This week, my long run was set for 24 miles. Most marathoners don't really extend their runs this long but I like to because the workout puts me on the cusp of the full marathon distance. The fatigue, the muscle soreness, the mental strain are all part of what is felt during a run of this type. Leaving me with the experience of not only sharpening my physical conditioning but also of the callusing of the mental surface that goes on during the workout.
Sunday morning 5:45 we met at the Old Bell entrance. Megan, Caitlin, Billy, and, a new fast runner that just moved into town, Laurie. I believe I have her name right were in our initial starting group. We ran around under the lights near the entrance for about 20 minutes so we could pick up Aaron before heading in to the park.
With head lamps shinning we made our expedition down the greenway, across Margret Wallace, and along Harris Blvd.
By the time we returned to Old Bell, my Garmin has tallied up 11+ miles of the 24 miles that I needed.
A few dropped off, but we picked some as well. Included in the group were Alana, Ben, Kent, Mike, and Dan. I believe that I have everyone now and back out we went.
We had been running 7ish for the most part but as everyone got warmed up, then the pace started creeping under 7 minutes.
Normally, with a shorter run, I would not think too much about it. But now, I was starting to run miles 18-22 and the legs were starting to feel a little weary. These guys don't really think too much about it and honestly, I was not complaining. A side from trying to hang with them, I didn't have to do much work.
I have heard coaches tell their runners about the "rope" analogy. In this analogy, if I am trying to stay with another runner that is faster than me, I need to create a mental rope between us. The mental rope ties us together and drags me along when I am struggling. If the work load becomes too difficult the rope breaks and I lose contact with the faster runner. He then gets away. But if I can draw him back, I stay with him. By staying with him, I will, many times, be running farther and faster than I ever expected.
This was what I did toward the end of this run. My legs didn't feel like running faster, but I imaged the "rope" holding us together and I would dig down to keep contact. Knowing full well, if I didn't stay close, then the rope would snap and I would be on my own running to the finish. More than once I slowly tugged on the rope. Each time, willing myself back into the safety of the pack. At least until we reached the split between lower and upper Boyce. Ben took them up the hill. With a little over 1.5 to run, I decided it was time to sever the rope and run on my own so I took lower Boyce route.
Surprising, I didn't actually slow down that much. For 22 miles, I didn't have to exert too much energy focusing on my running and had leaned on the rest of the group to maintain the pace. And, I used the distractions of their conversations to keep my mind off the difficulty of the effort. I just had to maintain contact with them.
Now, with only a short distance to run that I was free to fly the solo to the finish. I cruised through the rest of the mileage with some looping around the entrance at Old Bell. And, I was feeling pretty good about the effort.
After the run, I checked my Garmin for the overall pace. The average across 24 miles was 7:08.
Not bad effort and it only took me 2 hours and 51 minutes.
These really long runs are tough. Doing them solo is the toughest of all. But doing them with a group is awesome because the miles wear on the body but the mind stays focused yet distracted at the same time. The difficulty of the effort is kept in the shadow by the energy of the running group.
That's why I give major props to all my friends in the Charlotte Running Club.
Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner