22 Mile Saturday

To be a successful distance runner, a person needs to log in many, many miles of training.  You have to build a lean, strong body by eating properly, getting enough rest, and doing strength training.  You have to learn to listen to your body and know when it’s OK to stop, but more importantly, you have to learn to battle through unbelievable fatigue and keep your body moving, even when every muscle you have is screaming to stop.  Last of all, a runner needs confidence:  Being able to shut up the little voice that is trying to convince you that you will never be able to finish what you set out to do.

I’ve trained hard, logging over 2,200 miles since I began the sport in June of 2009.  I’ve been doing strength training for over a year, and I’m definitely stronger than I was when I started.  I’m eating pretty well, and getting almost 8 hours of sleep each night.  These items, what I call the physical components of running, are progressing fairly well, and I just keep getting better, little by little.

It’s the mental aspects of running that have caused me some concern.  Fighting through the fatigue and pain goes hand in hand with having confidence.  Why should I keep pushing hard when I know I can’t do it anyway?  Both of my previous marathons have come to a point where I had to stop running and start walking, something that bothers me, and leads me to question my ability even today.  No, the mental portion of my game needs some major work!

My runs have gotten faster and steadier, and my friends at Red River Runners Grand Forks continue to encourage me, and tell me that my goal of running the 2011 Fargo Marathon in less than 4 hours is easily within my grasp.  They seem to have a confidence in my running abilities that I lack, and I continually tell them that I don’t honestly know if I will be able to do it or not.

My confidence got a little boost last October, when I completed the FM Mini Marathona with a fellow Red River Runner at my side.  Jessica is a seasoned distance runner whose ability far exceeds mine, and she kept us at a blistering pace (for me, not her) throughout the race.  There was a point where I thought I would have to stop, after climbing a gradual half mile hill out of the river bottom, but she said slowing down was better than stopping.  She was right.  A few minutes later, after we got our wind back, we picked the pace back up and crossed the finish line with a time I hadn’t thought possible.  I consider that race to be my best yet, and it did wonders for my confidence!

Running with Jessica, 2010 FM Mini Marathon

I believe the most important components of training are the really long runs a person builds up to shortly before the actual race.  I got in one 20 mile training run last year before the Fargo Marathon and it wiped me out and thoroughly defeated me.  I got in two 20 milers before the Bismarck Marathon last September, but both were low energy solo runs that didn’t do much for my confidence.

For this year’s Fargo Marathon, I wanted to complete three 20 milers.  Dave, another fellow Red River Runner Grand Forks, who has been highly successful, tried to convince me to make one or more at least 22 miles, so last Saturday, I set out to do just that!  The “official” training route for the day was 18 miles, so I decided I was going to do an extra four miles after the group was done.

I discovered a few days earlier that Jessica was also going to be doing 22 miles on Saturday, so the two of us decided to run at least the 18 miles together.  We met up at Center Court Fitness at 7AM to find at least 30 other runners getting ready to run too.  The mob set out to complete a 9 mile loop around town, once if they were training for the half marathon, or twice if they were training for the full marathon.  It was 38 degrees and while we expected the sun to rise and warm us up, a cloud bank moved in instead, keeping us in the cold gloom!

About halfway through the first loop, there was a scheduled water stop, so we pulled in, only to find Dave already there, waiting to join us.  The three of us continued on for the rest of the 18 miles, holding a steady pace around 8:45 per mile; faster than I would have imagined possible for me over that distance!  We puffed, we groaned, and we sweat, but mostly we talked about everything going on in our lives, while the minutes and miles flew by.

When we completed the second loop, and I had logged 18 miles, Jessica split off to run home , while Dave and I headed back towards the heart of Grand Forks, wanting to get a little more mileage under our belts.  Dave, who is in a league all by himself, logging an hour of running prior to meeting the group, because he’s training for an “ultra” marathon, ran with me for part of the way, before turning to go back.  I surprised myself by keeping up our established pace for the last 2 miles, even though I was running by myself.

I returned to Center Court Fitness tired, but feeling like I was on top of the world!  I had done it!  I ran longer than ever before while training, 22 miles in 3 ¼ hours, and I still had energy left, even though I was going faster than ever before too!  Talk about a confidence booster just when I needed it the most!  Thank you Dave for convincing me to attempt 22 miles, then running along with me while I did it.  Thank you Jessica for once again showing me how to continue running even when I felt like I needed to stop.  Maybe your unwavering confidence in my ability will some day make me believe in it too!  Saturday’s 22 miles was a great start!

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