This morning I ran the Lumberjack & Jill 10 Miler in Oshkosh. In the first week of January, I picked several 5k and 10k races to run from March to October. The plan was to build up to this 10 mile race for the longest run I’ve ever done. And then… 2020 got rolling. Every race I’d put on my calendar was either canceled or made entirely virtual… except the ten mile race. I fully expected it to follow suit with the others. Add to that the turmoil of this year, and training for that distance was simply not a priority. Then three weeks ago I decided to try. I decided to see what I could accomplish by race day.
I hadn’t run more than 3.5 miles at a time all year. Often it was less than that. I had given a lot of focus to strength workouts and yoga, which turned out to be game changers. At the start of the three weeks, I ran five miles. End of week one, I ran seven. End of week two, I ran eight. And today, I ran ten. I’d only worked on endurance during my short training weeks and didn’t set a goal for my pace. Endure. That was the only goal. And endure, I did. I ran ten miles. I feel proud and surprised.
I fought tears through the first mile. The six week mark since losing Cheryl weighed on my mind. Sometimes the grief refuses to be put off but I knew I had to keep my energy for the run. I slowed my breaths and focused on everything around me. That brought a new wave of emotion as I watched happy runners finally enjoying a race together. It was wonderful.
I felt strong, which I feel less often in recent months compared to my usual self. On a run is one of the only times I consistently feel like my strength will rebound and I won’t always feel overwhelmed like I am lately.
The first 6 miles were simple and steady. Families cheered in their driveways. The police officers blocking traffic clapped for us and called out encouragemt. I think we’ve all missed the physical aspect of community more than we even realize. At the very least, I have. I’ve never smiled so many times in the course of a run.
The course was fantastic. Fall colors, bridges, wildflowers, stretches of both paved and dirt trails, much of it along the river. I already know I’ll sign up for the 2021 race.
The 7th mile was challenging, then I caught a second wind at the end of it that carried me through mile 9. The entire last mile was arduous. My calves were threatening cramps and my quads felt like jello. I’d already passed the runners I’d pegged as my “I’ll pass you before the finish” people. The final half mile was nothing but a slow jog.
Crossing the finish line was a relief and a few tears of pride came in the seconds afterward. As I stretched, the song “My Way Home” came into my head and my smile returned. My legs may not love me this evening, but I love them for what they accomplished today.