from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.
Lao-Tzu

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

the longest 12 miles I ever ran

All three races - 5K, 10K, 20K - shared the same starting point, with the 20K taking off the earliest. For the first half a mile, while winding our way through the uphill casino parking lot, everybody passed me. Well, not quite everybody. A couple of 70-year-olds passed me just a bit further.

The course, marked by tiny orange flags, was easy to identify, but running is was a whole different proposition. Off it went, along track tires and ravines, across ditches and arroyos, over gravel and rock, left and right, up and down, incessently. The first mile marker I noticed was the 5K turnaround. It was incomprehensible to me I was just 1.5 miles into the nightmare.

At mile 3 two boys passed by with such velocity I inferred they could not have just lagged behind, they were the winners of the 10K, striving for the turnaround. Seconds later I saw them again flying by from the opposite direction, God bless them, they had half of their thing behind them. I never envied anybody as much.

An endless ordeal later, I crossed paths again with a few lonely figures, and I computed, shocked, these were the winners of my 20K, their turnaround already behind them. One of them was familiar - a guy with dark shades I had encountered repeatedly on my week-end runs on the Academy track. We always exchanged glances before, but never said hello. This time we did. It was a kind of highpoint.

Next I saw the five mile marker, and I could have sworn I saw it before, one mile behind, but I had no way to prove it. A pebble had nestled in my shoe. I did not feel like sitting down in the desert convening with rattle snakes while I fished it out. Actually, to say the truth, I did not mind the rattle snakes as much. I feared that, if I sat down, I would not have the strength to get up again.

By mile six I was done, ready to lie down and forget about everything. But I was already on one of the turnaround loops, halfway through, and it occurred to me, no matter what I did, I could not just hang out there, in the middle of nowhere. Some way or another I had to find my way back, whatever it took. The right knee had started to bother me, but at that time every ounce of me was so immersed in discomfort, it did not make any difference anymore.

I was so far behind the contingent in front of me, I could not spot anybody on the entwined loops. Long ago, the city had fallen silent behind me, and the distant roar of the highway had died. I could hear my own ragged breath, and the cries of birds splintering thin air. The range of the mountains glittered in refracted light, and nothing existed besides the desert and me.

I do not know how I made my way back. It was easier than the first half, since the gist of return was downhill, but here we went again, across arroyos and ditches, right and left, down and up, endless miles. The heat was burning in my face, and I could not understand why I would ever want to run a marathon again.

I was one of the last to cross the finish line. They had already dismantled the triumphant gate of grape-colored balloons in burgungy and green. I even had a hard time finding a bottle of water. I finished in 2 h 25 min 20 something seconds, didn't even bother to check out my time, overall pace between 11.5 and 12, my worst race ever.

But I ended up feeling good. I do not mean simply the phsysical part. My limbs were still loose, and I laughed with my boyfriend at the pathetic performance, amazed and grateful I didn't break an ankle or twisted my spine, with all those ravines. Besides and beyond all that, I was happy about the cruel exertion.

12 Comments:

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Steve said...

I gotta give you credit for running a course like that......snakes?

I'm spoiled! Give a nice evenly paved road with bright yellow mile markers.

The main thing is that you were happy with yourself AFTER the race.

 
At 5:04 PM, Blogger Backofpack said...

It is the challenge, overcoming the pain, the forcing of self through unbound nature, through the harshness, the softness, the beauty of it all. Pushing endurance, as always, and pushing against boundaries. That is trail running.

Congratulations on accepting the challenge and meeting it.

 
At 5:03 AM, Blogger Randy said...

You finished!!!! Don't beat yourself up so, you did more than most would ever consider doing... you weren't happy with your time and you may have came in toward the last...but so what...now you can improve on that if you decide to do another....
Way to go!!!!

 
At 8:42 AM, Blogger Journey to a Centum said...

You have managed to skim over the rough spots and grasp firmly to the high points in the race. Coming in last is still much better than a DNF.

I usually enter a race with plan A,B,&C. A typically is a push, B - Just let me finish!, C - Use your head, you are hurt or sick and need to quit.

I've only had to use plan C three times in over 400 races.

Nice job Marathon Girl!

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Annette said...

That sounds like quite the course! Good for you for pushing through. (And, how rude of them to start taking the finish line, etc. down before you got there!) I'm glad you were able to laugh and feel good about it all in the end. You are a running stud! :)

 
At 3:13 PM, Blogger a life uncommon said...

Laughing about it at the end sounds like the best release. Congrats on the race!!

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger Darrell said...

It may have been a tough course but in the end you were happy. Besides if you'd hung out at the turn around point we have never known how grueling it was. It actually sounds like fun to me.

 
At 5:20 PM, Blogger Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Good job on that long trail run! And having fun (laughing at self if needed) is most important really.

 
At 8:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great race report! It sounds like a tough course and you should be proud.

home health

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

hat a run! Sometimes the road to long distance running can be lonely and difficult - heat, snakes, hills, pebbles, most people would have just stopped, but you continued on to the finish! Overcoming the hardships, congratulations on a great a race!

 
At 6:10 PM, Blogger robtherunner said...

"Long ago, the city had fallen silent behind me, and the distant roar of the highway had died. I could hear my own ragged breath, and the cries of birds splintering thin air. The range of the mountains glittered in refracted light, and nothing existed besides the desert and me."

These words alone are worth the effort and energy (At least for me they are). Beautifully written recount.

 
At 6:34 AM, Blogger JustRun said...

As usual, fantastic description. I was out there with you once again. There's something to be said for meeting a challenge, and even more to be said for being able to laugh about it.

 

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