Today was the day that I've been looking forward to and dreading at the same time. This was they day that I set out to run 20 miles which would be the longest training run for this season and the farthest I have gone to date. Earlier in the week it looked like it was going to rain and that it would be fairly windy. I kept this is mind and made sure that I had a positive attitude regardless of what was going to happen with the weather. It ended up not raining which I am very thankful about.
The coolest "pre-start" moment was when one of the TNT mentors who just went through some major surgery came to send us off. This was a huge inspiration to me and made those last few miles just a little bit "easier." I also was able to talk with several of the runners about the fact that I passed my National Counselor Exam (NCE) and how much my running helped me stay focused and not allow the test to get the best of me mentally. Running has sharpened my ability to overcome adversity like nothing else I've gone through before.
I had several great conversations during the run. We did two 10 mile loops which was helpful in some ways, but in other ways it made it more difficult. In the end I'm glad that we did the two 10 mile loops because this way I spent more time with other runners who are not running the Marine Corps Marathon. My attitude was pretty much to not look this run as a big 20 mile run, but as a bunch of shorter runs. In other words, we had water stops about every 2.5 miles so I broke the race down into these 2.5 mile segments. It made it a lot easier to grasp and to have the motivation to finish. Another huge benefit to having two 10 mile loops is that the water stops were the same even with a second loop. It was very predictable and the best part is that I KNEW that I could do it since I had already done it once today. This was very helpful at about mile 15 or so.
The reason I don't have specific stats for this run is that my watch battery was dead this morning. I checked it last night, but I must have forgotten to turn it off or something. Anyway, it looks like the problem as been solved as I was able to turn on the watch this evening. Glad this didn't happen at the race and it actually made the run better since I wasn't worried at all about my pace or how long it was taking me. :-).
One of the comments that I made is that I didn't get where I am in life by being a pessimist. I have learned that we have more power in our minds that we give ourselves credit. For example, during the last 5 miles (at least), my body was feeling tired and sore. I kept sending positive messages to my body by saying things like "I feel good, I feel great." Other were "I feel strong, I love hills."
Coach Linda road her bike with me running during the last 7 miles of my run (maybe more). This was awesome because I didn't have anyone to to run the second loop with me as my other buddies are faster than me (and I'm totally cool with that). We talked a bunch and several cool things happened. at about mile 15 I said "the rest is just mental." I really do believe this and this was my experience today. At no point did I have any doubt about whether or not I would finish the course. I did walk a portion of the second half before Coach Linda came to the rescue.
The best moment of the run came during the last 2.5 miles (probably last 1.5 or so). I was running on the path just beyond Founders Hall and was still on Milton Hershey School grounds on I believe Homestead Lane. Coach Linda and I saw a golden retriever type dog that only had three legs and she was running happy as if she didn't know the difference. We exchanged greetings with the owner (who was riding his bike) and only after they were ahead of us did we see that the dog was handicapped. Anyway, I thought out loud "if that dog can run like that then so can I!" We proceeded to talk about the guy in the Olympics who ran with a prosthetic and again I thought and said out loud "if he can do it so can I!" Anyway, that gave me a push and about a mile or so out (it was probably farther) I decided that I was going to pick up the pace and that I was going to finish strong. I did just that and I was able to run back to the high school and cross the finish line of my first 20 mile run. It was such an amazing experience and I am so grateful to all my friends with whom I've had the privilege of running with during these last several months. If you can't tell I want you to know that I have had the time of my life since I joined team. It used to just be about having people to run with (and that's been wonderful), but doing all of this for a bigger purpose than myself is totally worth it. I'm glad to have found Team in Training and I know that I will continue to train with TEAM for a very long time (until I'm 100).
Team... thank you so much for everything! I wish all my buddies best wishes on their races and make sure you make it back for other runs even if you're not doing specific races with team.