The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Final Long Run

The final long run, and I am more than anxious to get started. It’s 6:20 in the morning and the lake is deserted of people. I start my run on the trail surrounding the lake knowing that my friend Melissa would be heading in the opposite direction until she and I would meet on the trail.

Birds are chirping their “good mornings” as the sun has just risen stirring them awake. Ducks are scurrying around the lake’s edge before plunging into its cold waters. This part of the trail is flat and a great way to start my run. Nice and easy.

There is the slightest hint of fog rising above the lake. A wind is starting to pick up; quietly beginning to erase the glass-like stillness of the water. The sky is overcast but gives no rain. For this I am very grateful as it has been a long winter of training in the rain and cold.

Shortly after the first mile, I begin to run up the first hill. The back side of the lake is the hilliest section with the trail going down to the lake and then back up into the hillside. Here is where I meet Melissa. She is a couple miles into her run as she ran from her house to meet me. We quickly fall into step and manage to keep a good and steady pace.

Leaving the rolling hills, the trail brings us back around to where I started. This 2.6 mile loop will be the make up of my 20 to 22 mile run today. The trails are excellent for my shins and prevents them from barking at me. I chose this route for that reason. My shins have been bothering me on and off for awhile now and being so close to the marathon I didn’t want to take any chances. The trail feels good.

Melissa and I pick up the pace on the flattest parts of the trail and then buckle down on the hills. She is hoping to qualify for New York by running a 1:40 half marathon in Eugene. She is generous with the pace as she knows my distance will be greater than hers today and I need to conserve some energy for the end.

After the 3rd lap we run into our running group who are running a warm up mile before starting some dynamic stretching. By the end of the 4th lap the rest of Bellingham Fit had found their way to the park and will start their run soon. On the farside of the lake, Melissa and I part ways and she runs home.

I begin the rolling hills on my own, knowing that Karen will be looking to meet up with me to finish out my run. The hills are starting to tire me. For the last couple of days my body was fighting some kind of bug, so I am unsure if I am really tired from the hill running or if the bug was starting to win. I refuse to give into the bug. Before I realized it Karen and Amy were heading my way. They turn around and run in the direction I am running.

They keep me occupied by talking about running, triathlons and different races we’ve each run. I know I am growing quiet and they recognize it. They tell me I am doing good and look strong. We continue. They allow me to set the pace and yet push me. It is what I need.

The 6th time of hitting that first hill I have to walk part of it. Not what I wanted to do, but I wouldn’t beat myself up for it. At the crest of it we are running again. We run the hills and once we hit the flat part, I tell them I want to stop at the Bellingham Fit water station. We stop for a few seconds before beginning again. The Gatorade helps.

Leaving the flat part of the trail and heading up that hill again, I make the decision today’s run will be 20 miles instead of 22. I am just too tired and the thought of doing an 8th lap and doing those hills again is not appealing to me, it’s taking all my strength to get through the 7th lap. Stopping to get more water at the water station, our coach Pat comes over to offer encouragement. We bid goodbye to Amy and Pat asks to join our final miles. We head out the flattest part of the trail and then turn around for the final stretch. Mercifully, it is over. 19.54 miles are finished with a total elevation change of 9,995 feet. I have officially entered into the taper before the marathon.

Training for a spring marathon has been challenging. There have been miles of trials and trials of miles. Wind, rain, snow and ice have been a constant companion making it difficult to train as hard as I wanted. Not one to ever use a treadmill, I did what I could when I could. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

And never alone.

My family always encouraged me and my husband offered advice when needed and had countless meals ready for me at the end of my longest runs. Every weekend my friends were asking me how many miles I’d have to run and where they could join me. Without fail, my longest runs were always with my friends who often did a tag-team effort to ensure not a single mile would find me alone. For that I am incredibly grateful. Those weren’t always the prettiest miles and yet without fail, they were there.

To you, my running friends, thank you. This marathon is dedicated to you.

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