200

Today I saw 10.8 miles on the screen of my Garmin. Usually there wouldn’t be anything remarkable about this distance. I’ve run it plenty of times before — twice already this week, in fact. However, today this number meant I’d accomplished something I’ve never done before.

I ran 200 miles in one month.

Actually, make that 29 days to be exact. (I took two rest days — one due to travel and the other prior to last weekend’s long run.) To some this may seem like a small feat; others might call me crazy. Truth is, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. To me, reaching this milestone was better than finishing some races I’ve run. It was hard. It was time consuming. And it involved running 50 miles last week, followed by another 48 in five days.

On Wednesday, when I was sitting at 180 for the month, I had my doubts as to whether I could hit 200. Twenty miles in two days seemed unimaginable given what I’d been asking of my body lately. My right achilles tendon was achey, my shoulders were tight, and I wasn’t sure if my body would cooperate. But I should’ve known better than to doubt myself.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from running it’s that the human body is capable of amazing things. It’s the mind that takes some coercing. Self-doubt is a distance runner’s biggest enemy, and it’s one I’m all too familiar with. I often tell people that running a marathon is 90% mental and 10% physical. I’m so fond of this expression that there’s a sign placed on the course of the Akron Marathon each year that quotes me as saying something along these lines. Unfortunately, I’ve not always been good at following my own advice.

Four years ago, I got a concussion playing soccer, and I was unable to run for a long time. All the hours I’d put into training suddenly seemed worthless. There was nothing I could do to keep from losing the momentum and fitness I’d built up. All I could do was watch it slowly fade away. This made me sad and frustrated, but worst of all, it filled me with self-doubt. I thought I’d never get back to the level I was at before the injury. It just seemed too daunting, too time-consuming, and too painful. So I didn’t try…not even after the doctor told me to “hit the road,” again.

Running has always been a part of who I am, and in not doing it, I became someone else. Someone I didn’t like very much.

My sophomore year of high school, my best friend gave me a photocopy of an article from Runner’s World titled “Most Myself.” It was written by a woman who felt her best, her most confident, her most beautiful out on a run — wearing a t-shirt and running shorts with her sweaty ponytail swinging behind her. It’s funny how random things, like that photocopy, have stayed with me over the years. The truth is that I’m a lot like the article’s author. The road is where I feel most at peace with myself.

When I stopped running, I lost that feeling. I’d like to tell you that it was easy to get back, but it wasn’t easy at all. It was really difficult and it took me a long time and a lot of miles. However, finding it again has made me a stronger runner and a stronger person. So when I looked down at my Garmin this morning and saw 10.8 miles, I didn’t feel tired or sore. I didn’t feel my achey achilles or tight shoulders. I felt at peace. I felt happy. I felt like myself. There was no doubt about it.

Butterflies

Swarms of yellow and black butterflies have descended on the park near my house. Today, I counted 23 of them during my short five-mile run. I don’t mind their company. They make it seem as if I’m running through some sort of fairytale land. Their presence is also appropriate since I feel as if I’ve swallowed a few lately. (Figuratively, not literally.) Tomorrow, I will attempt to do something I’ve never done in all the years I’ve been running. I’m not sure whether I’ll make it, or if my body will cooperate, but I’m hoping the butterflies are a good omen.

License Plate Assumptions

On days, like today, when I do my hill workout through a nearby neighborhood, I often see an old Sebring Convertible parked outside a cute little cottage-looking house. The license plate on the car is “Topluss.” I know that it’s referring to the car, but I have this vision of the car’s owner — who I imagine is a middle-age lady with wild, curly red hair — driving around town in nothing but pants and a pair of oversized sunglasses. The thought always makes me giggle out loud. Fortunately, nobody ever hears me. I run early in the morning when most sane people are sitting at their kitchen tables sipping coffee, not sweating through seven to 10 miles. Today someone did hear me, though. It was the owner of the Topluss car…who happens to be an older, fairly portly gentleman with just a tad bit of brown hair above each ear. Totally not what I expected. Then again, maybe it’s not his car. Perhaps he was borrowing it from his wife…who I suspect has wild, curly red hair.