A few months ago I was asked to join a team of 6 people to run a marathon relay. My first thoughts may be similar to you, given the same situation:
"This will be a great incentive to start running again."
"I'll for sure train because I won't want to embarrass myself and slow down the team."
"It's so far away...I can enjoy Netflix for a few more days."
A wedding and two trips out of town later, I arrive home to realize that said race is now 8 days away and my Nike app has been gathering dust for weeks.
Tempted to back out, I decided to experiment with my own stamina and ability and laced up my shoes instead. Here is a daily diary of what happened.
Day 1: Saturday
I’ve got the energy and I’m determined to log 4 miles on my Nike app today, no matter the cost. If I can do it today, I can count on adrenaline to push me through in 8 days! I run my first mile in under 10 minutes, make it through the second a bit slower, then have to walk for a quarter mile. I’m not worried about it, even though my pace and endurance is totally messed up. I feel a muscle in my right heel pulling. I run until I reach the end of the third mile then walk again, exasperated. It’s hot and I, clearly, am not. I walk another quarter mile, then run again, hoping to finish out the mile. Which I don’t. But it’s cool - I run as fast as I can from 3.8 to the end and it feels great!
Distance: 3.8 miles
Time: 45:02 with an average pace of 11:13
Day 2: Sunday
I’m pretty sore but it’s not terrible. I decide to run home from a coffee shop later in the afternoon. It’s a thing I like to do - run from point A to point B with no car to save me. It becomes very necessary that I get home with my own two feet - and I normally like to get home as fast as possible. Yeeeeah - not today. It’s dang hot and practically all uphill. I had a goal to run a full 3 miles but I started walking after a mile. Rather to walk than to faint, I always say. A combination of walk/running logged me up to 2.75 miles where I decided to forgo a quarter mile loop for water and AC.
Distance: 2.75 miles
Time: 33:27 with an average pace of 12:09
Day 3: Monday
Matty and I wake up at 6:05 AM to start our new morning gym regime. My legs are stiff and I’m hardly awake, but I manage to push out 2 miles. I ran through the first mile then did walk/sprint intervals for the second. It wasn’t very far, but the winning was in the waking up.
Distance: 2 miles
Time: 20:45 with an average pace of 10:19
Day 4: Tuesday
I should not run today. My legs need a rest and I’m sore. Alas, I wake up (ahem, Matty pulls the covers off me in his sweet, yet LET’S GO, way) a little after 6 and don’t have time to contemplate a different exercise option. I run a mile and it’s the worst. I walk/run a little after that and it’s also the worst. Total, 1.5 miles. I go to the mats for a bit of strength work and some stretching/foam rolling.
Distance: 1.5 miles
Time: 16:26 with an average pace of 10:57
Day 5: Wednesday
Day of rest, amen.
Day 6: Thursday
Matty has to be at work at 6AM so I go straight to the gym after I drop him off. No excuses. I expect to feel pretty good this morning, having gotten through the ups and downs of the first few days and taken some time to rest. Thankfully, I'm right! (I'm also aware the running is often a mind game, so this good attitude helps.) I set the incline to 1%, which is supposed to resemble road running, and reach my goal of 3.5 miles.
Distance: 3.5 miles
Time: 38:12 with an average pace of 10:55
Day 6: Friday
We skip this gym this morning for a much needed slower pace. I decide to take an easy run from my office to Matty's workplace at the end of the day. I'm not feeling as good as yesterday, and I don't want to push it. I have blisters on both my feet. I run 2 miles straight to Whole Foods for some expensive coconut water, then walk a few blocks to meet Matty.
Distance: 2 miles
Time: 20:39 with an average pace of 10:19
Day 7: Saturday
No running before race day! I want to do some yoga. But I don't.
Day 8: RACE DAY!
What's against me:
I'm running last - and it's only getting hotter.
I've only trained for a week (duh).
There is a significant incline in the full sun.
The blisters hurt.
What's for me:
I slept well.
I had a good breakfast and coffee (and I'm not worried about any "accidents" on the road).
I ran 3.5 miles on Thursday, so that plus adrenaline equals 4.37, right?
I have a brain and two legs that work. I can do this.
On the way to the race Matty unknowingly gives me the best advice: "You only have to walk if you want to." Running is a mind game. If I want to stop, I can stop. But today, I don't want to stop.
There are 5 runners ahead of me, so we hang out on a blanket in the park in the meantime, cheering each other on. I don't feel nervous until it reaches later in the day, the race is taking longer than expected, Matty is worried he'll be late to work, and the sun just keeps getting hotter. When the 5th person is about to run, it's recommended to me that I join her, otherwise the police may close the streets before I get a chance to race.
I made it this far! I'm racing!
And now I have absolutely no time to be nervous. I left my headphones at home, so attempt to borrow some bluetooth ones, which suddenly are not working at all. Matty, my race hero, grabs me another pair and before I know it, I'm running.
Sometimes you just know if it's going to work or if it's not going to work. I had a feeling it was going to work. My legs felt good, my breath was steady, and in a pinch, I was listening the playlist I made for my sister's bachelorette party. Nothing like dirty rap and bubblegum pop to get you moving.
The road was practically empty. The heat was coming off the pavement. Several times I thought I was reaching the turn around spot, only to learn I was way off. I turned up the music and slowed down my pace when I felt weak. My body was starting to get chills, which I knew wasn't a good sign. Every time I passed a water station I took a few sips then poured it over my head to regulate my body temperature.
Finally, I reach 3 miles and I get a second wind. I know I'll see Matty soon and I can see the finish line - even if I have another 1.37 miles to go.
At 4 miles I almost stop. The heat is getting to me and my brain feels foggy. But I can't stop here, not when I've come this far.
As I approach the finish line, the announcer starts singing "Lady in piiiink" when he sees my bright pink top, and I realize that I'm the only one approaching the line. I laugh and move my hands in circles, egging on his terrible singing. Anything helps, ya know?
When I finish Matty is there and someone throws me a bag of ice. It hurt. A lot. But I did it!
Distance: 4.37 miles
Time: 48:52 with an average pace of 11:02
Next up? I'm going to keep running. A few years ago I ran a half marathon and clocked under 10 minute miles. Time to get moving.