A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
For the month of February, I wracked up 110 miles. It’s beginning to feel like a lot of running, almost too much. In February, I began to face that mid-training slump where you dread the moment you have to lace up your shoes and step out the door. This was probably in part to my desire to help with the school play which suddenly became a kind of wonderful black hole for time, but my running was also demanding a lot of time. It was like having the clash of the titans in my own life except it was my work life and my personal life and both of them are hobbies that I can easily say “no” to. Instead, I try and channel my inner Shonda Rhimes, and I say “yes” to as much as I can. It was rough. Perhaps a spring half marathon wasn’t my brightest idea.
When I finished my 9 mile run on Monday, my final run for the month of February, I texted the math teacher that works across the hall from me. I love all of my coworkers, but I feel like she has been especially supportive of my running when I don’t have a running buddy in town and my running friends and network all live hundreds of miles from me. She passed on a message from her husband that if I kept running west, I would probably make it to California by Christmas. I thought this was hilarious, but I know that runners do crazy things like that, so I asked him if he would like to sponsor that run. He said that he would at the rate of a penny a mile. It was all in fun of course. Today, when I made it to school, the math teacher came to me with a bag filled with pennies and a note from her husband saying that he was all paid up through February. It totally made my day and made the twelve miles after school today so much more worth it.
Over the past few weeks, I have also been focusing more on listening to my body, to when it has had enough, when I should stop and when I should slow down. I ran a few runs at a 12:15 mile pace and a 12:30 mile pace. I walked more. I ran a little less. I took an extra rest day. My legs were tired. They were hurting in ways that they had never really hurt before. The edges of my left calf would be stiff in the morning. My stomach is entering the stage of being constantly a little upset. I have a blister on the edge of my right foot. I’m 23 and some days it feels like I’m falling apart, but I pulled it all together today and ran my fastest 12 miles yet. I ran it in 2 hours, 20 minutes, and 20 seconds at an average pace of 11:41. My last mile was my fastest at 11:15. It was crazy, but I feel better than ever. I don’t feel as wiped out as I did on Monday or on last Friday’s long run or on the long run before that. I feel good. I feel ready to try out my new gym membership tomorrow. Slowing down has helped me reevaluate my running goals and it’s made me a stronger runner (and a little faster too.)
Through all of this reevaluating of my running life, I found that I needed to refocus a little bit. All of these miles are making me faster and stronger, but I’m not really running to become faster or stronger. Some days, like today, when I’ve had a stellar run and realize how much progress I’ve made, it’s incredibly hard for me to back down when I need to. I want to be faster and stronger on every single run. I want to beat my PR every time. This is impossible and a goal I should quit chasing, but it was one that clouded my vision in February and one that I still get distracted by. I run because I love the act of running. I love being out in the wide open, one of the blessings of being a rural runner. It’s just me and the miles and miles of highway and dirt roads that surround my little town and there’s nothing better. It makes you appreciate the weird looks cows give you when you run by (they all stop and stare or they run as fast as they can in the opposite direction) and how every driver waves at you as they pass. I run because it feels good and I need to slow down when I’m starting to push myself too hard.
I want to keep running and logging all the miles I can, but I also realize that if I want to do that, I’m going to have to add in some cross-training. This makes me nervous. The prospect of going into a gym to use all of the different machines is a little frightening. It’s downright scary sometimes, but I never thought I could run as far as I can or as fast as I can now either. I used to struggle to run two miles. I can overcome this fear and the voices of “I can’t” too.
In the end, here’s what I learned during the shortest month. Time is the most valuable currency I have and I need to find a way to budget it better. March is giving me a second chance at that. If I want to learn to be the best runner I can be, then I also need to learn how not to run and how to develop my fitness in other ways. It may be all about the miles, but I have to be a well-rounded athlete too. Knowing others support me in my goal will hopefully help me climb out of my slump and towards the finish line and a few more pennies. With that, I wish you all many happy miles (or hours of Netflix if that’s more your speed).
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No One Here But a Writer Who Gets Up and Try
Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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New York City based photographer STEFAN FALKE visits artists who live and work on both sides of the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region for his ongoing project. All photos and texts © Stefan Falke (No use without written permission by the author)