Let me cut to the chase: Lina and I ran our second 20 miler of the training cycle on Sunday and it was miserable. It was the most painful training run I’ve ever done, and the second most painful run of my life. (The Providence marathon still holds the title…and hopefully always will.) I know I should adopt the same attitude towards long runs that I have about all other runs, which is that some are bound to be bad, some are bound to be amazing, and the majority will just be normal/good.
But honestly, I never thought I could have a long run as painful as the one today after following a plan that seemed to prepare me so well. All I can conclude is that my body wanted to send me the message that I have to respect the distance: just because I ran 30 miles in two days before, doesn’t mean that now it’s an easy thing to do. Period. To be clear, I never thought that, but apparently my legs and feet really wanted to drive that message home.
Lina and I ran the same Norristown-to-West-Philly route that we did for our first 20 miler, and we had a similar plan for how we were going to run it. We decided to run 3 miles at 9:00 pace, and then 2 miles at 8:30 pace, and this five mile block would be repeated four times.
For roughly the first 13-15 miles, everything went well. We ended up running those first 15 miles slightly faster than we had planned, but at an average pace still slower than that of the first 20 miler. Around mile 13, we realized we were running 8:37 pace during a portion when we should have been doing 9:00 pace, so we decided that we’d just try and hold that pace rather than follow the original plan for the remainder of the run.
We ran into Nick (Lina’s boyfriend) on his long run around mile 14 (for us), and got to run with him for about two miles. It was fun to have a new person in our pack for a little while because it changed things up, but ultimately I think he was happy to leave us because he pointed out that our ponytails kept flinging sweat on him – funny, and really gross. Ha.
About half a mile after he left us, both Lina and I bonked. Let me make this distinction again: we didn’t merely hit a wall where we could chant ‘mind over matter’ to ourselves and push through, we bonked, which means our legs ran out of fuel, physiologically, and no amount of mental grit could change that. Lina became nauseated and we were both assaulted with severe tenderness in our feet and achy-ness in our legs (hellooooo mile 18 of Providence). We slowed down our pace by nearly 30 seconds, but the pain didn’t subside at all. Every step was a struggle.
I admitted to Lina that if she hadn’t been there, I would have stopped at mile 18 and walked the rest of the way. This, my friends, is why I would never train for a marathon without a running buddy. Even though we BOTH wanted to stop running (and promptly die on the side of the road), the feeling of not wanting to let each other down was strong enough to push us to end.
When we finally made it to 20 miles, we felt relief from knowing the run was over, but unfortunately we did NOT feel relief physically. We had pushed ourselves to that place where everything we did hurt – running, walking, standing, squatting, lying down. It’s really upsetting to not be able to escape the pain, and I think both Lina and I were on the verge of tears as we walked the two extra blocks to Lina’s house. (I certainly was.)
Eventually the pain subsided, but Lina’s legs and feet continued to hurt for the rest of the day and I threw up and got a massive dehydration headache later on. I felt severely hungover, and I guess in a way, I was. We ended up completing the run only 5 minutes slower than the first time (official time: 2:56:47), but the proximity in times is extremely misleading given the drastic difference in the ways we felt.
This 20 miler is really bugging me because like I said above, I really never expected to feel this terribly on a run for which I felt so well-prepared. I have been trying so hard to do everything right this time around. I’ve been running higher mileage, I’ve been eating enough, I’ve been resting when I need to rest and running hard when I need to run hard, and it frustrates me to no end to do all of these things and still experience a run like this one.
Lina and I think it may just be that our bodies aren’t yet used to running 20 mile runs so close together, which makes me dread the third and final 20 miler. But also if this is the case, I will need to be very diligent about respecting the taper before the race. My biggest fear is reliving Providence.
To end, I want to share the article “10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Marathon”, because I love all the advice. I particularly like the advice on carbo loading and on remembering to have fun. After a run like Sunday’s, I need to remind myself that even though this marathoning thing is hard and sometimes reallllllly painful, it’s ultimately something I choose to do because I enjoy running and I enjoy a good challenge. Running is a hobby for me, so if I’m forgetting to have fun, I’m not doing it right.