My First 18-miler


Hell.

That pretty much sums up my first 18-mile training run.

I met coach Lynn at 5:15 last Sunday morning. She would accompany me on foot for the first nine miles and would ride her bike for the second nine. The first nine miles felt pretty easy. I’d just come off of a week of training in Florida. The heat and humidity there felt comparable to Nashville, but the sun felt more intense in the, um, Sunshine State. Sunday’s overcast skies made the heat and humidity feel somehow milder and more manageable. But a funny thing happened after we’d completed the first nine…

The temperature climbed and we no longer had overcast skies.

I continued running while Lynn changed into her cycling clothes. About two miles later we were reunited at a park restroom. I was soaking my head under the water fountain in an effort to bring down my temperature. It was going to be a long morning. Lynn’s a veteran marathoner so she knew what I was going through. She was steadfast in offering words of encouragement or just making idle chitchat in an effort to get my mind off of the heat.

We made another restroom/head dousing stop at mile 14. At this point I my legs and feet were beginning to hurt and I lost ALL sense of humor. I couldn’t believe I still had four miles to go.

By the time I’d reached mile 16 my feet and legs were screaming. I’ve heard that marathon training is more about mental training than physical. I now understand what that means. Step and after slow, painful step I kept running (if you can call what I was doing running.)

At mile 17 a quick check of my Garmin GPS watch told me that once we got back to the parking lot, I’d still have .2 miles to go to make it to magic 18. Sigh. My emotions were at an all time low and I knew I would hate passing by my car, unable to jump in it and collapse. #$@%

At mile 17.5 a spry, fresh-on-the-greenway couple were power walking behind me and they were quickly approaching. Lynn knew I was physically and emotionally drained.  I supposed she was concerned that I’d hurl myself off an embankment after being passed by walkers. As the couple passed me Lynn cheerily told them, “She’s about to finish her first 18-mile training run.” The couple erupted in praise. I mumbled something about my activity not meeting the definition of “running.” The man said, “I don’t care how slow you are, I couldn’t walk 18 miles. You’re my hero.” Later I told Lynn that I was aware of her motives. Why else would she tell complete strangers about my distance? She admitted that she knew I needed encouragement by someone other than her. (Earlier when she’d asked how I was feeling I’d thrown a few swear words her way.)

As expected, when we arrived at the parking lot my Garmin read 17.8. Lynn said, “It’s so hot out here. The world isn’t going to stop spinning if you quit running now.” I responded, somewhat rudely, that I didn’t suffer through all of that to finish .2 miles short. I ran around the parking lot until watch read 18. Beautiful 18.

My ultra-slow finishing time zapped my confidence. Lynn texted me that afternoon to let me know that the heat index was 100 degrees at the time we finished. The next day she told me she still couldn’t believe I’d covered that mileage under such hot conditions.  She wants me to feel good about what I’d accomplished.

This week I had two good 5-mile interval sessions on the treadmill. The confidence I lost on Sunday is slowing coming back. Tomorrow I only have to run 12 miles. Lynn and I plan to run an ultra-hilly 11.2-mile course in a local park. The hills will more than make up for the .8 mile I won’t run.

I never thought I’d hear myself say, “I only have to run 12 miles tomorrow.”

Perhaps I’m getting stronger.

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6 Responses to My First 18-miler

  1. Rebekah Hayes says:

    You’re amazing Pam! You’ve set that goal and are accomplishing it. You truly have earned my admiration … way to go!!

  2. Beverly says:

    I bow to you, wonder woman!

  3. Tammy says:

    Way to go, Pamo!!! You are amazing! How did you keep from throwing up in that aweful heat? I am so amazed at what you have been able to accomplish. If you need extra inspiration, rent Charriots of Fire.

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