On Sunday, I finished last. Dead last. And it was a wonderfully triumphant feeling that stayed with me throughout the day. Allow me to explain...
Sunday is the day of the group training long runs. When I started the group training long runs, it was actually in December, before the Cherry Blossom training had kicked off. So I was running with people who were training for a half or even full marathon and following a rigorous training plan. Meanwhile I was just looking to boost my base a bit before Cherry Blossom training began in mid-January.
I would write on the sign-in/out sheet that I was running 4 miles, that I would be back in an hour. Meanwhile others were writing 10, 12, even 18 miles on that sheet. I felt a little bit like a poser who didn't really belong. I would finish my four miles and sign out on the sheet. I was the first to sign out. No one else was back.
After Cherry Blossom training started, I was more in sync with the rest of the group, since I had a real training plan to follow and my distances were closer to the rest of the group. I was somewhere in the middle, not the first to sign out, not the last. I felt a little bit more like I belonged.
This week my beginner training plan called for a long run of 6-8. After running 7 last week, I was thinking I would like to aim for 8. But I wasn't sure my body was up for it, so I mentally gave myself permission to run 6 if that was what my body was telling me during the run.
I was glad to see Karen and looking forward to running with her again. Karen is following the intermediate plan, however, so her plan called for 4-5. Why would the intermediate plan call for a shorter run? This week the intermediate and advanced plans were in a recovery week; the beginner plan doesn't hit recovery until next week. So I was only going to have Karen's company for part of my run.
We ran 4 miles before stopping for a quick water break. Those 4 miles were tough for me - my calves were feeling sore and my feet kept going numb. When we would come to a steep hill, Karen would say "We can *do* this" with such conviction and encouragement. It was motivating! During the water break we chatted with a couple of folks in our group. A few were finished. Most were going back out on the trail.
We went back out to do Karen's last mile and ended up doing a mile and a half. I felt much better during that segment of our run. Was it the quick break? The chocolate GU? The camaraderie of our fellow runners? I didn't know, but I was encouraged to think that I could make it to 8 that morning. We took another quick break at the water stop, where I said goodbye to Karen and a couple of others from my class. I told Coach Jodi I was going to head out to finish off my 8 miles.
I felt great for those last miles. My legs felt fresh, my mind felt confident. It was hard to believe it was the same body that ran the first four miles with such heaviness and difficulty. As I ran to the water stop for the final time, I saw Coach Jodi and Coach Jose waiting for me. I realized if Jose was there too, that there probably wasn't anyone left on the trail running. Jose had been running on the trail, making sure we were all doing okay.
I asked Jodi if I were the last one and she said yes as she signed me out. I felt such accomplishment and pride! My run was one of the longer runs for the day! And I had done it! As I walked back to the =PR= store with Jodi and Jose, I felt like I belonged. I was not a poser. I was a runner.