Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Seventeen Saturdays: Episode XIII

Saturday, September 5

I swear, my hand cramped up just trying to put the ‘X’ through the box on the training schedule after today’s 18-mile run.

Today sucked. Hard.

I only had to go two miles farther than I ran a couple weeks ago, but it took me almost three freaking hours: 2:59:47. That’s a pace of 9:53 – almost TEN MINUTES – per mile. PER. MILE. I did my 16-miler in 2:18, for Pete’s sake.

Here’s the thing: I saw a tough run coming, but I didn’t know how bad it would be. Truth is, pretty much everything I could have done wrong in the 24 hours leading up to this new frontier, I did.

For months, I’ve known this one was going to require a rescheduling, since Friday night was my 20-year high school reunion at Salt Fork, and I didn’t anticipate being up for 18 miles through the park in the early morning and then driving home before noon.

So, not wanting to give up either my day of rest before or my two-day rest period after, I decided I’d just make this one an afternoon run, heading out at 4 p.m. when the day would at least be starting to cool off, but still giving me enough time to be home before sunset.

It seems a logical enough shift, but what I failed to do was adjust any of my pre-run preparation, and coupled with the reunion, at which I was up until nearly 4 a.m. and awake again at 7:30, these missteps added up to a horrible, horrible run.

Food Fail: Friday night’s dinner was excellent: Ribs and cookout fare. But I didn’t stuff myself, and other than a post-midnight slice of pizza, I really didn’t do anything to pack in a store of carbohydrates. My recent Fridays have all been about lots of pizza and pasta. Saturday’s breakfast and lunch weren’t incredibly substantial, either: A small-to-medium plate of two biscuits and sausage gravy before 9 a.m., and a stuffed pepper at around 1 p.m.

Sleep Fail: I was coming off a night of barely four hours of unsound sleep, and my post-lunch nap hoping to rest up for the run wasn’t a good one.

Basic Planning Fail: Even at 4 p.m., it was still 80 degrees, with not a cloud in the sky. Realizing I should be prepared for all sorts of weather and that’s not super hot, it’s obviously never been that warm when I’ve started a run, so I’ve never done real distance in that kind of heat.

I had a PowerBar just before heading out the door, and I took three gels and my 20 ounces of water in the belt bottles.

I could tell from the first few steps outside that I really, really didn’t want to do this, but once the running starts, stopping is essentially not an option: I have to look at it that way, and at any rate, on the occasions I feel like this, it usually passes after a mile or two.

Although the first two miles went by at normal pace, during number three, I had to fight off a slight side stitch, which I haven’t had in a long time. And this was the easiest thing I did for the next two and a half hours.

Halfway through mile six, I was actually wondering if I was going to be able to complete this run. Not even a third of the way in, and I felt just physically wiped out. I mean, I’ve been miserable on some stretches of these runs – the last mile of the first frontier back in week four comes to mind in particular – but questioning whether I had the ability to complete them hasn’t happened at all.

And I never really got a good second (or third, or fourth) wind: The whole run was just varying degrees of pain and suck, with long shadeless stretches.

I distracted myself in different ways: recalling the reunion and thinking about how to write about it; considering of what sort of tattoos I’d get if I were going to get post-marathon celebratory ink (Latin inscriptions of “It is not this day” and “time” or “memory” came to mind, as did “Look at the clock,” a line from Crossing Decembers.); staring ahead to the patches of shade and trying to soak in the slightly lower temperatures they offered on this afternoon of long, shadeless stretches.

The ten-mile mark (at which point I was already lagging, at a 9-minute pace) was near home, and running through it knowing I had another eight miles out-and-back to go actually put the thought of crying into my head.

Nothing about this second loop passed quickly. Every intersection or landmark lingered on the horizon, every hill got higher, every step felt weaker.

This was a run against doubt.

At one point, out on a narrow, isolated road between fields, I realized that while everything in my body was screaming to just stop running, where would that leave me? Still three or four miles from home, at least, and that’s a bad walk if you’re miserable, and it would only make the afternoon longer.

I wish I could say that these hours were mentally rewarding and helped me sort things out and clear the cobwebs the way they often do, but trying to draw my thoughts away from the agony was as exhausting for my brain as the run itself was for my body.

Eventually, I was a mile from home, and still jogging.

Everything hurt. Maybe even my eyelids.

Knowing I had about a two-tenths of a mile cushion, I considered pulling up short just after turning onto our street, but what would be the good? I’d still have to walk home, and I was, at this point, out of water, so I’d only be making it longer until I could get a drink.

I pushed my pace, just barely, the last 50 yards or so when I realizet that if I didn’t, I was going to actually take more than three hours on this run.

I made myself not stop completely once I hit the driveway, walking in circles for a minute, going inside and grabbing some water, then going back outside to stay upright just a bit longer.

After a bit, I tried to take my ice bath, but couldn’t stop shaking, so I just went for the hot shower, Motrin, orange juice to get my blood sugar up (I didn’t even want to freaking think about eating yet), pajamas and the couch for some Mythbusters.

Feeling just flattened and discouraged, I thought about the exchange my daughter and I had when I had half-staggered through the front door immediately after the run.

She was sitting on the couch, looked up and just said “Good job.”

“Ugh,” I replied. “It took me three hours and it was TERRIBLE.”

“Did you fall down?” she asked.


“Did you stop running?”


She repeated, with emphasis, “Good. Job.”

And I am reminded that some days, just finishing is enough.

September 7, 2009 - Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports | , , , ,


  1. […] had three pretty good weekday runs in the wake of last weekend’s three-hour slog, but I still wondered if that was really a result of all the things I did wrong, or whether it was […]

    Pingback by Seventeen Saturdays: Episode XIV « Cornfield Meet | September 13, 2009 | Reply

  2. What a smart granddaughter I have!

    Comment by Pam | September 13, 2009 | Reply

  3. […] 18-miler and I, we have a history. Back in 2009, my first 18-mile run set a bar for Worst Run Ever that surpassed even the full marathon I ran a few weeks later. Many times since then, I have pushed […]

    Pingback by Eighteen Saturdays: Canton Marathon 2012, Weeks Ten and Eleven « Cornfield Meet | April 28, 2012 | Reply

  4. […] My Worst Run Ever. […]

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