this time, but I’m certainly not going to be putting in 50-60 miles a week for a while. And when I do come back, who knows when (or if) I’ll return to the level I’m running now.
So all I can do now is pour myself into this moment. A moment where I’m running the best that I ever have. This moment – every mile – is a gift, and I don’t plan to squander it. I won’t say that I’m not running with specific metrics in mind, but as I’ve chased those goals I’ve treasured every opportunity to find that perfect rhythm, when my legs reach effortlessly and my breathing is smooth and my eyes are sharp and I can hardly hear my shoes as they float along the pavement.
Because, when it comes down to it, this moment is all that we really have.Bike: 37.6/222.4 miles Run: 58.4/266.8 miles