Long runs: Sometimes ya just gotta walk a bit

I’m tired. And stuff hurts. But I’m not stopping. Nope, that’s not whining. Maybe it’s more of a mantra.

And I have run about 1,260 miles so far this calendar year. At this point, I could carp about my throbbing Achilles tendon and belly-ache about blisters on my toes and broken toenails. I could moan about muscle cramps and snivel about a strained ankle. And I could yammer about a nagging migraine headache.

But I won’t. (OK, maybe I just did, for a moment.)

It’s time to move on.

Yesterday, my marathon training calendar called for a 16-mile run. Ever the overachiever (often only to regret it afterwards), I logged 16.6 (not counting hand-jogging a bit with my horse and then with my dogs later in the day).

Only I have to confess: I didn’t run every step of the journey.

I actually walked the last couple of miles on the uphill homeward leg of the thing. In all honesty, I mostly hobbled. But the miles still count. And I’m still going to toe the line in Chicago this fall.

Can I really run a marathon? (That’s the audio loop running in my brain these days.)

I’ll do it. But I might walk some of the distance.

Long runs: Sometimes ya just gotta walk a bit.

Like many, I used to think it was a matter of shame to walk during a marathon. I believed a runner should be able to run the entire distance without breaking pace.

Not so.

Asking around (and observing countless races), I was surprised to find that tons of runners take walking breaks during longer races (even the big-name races). In fact, lots of running experts advise athletes to walk through the water stops (mostly as a matter of safety, avoiding tripping over spilled beverages and tossed cups).

Innumerable runners slow their paces to chug up the most challenging hills in races. Others simply vary their paces throughout courses. An athlete might run for 10 minutes and then walk for two for an entire race, for example.  

Walking during a run is perfectly acceptable, as long as one is able to finish the race during the allotted time. Sure, the elite runners don’t walk. The Olympic athletes stick to their spiffy swift steps. And the top amateurs don’t break pace.

But the rest of us? There’s a whole lot of walking going on, at least in short stretches.

Enter the Chicago Marathon.

Gasp. I already did. I’m committed to doing it this fall. The race rules say I have to finish the thing within six-and-a-half hours. That means maintaining a 14:45-15:00 average mile pace. Sounds doable, right?

But a full marathon is a completely different animal from the 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons I have done. The pace has to be different.

In my longer training runs, I am struggling to identify a new and more sustainable pace-per-mile. Here’s a well-known secret: It’s not in the 9’s or 10’s or maybe even the 11’s. Don't get me started about negative splits.

Yes, sometimes I have to walk a bit.

And I use those portions of each run to stretch, sip, and sometimes snack. Because when it comes to running a marathon (especially my first actual marathon), I’m in it for the long haul, not the quick finish.

No matter how long it takes me, it’s gonna be a personal record (as long as they don’t pull me off the course and put me in the truck).

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Ever have cold feet about an upcoming hot race?

Runners have to register well in advance for the biggest races. It takes some foresight (and long-range planning) to enter those popular big-city marathons that draw tens of thousands of runners – like, say, the Chicago Marathon. (See sidebar.)

That sounded like a really good idea last November, when I registered. It seemed fairly doable, when I put up my marathon charity page and began welcoming donations from lots of wonderfully generous folks.

Sure, I can do this thing, I thought.

This October 2018 race felt a lot easier (or at least, less hard) in November 2017. Well, hey. It was almost a year off at that point.

But now the date is fast approaching. Uh-oh.

My marathon training is well underway. I’ve been right on schedule, logging the painful progression of ever-increasing distance runs to ramp up for my first full 26.2-mile race.

Till today. Ugh!

I upped the poundage in my weight-training class at the gym this morning. Afterwards, I stepped outside for a 12-mile run – at 11 am on a scorching sunny summer day.

What was I thinking? (Don’t answer that.)

OK, I can be given to overdo my own abilities (and energy resources) sometimes.

So off I went. I cranked up my running playlist and kept my projected pace for the first 2.5 miles, even chugging up a fairly significant hill. I clocked away along the edge of a major county highway, measuring my miles and maintaining my cadence. Oh, and dodging inattentive motorists. (But that’s another story.)

Then I hit rock-bottom.

It hit me like a truck. (Ugh. That’s a bad analogy under these circumstances.)

The nausea, head-spinning vertigo, back spasms, and innumerable body part pains kicked in. My feet went numb. My hands grew clammy. My vision blurred.

I swigged some now-lukewarm water and changed my route. After a painful return path, I trudged up my driveway, having marked just 5+ miles.

Now I am second-guessing my lofty goals and trying not to feel defeated. I’m reminding myself that heat + MS = a recipe for disaster. (It’s called Uhthoff’s Syndrome, and it’s common among those with multiple sclerosis.)

Color me cold-footed, even though it’s blisteringly hot today.

I know this is something of a fluke. Maybe it’s a slump or a one-day phase. I’ll get over it.

I’m not ducking out of the big race or anything. I’m not really even questioning whether I will be up to the task. I am aiming to finish and pretty sure I can do it. But I wonder if I’ll be extra slow. I cannot fathom what sort of condition I’ll be in when it’s over.

I’m praying my body will hold together on race day, and that it won’t be a bazillion degrees out.

And I have <90 days to finish training for it.

Whew. Here we go.

UPDATE:  I did manage to step out later, once the shadows had stretched across the streets, and knock off a few more miles. My dogs wanted to tag along, so I had to keep them on the grassy roadsides, as the pavement was still like a griddle. 

Related Items:

Title graphic created by this user
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Feel free to follow on GooglePlus and Twitter. Please visit my Amazon author page as well. And I am happy to share my RUNDERDOG ambassador code for 10% off on Bondi Band Athletic Headbands, Accessories, and Fashions. (Simply enter the code at online checkout.).

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