As someone very familiar with the pain of over-training, I eased into the first two weeks of running by "only" running three times a week. It's not much by training standards, but way more than I'd been doing recently. It's been two years since I did (my slowest) half-marathon (ever), and I do not plan on going through the agony of again running a race for which I was under-prepared. (Not to self: never register for a half-marathon that takes place in March, unless I can train somewhere warm.)
But as the days have plodded on, I have squeezed in runs before or after work and picked up the pace. When I had a hectic weekend ahead of me, I decided to do my 7-mile long run after work on a Thursday instead of Saturday and what a revelation it was. I started my run at a trail I had heard about, but not yet seen. As I followed the map, running cautiously toward my destination, I found myself, on a gorgeous trail, high above the river to my left and a forest to my right. I ran slowly at first, trying not to focus on my Fitbit pace, but instead checking out my surroundings. Pulling my hood tight under my chin, I kept going and going until I reached the point where the course merged with a trail I recognized; a trail I'd been hoping to run to, but had not yet reached. Joyfully I pushed on along the river, passing a beautiful old mill, jogging up and down the winding path. At the half-way mark, I nearly whooped. I'd made it! Now I just had to make it home in one piece
As is my custom in training runs and even marathons, I always pick up the pace when heading towards the finish line. By now, the wind had died down, my tense body loosened and I quickened my gait. Step, step, step, step. I just kept moving, taking in the trees, the neighborhoods, the lakes in for a second time. Appreciating the scenery from this other perspective.
As I clicked off the miles and mentally checked how my legs, my ankles, my knees were feeling, I started to think, "I'm going to do it and I'm going to be fine." And I was. I continued to pick up the pace until I finally stopped in front of my house with a faster pace than that first 5-miler. Three weeks ago, I'd barely been doing three-mile runs and I now I'd done seven for the first time in years and it felt good. What a difference a goal makes! Without that half-marathon carrot in front of me, I'd likely have been puttering around at home instead of discovering trails and seeing a new side of my adopted hometown. That Thursday, as I faced the wind and sun I answered the questions I'd asked myself weeks ago: I may be a little achy and a little slow, but I guess I'm not too old to run this race. Not this year anyway.