I am soooo exhausted from this run!
I ran all 12 miles on the faux track, as I couldn’t think of any other way to do the run while keeping plenty of water and Gatorade available. It was pretty sunny, but I remembered to wear sunscreen, so I’m a little more tanned but not sunburned at all.
I drove to and from the track. When I got out of the car, I had two bottles of Gatorade and maybe five bottles of water that I carried to a picnic table. Several guys were walking around the track who looked… sketchy, maybe? They had lots of tattoos, their pants were sagging, they wore caps that were kind of askew, and most notably, they smoked cigarettes. There were maybe two dozen of them, walking around the track in groups of three or four. Anyway, I got out of the car with all this gatorade and water just as a group of three of these guys was passing. One of them asked me how far I was going to run, and after I replied “hopefully 12 miles”, he took a drag off his cigarette and said, “good for you, you can do anything if you put your mind to it!” I resisted the urge to tell him about all the people I know who have used running to quit smoking…
This particular park is adjacent to a site that used to be a hospital, and there are still many doctor’s offices nearby. A building near the park houses a mental health center that provides outpatient addiction treatment services, and it’s quite common to see many of their patients smoking outside their building. So after a couple of miles, I was not at all surprised to see all those sketchy-looking guys head back inside the mental health services building- apparently they had been on some kind of midday exercise group therapy thing? (For what it’s worth- our local police department drives past this park on a frequent and regular basis, and I have never ever felt the least bit threatened, including today. The men and their cigarettes were mildly annoying, but not at all threatening.)
The first 3 miles were awful. My legs felt fine, but I just did not have the willpower or desire to push myself. I was frustrated, mad at myself, and most of all I felt helpless.
But then, thankfully, I found it- the rhythm that I needed to keep going. It was perfect and the next several miles- really, the entire rest of the run- was perfect. In fact, I was able to perfectly push myself such that I could maintain a reasonably fast pace (for me) without tiring myself out.
Around mile 6, the mental health guys came out again. At this point, I was very thankful for my headphones- just because they meant I could ignore all the weird flirty things they said without feeling too guilty.
Around mile 8ish, I slowed down and walked a lap while talking to an older man who seemed a bit lonely (and a bit intimidated by the mental health guys). He was very talkative, and told me about how he thought it was great that I was running, and how he’d “let himself go” and gained some weight, but then he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but now he was walking regularly and had lost some weight and was healthier.
Soon after, the mental health guys went back inside their building and I was left mostly on my own again.
At mile 10.5, I was starting to struggle again- although this time, I was struggling because my legs were wearing out. Thankfully my mind and willpower were much stronger than that. I rounded a curve and noticed a man from the Parks & Rec department carrying a trash bag and picking up trash with one of those pointy sticks. Then I saw him walk over to the picnic table with all my bottles and start sweeping the bottles into his trash bag. I felt like a total dork as I screamed, “HEY! Those are my bottles! Those are my bottles!” and dashed across the park. Unfortunately I was only able to save one bottle of Gatorade. Thank goodness my run was almost over.
At almost the same time, the battery died in my mp3 player. Major bummer. Thank goodness my run was almost over.
That last mile and half or so was a struggle. My legs were tiring, I didn’t have any music, and I was just totally dependent on being able to will myself around the track. I kept up the push until about halfway into the last lap, when I ran past an older couple walking on the track. As I usually do when I run around people, I said “excuse me” and then “thank you” when I ran past them. I actually don’t remember it, but I must’ve asked them how they were doing, because the husband replied with something like “not as energetic as you!” So I stopped and walked the last half-lap with them and explained how I was training for a race, and how this was my last lap.
Once I was done, I sat at “my” picnic table and finished that bottle of gatorade. My legs were tired and sore, but I was still in one piece and I’d finished my 12 miles. In fact, my method for counting the laps (moving bits of duct tape around on my shirt) seemed less reliable today- it’s worked okay in the past, but today I really suspect that I ran at least two “extra” laps that didn’t get counted.
After my run, my whole body (but especially my legs) were covered in a gritty coat of dirt, as usual. I did think, afterwards, that this “dirt” may actually be salt from my sweat. But it wasn’t white-ish, and I’ve heard that sweat-salt usually leaves pale residue. Hm.
I took more than enough water and gatorade today, and that definitely helped. Staying hydrated kept me strong right up to the end.
Finding that rhythm also helped. I was able to run strong and fast (for me) without wearing out.
Overall, my time was 2:54 for 12 miles (but that might have been more like 12.6 or 12.9 miles, if I ran an extra lap or two or three). My gut is really telling me that I maintained a strong 14:00 pace the whole time, and I’m just overjoyed with that. I don’t have any more time for long runs, but if I can hit this strong pace during my race, I know I can totally crush my previous time!