lonely road of faith

Sunday was my final 20 mile training run for Boston.

20 miles is no walk in the park. It’s a battle of wills between you and the road. A battle you need both body and brain to win. It’s honestly almost as hard as a marathon. Almost.

A friend and novice runner recently asked why most marathon training plans only go to 20 miles. I think it’s because running 20 gives you the experience you need of being able to find that mental strength to push through without quite the same physical punishment as 26.2 so it’s easier to recover from.

I chose to run this 20 in New Hampshire at the Eastern States 20 Mile race. Some friends and Rett teammates were also running, it was a chance to run outside my neighborhood (always a plus), and it came with a medal and snacks at the end.

The course is gorgeous. It follows the coast line for most of the race so it’s very scenic. However, the weather was not the best.

Forecast was for heavy rain and wind. The rain fortunately stopped just as the race started. The wind (bout 20mph) fortunately was behind us for most of the race.

The best part of racing with friends is having people to hang out with before hand and after. I don’t race with them though. And not just because they are all faster than me. But because for me – running is a solo event.

I love the camaraderie of a race. Chatting with other runners at the start or randomly on the course as we pass each other. I met a woman doing her first 20 ever as she trains for her first marathon ever. As she took walk breaks while running (but was running a faster pace) we passed each other a few times. And I was happy to welcome her to the marathon club and answer training questions for her.

But my favorite part of races is just being alone in the crowd and sometimes alone literally on the course. As this was a smaller race there were a few times I had the road to myself. A little scary when you don’t know the course (lol) but quiet and calm is good when you’re distance running.

As the course was not closed to traffic I opted to run without music for safety reasons. And as I heard waves crash against the seal wall and seagulls call to each other I was glad I hadn’t.

I have my favorite running songs all bit memorized and can call them up as needed. But I also just let my mind wander a lot. It went over logistics for Boston, things I needed to remember for later and just zen over the sights of the huge waves and surfers.

For me – the race went extremely well. What that means is that I ran the entire 20 miles, at a decent pace and never struggled physically. Only mentally a little.

As I titled this post…running this far is a lonely road of faith. An internal struggle to believe that it is possible to go that far.

Around mile 15 I started to question that faith. Part of me wanted to walk. I wasn’t breathing hard, I wasn’t pushing and there was no reason to have to walk. I think my brain was just bored and wanted to do something different.

I wouldn’t let it. I tried to give it things to do – count blue shirted runners, look to see what houses still had Christmas wreaths up (too many), count steps between mailboxes.

But the one trick that really worked? Creating a mantra. One that I chanted a few times during those last five miles. Whenever I needed to.

When I needed the strength to pass a few people at mile 18.5, when I saw that finish line a half mile ahead. When I needed to remind myself this is my journey and the only person who can travel it is me. And I know, probably around the same distance in Boston I will start chanting it again.

It goes…quite simply…

My name is Kelly. I am a warrior. I will keep running. Until the end.

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