Mike and I are signed up for our next half marathon in two weeks. Then we have another race three weeks after that. Events are a good way for me to keep from flaking out on working out, and make me seem way more badass than I really am.
On Sunday we took our last long run before the event. That’s how this thing works: Train your guts out for months, hope you don’t injure yourself while you build up distance, add in some speed work and hills to make things interesting. Then the last two weeks take things easy, save energy for the event, and pretend you’re all grouchy because you’re consciously avoiding overtaxing yourself.
Since taking up this distance as my thing a few years ago, I’ve found that many of the folks who make up this group are determined, disciplined, sober, and focused. They rarely whine, and never ever smell like body odor, urine, or Bengay.
Then there are those of us outside the pages of Runner’s World.
In the interest of shedding light on our reality, I thought I’d break down the events of a long run day in the life of a bonafide person.
T-Minus Two Weeks Before Big Race: Last Long Run Day
3 hours before run: Someone silences the alarm so we both sleep in an extra hour longer than planned.
90 minutes before run: Breakfast. It’s not ideal to eat much this close to a long run. This requires a decision: eat as much as I need to in order to avoid losing steam (“bonking”) two thirds of the way through my run, or eat light and avoid potential gastrointestinal distress. I go with the former.
60 minutes before run: Berate myself for last night. Think about drinking a couple big glasses of water. I’m dehydrated. Pour another cup of coffee instead.
20 minutes before run: Enlist the help of my running buddy to get us both psyched.
Me: When do you want to go running?
Mike: I wanted to go an hour ago. Now I don’t want to go. Running sucks.
5 minutes before run: Hide from the dog while we don sunscreen and running gear and fill water bottles. She finds us and the gig is up. Try to explain to a hyper dog that 12 miles in the middle of summer is too much for her and promise you’ll take her for a long walk tonight (cross your fingers behind your back).
.33 miles into long run: When Mike sarcastically announces we’re officially one thirty-sixth of the way through our run, stifle the urge to push him down.
1 mile in: We waited too long to get out and now it’s hot. Muscles feel fatigued.
1.5 miles in: Pretend reluctance to stop and say hi to some friends, when really stopping is all I’ve wanted to do since setting out.
3 miles in: Pass a building with windows. Try not to look at my reflection. I’d like to think I run like Jackie Joyner-Kersey. I actually look like something you wouldn’t expect to see running. Ever. Something that would make you stop whatever you’re doing and take a photo for proof you just saw what you thought you saw.
A narwhal, maybe. With legs.
5 miles in: Gremlins visit. What is that twinge in my knee? An injury coming on? Did I put enough sunscreen on, or have I already sweated it all off? Do I really have to pee? I mean, is it possible everything everything in my bladder hasn’t already leaked out and run down my leg?
1 hour in: Refuel. For Mike this means downing a packet of gel and stifling the urge to gag. For me this means hoping Mike brought along some electrolyte pills he’ll share, and wishing I’d thought to stuff some jelly beans in my pocket. I hate everything on the market for refueling mid run. They all taste like that orange drink they make you quaff when you’re pregnant to test for diabetes.
6 miles in: One of many walk breaks. Call and check on the kids. When kid wants to get off the phone and back to his game, ask open-ended questions for more walk time: What kind of career do you want? What do you think about atheists? What’s up with narwhals, anyway?
Kid hangs up.
8 miles in: It’s about the time I normally get a runners’ high: the holy grail of running. This anticipation keeps me going.
8.5 miles in: I’m so hungry I could eat my own arm. Do we have any food at home? Should we stop at the store on the way home knowing I smell like I peed down my leg?
9 miles in: No runner’s high yet. This sucks. I hate running. I mention a nagging ache in my hip to Mike. He suggests a repetitive stress injury, total hip replacement, life in a wheelchair. I stifle the urge to push him down.
9.5 miles in: Runner’s high hits. Euphoria. This is awesome! I could run forever! I am the best runner in the world and I’m also a very good and attractive person! Life is so insanely, freakishly awesome! Hello homeless person, God bless you. Hello you adolescent cyclist who almost ran me off the path because you weren’t looking. How cute are you? Isn’t this just the best day? ….
9.7 miles in: Runner’s High is gone. This sucks. I want a hamburger.
11.2 miles in: Stop to help a cyclist whose chain has come off the gears. Her boyfriend comes back looking for her. She doesn’t need our help, but we stay just in case. It’s just so good to stop.
11.2 miles in: Walk it in. Mike says walking the last eight tenths of a mile is a puss thing to do. I don’t have to stifle the urge to push him down. I don’t think I could.
There you go. No more mystique. Next time you mean a runner, know that you can just talk to her like a normal person.
Unless she’s peed down her leg. Then just walk by like you didn’t see anything.
But don’t forget to vote first. You can do so once a day and I’ll be euphoric. Not runner’s high euphoric, but close. Thank you.