Split Personality

During today’s run I realized that I often have a split personality of sorts while running. There are periods of normalcy, where my pace is consistent and the run feels comfortable. There are periods of abject misery, where my pace is slow, my body hurts, and the run feels horrid. And then there are the periods of pure joy! This is when my shoulders are pulled back, my head is tall, my stride is fluid and long, running is effortless, and my pace is fast. In one moment I can be hobbling along, fighting back tears, and in the next moment I will feel invincible and strong. It kind of makes me wonder what others would see as they pass me by.

I don’t always experience all three personalities during a run, but it isn’t uncommon to at least experience two of them. Rare are the runs when I only feel joy, but those are savoury and sweet at the same time! Thankfully, it is almost as rare to have a run that is complete misery. I doubt I’d still be a runner if that happened on a regular basis. Today’s run was a mixture of all three with a heavy dose of misery.

The first 3K were rather average although a tad slower than usual. It didn’t feel like I was moving more slowly, but my pace average hovered around 7 minutes per kilometre. The fourth kilometre is a tough one, because most of it is uphill; however, I actually powered through that one more quickly than each of the previous 3 kilometres!  The fifth kilometre was miserable. I wasn’t in too much pain yet, but I was definitely feeling fatigued and wished I was done already. That was a really slow kilometre! The sixth kilometre was almost average. My pace improved a bit, and I started to feel that second wind. The seventh kilometre…well that kind of needs a bit more back story…

In my history of training for and running 10K races, I have always found the 7th kilometre to be where I hit the wall. The seventh kilometre has always sucked. When I registered for the marathon, one of my biggest fears was of having four 7th kilometres. I am looking at the marathon as four 10K runs. While I have no idea if that will be helpful or not, it makes sense to me. My main long route is 10 kilometres, so I’ve begun to lap myself on my long runs. When I say that there are four 7th kilometres in a marathon, I am actually talking about the seventh kilometre out of every 10 kilometres. Make sense? So, the dreaded walls for me are the 7th, the 17th, the 27th, and the 37th kilometres. Got it? Okay back to today’s run…

The seventh kilometre was amazing and fast. That was a 6 minute kilometre and the fastest one of the morning to that point. I don’t think there is a wall at the 7K point anymore, but it probably just moved on me.

The eighth kilometre was not quite as fast but still pretty good, and then the personalities changed. My knees and hips began to hurt. I might have let an expletive slip out during the 11th kilometre. I know that I whimpered out loud a couple of times during the 12th kilometre. There is something about running long distances that makes my hips feel like I have just given birth. It feels like they’ve spread, and my lower abdominal muscles feel heavy and strained. I was dreading the 14th, which would take me up the same hill as the 4th kilometre. It was as tough as I expected. Almost like clockwork, the 16th kilometre began to feel a little more manageable, which led into an absolutely amazing 17th kilometre!

Just two kilometres earlier I was barely able to drag my feet through a semblance of running motion, but at the 17K point I was flying. My head was high, my shoulders back. My legs were light and strong, striding long and fast. I felt confident and alive as if I could run forever. My time for that kilometre was 5:40! Oh my!

By the 19th kilometre I was back to struggling for every step. My husband passed me as he drove to Tim Horton’s for a cup of coffee. He seemed to think that I looked strong at that point, but I certainly didn’t feel that way. There was more audible whimpering. Today’s goal was to run 23 kilometres. Kilometres 20, 21, and 22 were all miserable beasts, but that didn’t stop me from choosing to run up another little hill for the final kilometre. I expected to die on that hill, but I handled it fairly well, better than I could have hoped actually. Still, I was thrilled to reach the end. I think.

The pain doesn’t end just because I am done running. More than 6 hours later and my hips and knees are still throbbing. Walking is slow and uncomfortable. I groan a fair bit. The foam roller will be my frenemy today. And tomorrow. Can’t believe I give up a couple of hours of sleep for this…

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