Saturday morning I found myself roaming around my apartment, looking for substitute running supplies to take with me to Central Park. My well laid plan to get exactly the right supplies this week had failed to materialize, crushed under the weight of a far too busy schedule. So I decided to make do with whatever I could find at home.
I’d heard from some followers on Twitter that most gels were vegan and vegetarian-friendly. A friend had given me a brand to try, but how was I going to carry it? I already tote a big bottle of water around, so I couldn’t hold the gel at the same time. I decided to wear a belt with a pouch that I picked up once in the travel section of a drug store. It wasn’t perfect, but it should work.
Finally, my checklist was complete: good socks, the right shoes, fuel, MP3 player and water. No more excuses. I started slow, crossing off a mental checklist as I went, analyzing everything. How do I feel? How are my joints? How are my feet? Everything checked out okay, but lately I’ve been making a point of listening extra closely to my body. I find that my pace increases and decreases based on how I feel, and I’m okay with that.
When I start the run, the first six miles turn out to be easy. I’m surprised halfway through the second loop that I’m still smiling. This isn’t so bad. As I round the corner, coming to the end of my second loop, I slow considerably but I’m still going. I’m ready to start fueling up. I tear off the top of the gel and drink it down. It tastes good but it’s really sweet. I stop for a second or two to buy a bottle of water, and then I’m off again.
Uh oh, about a mile in, there’s a terrible cramp behind my knee. It’s not going away. To avoid injury I’m afraid I’ll have to stop, but I decide to keep moving, hoping it’ll subside. To my surprise, it does start to ease up after half a mile. Little by little my hobble becomes a jog again, and soon I’m back to running. As I complete the last loop I think how far I’ve come since I couldn’t walk a block. Wow. This is pretty awesome.
In retrospect, I probably could have avoided cramping if I’d started refueling sooner. Every week I learn something new that’s going to help me complete the race on marathon day. I just hope I have enough time to learn everything I need to know by then.
Do you have some tips for me that can shorten this learning curve? I’ll be looking for your suggestions. I need all the help I can get.
The only way for me to complete this marathon is to commit to it. Right up to the moment of signing up, it was still just something I thought I might do. But once I got that number, even my coach was surprised by the change in me. I stopped rescheduling or canceling my running appointments at the drop of a hat. I started being where I said I would when I said I would be there, and each time I made it to an appointment and completed my training is became like a little victory.
I needed to nip this in the bud. My coach told me to find some place flat to run my 13 miles this weekend. I woke up on Saturday morning and checked the weather. It was a fine fall day, sunny and warm with a nice breeze. I thought about the run along the West Side Highway, but I wouldn’t know my mileage. Central Park beckoned. I decided to do 18 miles in Central Park—my nemesis.
For some reason, I decided to try an old pair of running shoes that day. I argued with myself about socks, finally made a selection, and set off on my quest to complete 18 miles. I walked to the park. When I got to the dreaded loop I discovered that, like most weekends, there was a race in progress. I decided to run the loop the opposite direction, starting slowly, just putting one foot in front of the other to warm up.
My feet started hurting right away. I’ve found that when I run I usually notice some discomfort in my body at the very start. It could be anything, but that day I thought, “my toes are complaining.”