So, one week from now I will have finished running my first marathon. Shit, people. It's really going to happen.
This past weekend was all about prep. Yesterday The Irishman and I ironed letters on our race tops (for all of you designers out there, it's a very fun kerning exercise and let me tell you how the last E of my name will forever haunt me, having slipped up a few millimeters when I set them. I can't even look at it) and bought our race gels. We planned out our pre-race nutrition and carb loading schedule. And we ran together, sort of: because my injury, The Irishman and I haven't been on the same running plan since the end of September. He ran 18 and 20 miles on his own, while I stretched it out in the gym doing my physio exercises, and has been tapering down the mileage for the last few weeks. I, on the other hand, am still ramping up the mileage since I effectively lost a month of training. So Saturday I had to face my longest distance run on my own.
I was supposed to run 29 km / 18 miles, and The Irishman joined me for the first 8k – out Regents Canal east to Victoria Park for one – and I continued on by myself. I had my iPod and my running mix, I had my gels, and I had my water, and I was confident. I really did wish for The Irishman to be with me, but I also realized that I had to prove this to myself that I could do this by myself. What if (god forbid, knock on wood, etc) The Irishman got sick? Or injured? I told myself that I had to know I was able to do this on my own.
So I ran. And I felt GOOD. I totally experienced that moment of bliss where my body felt like a machine, moving smoothly without effort. I was wearing the GPS watch (which I hate) and it beeped away merrily telling me I was going at a lovely pace of 6:00, 6:09, 6:15, 6:22 km. I didn't get lost as I passed the Olympic site and headed down to Limehouse Basin. I got past 21 km and I told myself "8 km, I know this distance, I can do this." I took a water/gel walk break for a minute, and kept on going. And then I met the phenomenon called "The Wall" and experienced the first moment in my training when I just couldn't go on. It was frightening, humbling, and mortifying as my body systematically just stopped working. I made a pact with myself that I would make it to the bottom of this hill that leads to my street, and from that moment my brain could only focus on waiting for my designated stop point to appear.
In the end, I only managed 27.58 km / 17.13 miles and felt ashamed that I couldn't push myself that last mile; when I walked through the door, I burst into tears and told The Irishman that I didn't think I could do it. But he told me that he felt the exact same way at the end of both his 18 and 20 mile runs, and we made a pact that no matter what we would stick together for the marathon and make sure we both finished. So even though I proved to myself that yes I can run the long distances on my own, I am very happy and reassured to know that I have my man with me to support me in going the distance next week. Besides, he's the reason I'm in this mess in the first place!