Last Saturday was a perfect day for running—so perfect, apparently, that the springlike atmosphere and pleasant breeze wafting through my hair caused me to get a bit lost right in the middle of my long run.
Let me paint a picture for you–
Saturday, 8:30 a.m.
Looking at my training schedule and my personal goals for myself, I am supposed to run 9 miles, which, while no walk in the park, should definitely be doable, even despite the fact that I haven’t run anything too close to that distance for about a month (although I have been doing 6-7 miles more or less regularly). My thighs are still feeling torn up after my first real speed workout ever on Wednesday (like on an actual track and everything), but all in all, I’m feeling pretty great. (It helps that I slept about 11 hours the night before.)
About four miles into the run, I come to an important decision–do I veer down this path that I know leads back to the main highway and risk running less than my 9 miles, or do I keep on going and just head down the next trail I come across and hope it carries me in the right direction?
Because I know it will be harder to tack on extra distance the closer to home I am, I decide to just keep on going, figuring that I’ll hit a thru street soon.
Fast forward about half an hour–I am nearing the end of the road I’m on, and there’s nowhere to go but down into the direction of the main highway (although with no thru street in sight), so I head that way, figuring that I’ve got to eventually find a road to take me where I need to go. But the minutes and miles keep ticking by and I keep hitting dead end after dead end, which force me to weave back and forth among small streets (that are all, by the way, WAY out in the country and generally surrounded by vicious German-Shepherd-like dogs). Luckily for me, I have brought an orange with me, which I desperately try to ration as I keep on pounding the pavement (since it’s my only source of fuel or liquid for the entire run).
Another half hour passes, and I’m about 10 miles into what was supposed to be my 9-mile run. By this point, I’m at least back into familiar territory, which is both great and terrible—great because I’m not lost anymore, terrible because I realize that I’m still 2.5 miles from home, which means that my already-hard long run was going to be about the same length as the race I’m training for.
And then a strange thing happened around mile 11–I started to get really, REALLY emotional. Perhaps it was because my breath was already coming in ragged sobs due to the presence of hills and lack of water, or maybe it was because I was hoping desperately that my husband might happen to pass by me in the car and bring me home, or maybe it was because panicked thoughts started racing themselves in my mind and yelling that I wasn’t going to be able to make it home, much less race this half-marathon in a month–but try as I might, tears and heaving whimpers were escaping me, whether I liked it or not.
If you’ve ever pushed yourself while exercising–and I mean TRULY pushed yourself to your limits–perhaps you know the feeling I’m talking about : the point where your body has just about reached physical exhaustion and your mind (that mysterious power that fuels ALL exercise) starts to turn on you, convincing that you can no longer go on, and you totally lose it.
I finally walked through our front door a mile and a half later sobbing uncontrollably while my bewildered husband tried to bring me glass after glass of water and ask what was wrong.
Truth was, I couldn’t really tell him anything except for that it was “like the 18-miler.” (Backstory: When Matt and I were training together for our marathon, we had carved out over 3 hours one Saturday morning to run our first 18-miler. The furthest distance either of us had gone before that point was 15 miles (I believe), so it was quite a jump up. I still remember the last mile of that 18-mile run from hell–I was sure that with every step, my legs would crumple beneath me and that I would never be able to rise again—that I would never be able to reach my goal of running a marathon because I couldn’t even complete this training in preparation for it. It was the first time my goal of running 26.2 miles seemed truly impossible and that I felt like I was going to fall short and fail, and it was the first time that I truly had pushed myself to my physical and emotional limits.)
For anyone who has been into any form of intense exercise, there is an interesting intersection you might come across in your quest towards greater and greater intensities, distances, and/or weights—it’s the intersection between what you WANT to do and what your body currently CAN do, and when you reach that intersection, it’s like your brain opens the floodgates to your emotions, and you are reduced to a mewling, sobbing, infantlike mess.
I wish I could explain it better than I have—the absolute powerlessness it brings upon you, the uncontrollable emotion that seems yanked out of you by a force apart from (but still part) of yourself.
Basically, it was a lesson that I needed to plan out my runs better and not be running 12.5 miles when my training schedule told me I should only run 9.
Have you ever reached that emotional intersection while exercising before?