I ran a celebration 13.1 miles this morning for my buddy Pete’s 50th birthday. You may wonder how a half marathon ties into a 50th birthday run, and if you didn’t understand the math you could get lost easily… We didn’t run 13.1 to celebrate Pete’s 50th, we ran 13.1 to celebrate not running 31 miles with Pete to celebrate his birthday – that’s a 50k. Turned out Pete’s sister flew in from England for his birthday as a surprise so he bowed out to spend time with her. Before I get into how the half marathon went, I used the opportunity to perform an experiment to test the practical application of my post yesterday about changing the tape that I play in my head. I had been working on that post, and another like it for about a week so I had some time to work through the mental logistics.
There are a few important stats to work through before I get to the meat though: I’ve only been running one day a week (or not at all) for the last nine weeks. Starting October 21st I ran 5.5 miles, then I skipped a week. On November 4th I ran 5.5 miles. On the 10th I ran a 10k, then on the 18th I ran 9 miles (all of those except the 10k were trail runs). That’s it, that’s all the running I’ve done in the last couple of months though I have kept up on my cycling – I’ve either been spinning in my office or mountain biking close to every day like clockwork so I’ve maintained my spectacular shape quite well coming into the winter, but I haven’t done much running at all. So coming into Saturday I knew I was in great shape but there was room for doubt as to whether or not I could translate that into a decent half marathon (let alone a 50k).
Normally I would allow thoughts of doubt to play out in my head going into a run that I really wasn’t prepared for. After all, 13 miles is a long way to go when you’ve only averaged 6 running miles a week over the last two months as training for it. It got trickier though, because I was preparing mentally to run 31 miles, not 13 – I didn’t have any room for doubt or I’d be giving in to my mental desire to be done. So I stopped allowing any thoughts of doubt to fester. Now, I’m not going to take responsibility for any initial thought that enters my mind – I am, after all, a recovering drunk… There’s some pretty crazy shit that can pop into my melon from the middle of nowhere and it happens on a fairly regular basis. I am responsible for the second thought, or the response and ponderance of the initial thought. So in a nutshell, here’s how this works: I’m at the office working on, uh, work, and a thought pops into my head about the run – “You’re not ready for this, it’s too far”. Another would be, “You can’t run 31 miles, you’re not in good enough shape for that“! Now normally I would let that play out a little bit and I’d try to dismiss the thoughts using reason (this would happen “In Committee”). For this experiment though, I came down on those thoughts with a steel trap: “You’re in the best shape of your life, this is going to hurt, but you absolutely have what it takes, now shut the f*ck up… And that would be the end until the next thought of doubt popped up. I went through three days of this, a thought here or there before I found out that the run was cancelled and the decision was made to run a half instead. So what happened when 18 miles was dropped off the run? The thought, “You’re still not ready for a half marathon, you haven’t even trained”, starts popping up. I treated it the same way, no mercy, no quarter for that thought – no room for that in my life. “I am in the best shape of my life, I can do this”. By last night, there was no doubt in my mind I’d be good. Now day of, things change around a little bit because the run isn’t so distant… I’m trying to choose the proper clothes, showering, choosing my shoes – any one of those things can come with their little doubts, but I was like a ninja on that shit by now. I’d slice those thoughts up into little pieces and use them for fertilizer in my melon for the positive, “you’re gonna rock this out” thoughts.
So that’s how I walked into my buddy Jim’s house today, mentally prepared and ready to go. My buddies Marc and Aaron showed up shortly after I did and after a cup of coffee or two waiting for my buddy Dennis (who didn’t show), we got ready and left. Marc and Aaron are both stronger runners than I am so I felt confident putting my phone in my pocket with the volume down and just keeping up with them and we just got to it. At about the 9 mile mark we turned onto a quite country road and I could just barely make out my Endomondo chick calling out the lap time and overall time. We had slowed down a bit and I was starting to hurt a little bit. At mile 10 I heard “Lap Time 9 minutes and 38 seconds, 10 miles in 1 hour, 32 minutes…” I only had three miles to go and if I could pick that pace up to 9 minute miles I could finish under 2 hours and beat my personal best half marathon by eleven minutes… No time for self-doubt, no mercy. My next mile was an 8:48 followed by a 9:37 (this is the hardest mile of the run, the first 3/4’s of that mile is uphill – even that 9:37 pace hurt like hell and I easily was topping zone 4)… Thankfully mile 13 is flat and even with a bit of a slow down to recoup from the steep uphill I managed an 8:59, but I was hurting – I could really feel it in my hips… At 12.5 miles I pulled my phone out of my pocket and toggled the screen on – No Mercy… I kicked up the pace, it was going to be close. My legs were bitching at me almost non-stop at 12.7 miles. I started thinking, “Shut up legs”, at 12.8 miles I started saying it out loud. At 12.9 I was too winded, it was just “Shut Up”, because at that point it wasn’t just my legs complaining it was all of me… Over and over, “Shut UP”, every other breath, “Shut Up, Shut Up, Shut Up.
I finished in 2 hours 14 seconds, a Personal Best by more than 10 minutes after not even paying attention to pace for the first ten miles and just taking it easy, enjoying the run, because I changed the tape that I allowed to play in my head… And I was right.
I am in the best shape of my life, I can run a half marathon, and with virtually no real training – and PR in the process.