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Yesterday I accomplished something that I have never done before in my entire life: I ran ten miles.
Although I have participated in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco before (which was actually longer than this particular run)-of the thirteen miles that were completed in the race, I walked about six. This time, I ran the whole way-only stopping to fuel up quickly with much needed sports drinks and energy bars (if you know me well, then you are well aware that I become psychotic when I do not eat for long periods of time, so a bit of food along the way was necessary to prevent me from attacking other trail runners and their pets, in a ferocious hypoglycemic fury!)
During the two hours it took to complete this training, I went through several phases of both unexplainable joy (most likely fueled by a “runner’s high” of endorphins) and regretful, bitter remorse-for even attempting the run in the first place. I had never experienced so many different levels of complacent comfort and sore discomfort during a single run. My muscles ached, my mind frantically searched for something to focus on other than the pain, I felt the small sips of water I had consumed splashing around in my stomach much too consciously- and then suddenly, my muscles would relax and strengthen, and my stomach would become calm, and my mind would be tranquil. I switched back and forth through these phases several times throughout the run, as though an internal light switch was being maliciously toyed with, by my inner self.
And through these constantly changing phases, the ten miles seemed to go on forever at certain points, (especially halfway through-at which point I scolded myself silently for willingly subjecting myself to such torture!) but despite my qualms, the scenery of my home town lifted my spirits in all of its beautiful foggy splendor, and the support of my family reminded me of why it was so important that I finish the run in its entirety, no matter how painful it felt.
My mom, working at one of the water stops, was sure to yell at me as I ran by, “make sure you eat something! you need to eat, Camille! you really really need to eat!” in urgent, quick screams as I ran past her. I grabbed a power bar off the table and bit off a chunk while still running, not feeling much like eating anything (which is quite unusual for me) but not wanting to pass out either.
The power bar tasted like peanut butter-flavored cardboard taffy, and I choked it down reluctantly-wishing that they gave out mini-cheeseburgers or yogurt smoothies instead. A few minutes later, as the nutrients of the cardboard taffy began to take effect, I felt completely re-energized and eagerly motivated to finish off the remaining four miles. I was struck with an epiphany-it instantly became quite clear why the coaches stress eating and drinking throughout every training, as I quickly morphed into a properly-fueled super-human, capable of running not only ten miles, but even more! Twenty! No problem!
However, my sudden feelings of invincibility faded just as quickly as they were brought upon me, and after another mile, I once again I found myself plowing steadily toward the finish, concentrating hard on controlling my breathing, while also focusing my mind on things other than the remaining distance.Throughout the ten miles, my running partner, Spencer, kept my pace steady and even by running quickly beside me, and I tried to go a bit faster, thinking that I was probably slowing him down, but pushing myself harder to finish with a faster pace.
I wondered where my friends Heather and Teresa were, as they had told me that they would try to meet me along the course to cheer for me as I ran by, but as five miles, then six, and seven elapsed, they were still nowhere to be seen. I became suddenly bitter and then at once forgiving, and then finally convinced myself that I would still see them before I finished the run, and that they must have decided to wait at the end of the course, in the harbor.
Instead I saw my dad, who had come out to meet me with my puppy Mei-Mei, and Mei-Mei ran alongside Spencer and I excitedly for a few minutes, galloping with her large gangly limbs, and her tongue hanging out of her mouth with eager excitement.
And finally, after about two hours had elapsed, I saw the finishing point-only a short distance ahead of me, and with salt water dripping in my hair and sweat clinging to my skin, I ran faster and faster, pushing myself beyond a normal state of consciousness, into a intensely focused mind-set where all that existed was my breathing, my power to run and the distance in front of me-at which point, I fell. Clumsily, I slipped on the fog-misted pavement, jumping up again quickly-embarrassed but with no scratches or bruises, and raced to the finishing point.
Though I am usually the type of runner that prefers to jog steadily throughout my workouts, I enjoyed the adrenaline-filled moment of victory in finishing the run at a sprinting speed. Pushing myself faster and faster, I felt like I was not only completing an everyday training, but was completing a race-and as I stopped suddenly and victoriously at the finish, I heard victory bells ringing in my ears, and voices applauding my strength and agility (which I actually did hear, from the supportive and enthusiastic coaches of my Team in Training coaches). My mind became numb with fatigue and overexertion, and I felt as though the proper functioning of my brain would not be accessible for several minutes, as simple jokes confused me, and my ability to speak clearly was temporarily abandoned by my recovering body.
Dizzy and confused, I walked back to my car unsteadily, checking my phone to see if Heather or Teresa had called to tell me that they wouldn’t make it after all, and had decided instead to sleep in (for which I wouldn’t blame them, considering how early in the morning, and cold and foggy it was along the trail). Instead I found confused text messages, saying, “where are you?” and “aren’t you running to Poplar Beach? we are here, waiting” only to find that they had, in fact, come out to meet me, but must have arrived at my half-way point at Poplar Beach just after I had already made the turn back towards Pillar Point Harbor. I was touched that they had made the effort to come all the way out to meet me, and had waiting in the freezing cold for an hour, just for a chance to cheer me on while I passed by. Although our miscommunication (mainly on my part) had prevented them from actually cheering me on as I ran, I was so happy that they had tried to meet me that it no longer mattered whether they had been there or not, because their support and encouragement was all that I had really wanted in the end, and this was something that they gave me, quite clearly.
After checking my phone, I followed a group of fellow runners to participate in a ritual and beneficial practice that would seem to be even more masochistic than running ten miles straight-plunging my tired legs into the ice-cold water of the Half Moon Bay ocean. But, after about two minutes of sharp and spastic pain, the numbness set in, and the cool water felt gently therapeutic on my aching legs, and I was assured by coaches and fellow participants that this practice would prevent my muscles from being very sore the next day.
And now, it is a day later, and my muscles ache so much that I can barely walk without screaming silent obscenities to myself (and occasionally out loud)…and I wonder if this means that it would be much worse if I hadn’t gone into the freezing water after the run. I will admit though that I kind-of enjoy the thrilling pain of ice-cold water (as strange as that may be), and will probably continue with this ritual whenever possible, in hopes that it actually does help reduce the inflammation enough to prevent soreness, while secretly reveling in participating in yet another mentally and physically challenging practice alongside my training.
Ultimately, I have little reason to complain. I feel strong, healthy, motivated, and accomplished-having run so far already, and having raised almost $1000 to date. Next week I will begin my training in Dublin, Ireland, and I am excited about the beautiful change of scenery that I have ahead of me on my next long run as well as the inevitable quirky interactions I am sure to experience as a lone American running through the streets of the city.
I hope that you will continue to read about my training and my travels, and feel free to comment and ask questions on anything that interests you! I realize that this post was a bit long (I always write too much!), but if you have made it all the way to the end (as it seems you have!), let me know which parts of my training and travels you would like to hear more about, and I will be sure to include that in my future (probably much shorter) posts!
If you would like to make a donation (or another donation, if you are feeling especially generous!) please visit my fundraising website at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sj/honolulu09/ckelley8qm.
Thanks again for your support, and I hope to hear from you soon!