Running up, over and through the cogs

The 20 Miler

A 20 mile training run is the highlight of my training, for any race.  I think, for me, it’s the perfect distance.  It’s a long enough distance that it is going to get me that happy wasted feeling that leaves me fatigued, but not long enough that I’ll have Frankenstein legs the next day.

I can run it on trails, on the road.  Fast, slow or something in between.

The Goldilocks run!

Nowadays I’m hittin’ a 20 miler at least once a month, sometimes more, depending on where I am in my training, but it didn’t used to always be like that.  Here’s my log entry for my very first 20 miler:

Time: 2:51:25
Location: Lakeshore Path, Chicago
Notes:  1st 20 MILER!  Boy was it tough.  Mostly cuz cold, wind, rain. 1st 10 miles was okay, but coming back had 20 mph headwind. Got drenched. Splashed by a car on Lakeshore.  Wanted to quit but I stuck it out and finshed very strong.  Hot dog!!!  Chilling rest of day.

Boy did I chill.  My legs hurt like a bitch.

That day was more about conquering the elements and having to go to battle in order to survive.  I recall channeling my inner Walter Payton, focusing on his indomitable will on the field.  One guy couldn’t tackle Walter.  Two guys couldn’t either.

Go back and watch Walter Payton highlight reels and focus on how much he looks like the bad guy in an old western flick: he gets shot but keeps comin’… gets shot again, keeps comin’ still… shot again, same thing.

You couldn’t kill him.

After that run, I knew nothing could kill me out there.  Not snow, not wind, not cold… not heat, not rain (maybe lightning), no intangible of any kind could ever stop me from enjoying going long.

Somehow I attached that epiphany to 20 mile training runs, so they sorta come with the anxiety and exhilaration of a race.

Sometimes it’s just about tricking my mind to be up for something that could really suck, so when it eventually DOES really suck it’s not that big of a deal.

But most of the time, a 20 miler, for me, is the perfect distance to run on instinct and just let ‘er rip.  We all know that the last 6 miles of a marathon is where most people have to crawl inside their own brains to find out what can and can’t be tweaked.  Manipulated.  Overridden.

That’s where shit really starts to hurt.

So avoiding that is always a welcome charge.

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