Thursday 1 February 2018

I Ran SO Far Away

So, my amazing and inspirational running group is still trying to kill me or convince me to go with them to run a half marathon in Utrecht.  I am not convinced that there is a difference.

On Monday, we ran from St. John's Wood to Canary Wharf, a route that my phone tells me is just shy of the planned 9.3 miles.  Most of it was along the canal, which alternates between being pretty and super sketchy.  Houseboats (barges) line the edges, and we share the narrow pathway with cyclists.  Floating beside us are, at intervals:  swans, ducks, gardens, garbage.  So much garbage.  And at least one animal "taking a nap" in the water each time I've run along it.

I gauged my water intake properly this time, in that, for the first time ever, I didn't spend the whole run thinking about how much I had to pee (like a meditation).  I did this by being somewhat completely underhydrated, drinking only half a cup of water when I got out of bed and then feeling thirsty even before getting to the meeting point.  So, my running mantra was thinking how thirsty I was (like a meditation).  Of the two, the latter is definitely better, and doesn't necessitate my pulling off the (narrow, public) path to squat like one of our group did last week.*  She is my hero.

After what felt like a very, very long way, I asked the woman beside me how much further we were going. 

"About two miles."

It wasn't that I was too tired to go on, because really, where was I going to go?  I had no idea where I was, and frankly, if another group of brightly-spandexed women ran by, and I got distracted for a second, I'd probably end up running with them wherever they were going, for as long as they were running. 

I enjoy the group, and their dynamic.  I enjoy the conversations, and being able to turn off my brain (except for the I-have-to-pee lobe) and just run through this amazing city.

The two runs I've done on my own (sans Ziggy) were longer and harder and farther than those I've done with the group.  I left the flat feeling strong and proud and like a real runner, and ran and ran, not checking my tracker until I was finished.  And each time, I discovered that although the runs felt longer and harder and farther, they were, in fact, only harder.  What I was sure was at least 6 miles was less than 4.  My hour-long run (in my mind) turned out to be only 39 minutes.  Both felt far faster than I usually run, but -- if you're following along, you'll know this one -- they were slower.  I need the group for direction, but also for distraction, which actually (and counter-intuitively) gives me focus.  Not, per se, on my form, pace, breathing and endurance, but on the people ahead of me.

Anyhoo, when we had arrived, we stretched and discussed where to celebrate with breakfast, and I made a bit of an announcement that I'd never run that far before.

"What?" they said.

"That's the longest I've ever run," I said.  "Why on earth would I run 9 miles if I didn't have to?"  (inside voice:  Why would anyone?)

Well, they all flattered me and told me that they thought I had already run hundreds of marathons, that I was making it look easy, but I meant it.  Without the group, I would not have done it.

 If I just follow them, I feel I can do anything.**

There's a joke here somewhere about making my pubic public, but I can't quite piece it together...
**  Have a cult?  Call me!

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