This morning was my first solo long run besides the 8 miles I ran last fall about this time. I wanted to make sure I was capable of doing the long run on my own because up until this week, I've had someone running or biking alongside me. Running is almost entirely a mental sport. Yes, it requires fitness and endurance, but even those first few runs you take yourself on require mental stamina that says, "I can do this. I'm not going to do. There is no need to gasp for air. Remain calm. Oh! And try to enjoy yourself." Running with a partner means distraction from your own breathing, your own pain, the reality that the end is still miles and miles away and you're not sure how you could possibility get there without a) vomitting, b) dying of an asthma attack even though you don't have asthma, or b) finding yourself in so much pain you just want to curl up and cry. Oh, and beyond the mental games, there's the need to control my pace and keep from burning out before the end.
Luckily for me, I spent the first 6 years of my running habit completely by myself. It wasn't until this past year that I ever ran with a partner, so I was used to being alone. I don't listen to music or podcasts anymore, either. The peacefulness of being out there by myself is a soothing thing for me. It's like my silly little Bondi band says--running is my therapy. And so, I was confident I could manage the long run on my own. I just wanted to experience it.
I mapped out a 12 mile route on Google maps, left a note for Kevin with directions of my route (safety first, people!), strapped my reflective arm band on, laced up my shoes and headed out the door at 5:53am.
My plan included much uncharted (or untrekked) territory for me, but that's one of my favorite parts about running--discovering new roads, experiencing new places, getting to know the layout of the land. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, be it hills or dogs or lack of edge lines, but I was looking forward to it.
Along my run, I became increasingly thankful for the perfect weather God granted me--no fog, no wind, cool temperatures, lower humidity. Many of my miles were used for prayer, one of my favorite parts of running alone. Sometimes the best way to train your mind is to focus on the Lord, offering your thoughts to the needs and concerns of others rather than your light and momentary troubles of the run.
Seeing as I didn't want to run with that heavy Camelbak nor did I plan any water stops along the way, I even prayed that I would pass a fruit orchard at mile 9 or 10 so I could snag an apple to refuel. I don't know how ethical that is--what with the taking something that is not mine--but boy was I thankful to come across that Granny Smith tree.
I passed a few seemingly ferocious dogs who were either chained up or easily soothed by my "It's okay, puppy. Good dog" mantra.
I snapped a photo of a house that had solar panels covering its roof and a whole separate unit of panels in the side yard. I knew Kevin would be entertained by that.
My shoes stayed perfectly laced for the duration of the run--up until the last 3 blocks. Ugg. I was so annoyed to have to stop and tie my shoe with my house all but in sight.
I had a few moments of almost-panic when I wasn't sure if I passed the road I was supposed to turn onto or not, but I decided to remain calm and sure enough, I found my way just way.
Watching the sunrise is always a pro in the column of "waking up before 6am."
And I made it. I didn't stop for anything along the way. I felt good. I felt strong. And I was thrilled to find out I had finished my run in 1 hour and 52 minutes--a 9:20 pace.
Bring it on, half marathon. Bring. It. On.*
*I would like to mention that I will be posting my thoughts on the whole "training for a race" thing at some point in the near future. It might not be what you expect. Stay tuned.