Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Final Stretch – Aubrey

Last Sunday, I ran my last long run before the Marathon – 20 miles. It was both emotionally and physically exhausting, but overall, it was an enjoyable experience. The first five miles were brutal. My pace was all over the place, and my head wasn’t in it. I kept telling myself that if I could make it to 12 miles, I’d be okay. I needed to get past the halfway point. I labored through the first eight miles, but by the time I hit nine I was almost a minute ahead of pace. By mile 10 I started to really gain momentum. I turned up my music and picked up my knees. At mile 16, I was almost three minutes ahead of pace. I felt confident and strong. For the first time, I didn’t want my long run to end. I took a smoothie break at mile 16 to fuel my last four miles. I wanted to finish strong. I was in Medford, but in my mind, I was passing the Wellesley Post Office, running toward Newton-Wellesley Hospital. I again picked up the pace, and I closed my eyes. I visualized waiving to my colleagues and family who will be waiting by the East Entrance on race day. I could almost feel the slight downhill on Washington St. and the gradual incline as I round the corner to Comm Ave. Heartbreak is ahead. I could hear my internal voice: “Pick your feet up. Don’t lean forward, shoulders back. Power, power, power. You’re almost done.” I barely remember the last four miles. However, at mile 19 I made a conscious effort to pick up speed. My feet felt like cinder blocks and yet I ran harder. I could feel the weeks of preparation and training paying off. I half smiled as I pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion. To my astonishment, I ran a sub 10 minute final mile, and finished my 20 miler with a time of 3:53:14. Not too shabby for a slow gal like me. The song that was blaring on my iPod was “Weightless” by Natasha Bedingfield - so apropos for the moment. I could feel the tears welling as I slowed to a walk. I was almost overwhelmed by all of the emotions that I was feeling. I can’t even imagine how I’ll handle it on race day. Training for a marathon is brutal. It’s uncomfortable, requires sacrifice, and it’s rarely pretty. (I site my bloody toenails as evidence) But despite all of that, it’s an amazing experience. Nothing compares to the feeling of euphoria at the end of long run. It’s a high, and now that I’ve experienced it, I will always be searching for another hit.  

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