The Ugliness of the Long Distance Runner

I lay in the empty bathtub, just having watched the last bit of water drain out. The bottle of Lagunitas Sumpin Sumpin Ale is empty. I don’t have the energy to stand up and finish my soak with a shower. I ponder on how tired my feet are. Just my feet. Nothing else.

There is something wonderful about making it back. Back to the finish line, back to your car, back home. It has been nearly 3 months since I’ve run this distance-and that was as a pacer for Donna’s Marathon to End Breast Cancer.

A glance in the mirror shows new tan lines and angry red chafe marks from my heart monitor. My face is sullen from the effort and I’m not moving very fast. My mind is tired but grateful it is over.

For 22.5 miles, I’ve had Pink singing “Just Give Me a Reason” playing in my head. My running partner, Jon Turner, is distracting me with some interesting topics (America’s Cup, anyone?) but Pink seems to be the elevator music for this run. I really like her, but I don’t know if I 22.5 miles like her.

We change the intervals from 1:1 to 30:30s. I still struggle. Who put that hill here. Who decided this was a good idea. Why am I still running. Maybe I can call my husband and he can come and pick me up. Now.

Jon is patient. He ignores my pleas to leave me on the side of the trail. He runs slightly ahead of me, pulling me up those last hills.And then we get to the point there is only a 5K left. I finally start running more. The hills are in the right direction, down. I ignore the new chafing pain under my right arm. It will be ok. We will make it.

Perhaps, I wonder, if the entire point of my running is to finish. To know that I churned through it. I do know that I couldn’t do it without an army of others to help me. Most of my runs lately have been death marches. They have not been pretty. They have not been fast or PRs. Mostly they’ve been ugly efforts to just finish. As I sit here and type, grateful that I had company for the duration, I have to ask myself why. Why do I do something that is at times so frustrating and self-defeating? And then I realize, I do it just so I can tell myself it is over. Until the next time.

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