Between Valentine’s Day cards and a late lunch, I snuck out of the house for 10 miles. I took my new Nathan water bottle out, along with my iPod and a package of Honey Stinger cherry blossom chews. About a half mile in, I realized I had strapped the water bottle to the wrong hand --- I couldn’t check my watch without pouring water all over my sneakers. My iPod headphones sent little electrical shocks into my ear canals and my lightweight fleece chafed the back of my neck. In other words, all systems down in less than 5 minutes.
It’s almost impossible to settle into a long run: In the first mile or two, you’re thinking about the weather, the traffic, your lousy playlist, and your stomach/bladder/knee/ankle/other uncooperative body part. But, if you’re a long distance runner, you know to keep running. You’ll run to get your miles in, to nod in mutual respect and understanding at the other weekend warriors, for the hilarity of re-learning how to eat and drink while running, for the feeling of a job well done, for the hills that make you call upon your mantra and make very unholy bargains with the gods. And you’ll run because you know there will be an instant – or, if you’re lucky, several ---- of euphoria and pure effortlessness. You have your reasons to run.
The 5 mile mark is always my favorite. My turnaround point came a bit outside of town and it was time to try out those cherry blossom chews. As I began heading back, I ripped open the package with my teeth and coasted along, snacking and listening to “Mo Money Mo Problems.” Or, should I say, Mo Miles No Problems? Did I mention I get a little punchy when I run? With the boost of honey (cherry blossom chews taste exactly like Starbursts…but they’re organic!), I started gliding. Just because I like a challenge, I threw in three sets of sprints between miles 6.5 and 8.5, coincidentally a very hilly patch. And it hurt so good.
As the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon draws closer, I need to remember what it’s like to run fast on tired legs. It’s to my advantage to work hard and train fast on steep hills when the Lisbon course is one of the flattest half-marathon courses in the world. Of course, you can’t train for all contingencies. I’ve never run a race in a foreign country before. I’ll probably get lost en route to the race and I don’t know how to say "finish line," "water," or "After 13.1 miles, I need a drink... and make it stiff" in Portuguese.
I've never heard a running coach laud the unexpected. But it's the unreal moments -- like the spontaneous sprints on Valentine's Day -- that bring me the most luck and propel me on to the finish. And that's why I keep running.