Last year during a long training run in preparation for the Divas Half Marathon, my friend Melissa Z and I ran alongside the NYRR 18 Mile Marathon Tune-Up. We were both almost finished with our 9+1 requirement to get into the 2011 ING NYC Marathon (run in nine NYRR races and volunteer at one event for guaranteed entry) and we both mused about the fact that next year, this would be us.
We could not fathom what running three loops of hilly Central Park would be like. We wouldn’t even do two! It seemed like torture, but at the same time we knew we would be there in 2011. We knew we would be a few weeks away from our own marathon. And so, on our run which was probably about 10 or 11 miles, we cheered on the 18-mile runners. We showed them support because we would be in their uncomfortable position a year later.
And we were.
Despite all the obstacles that got in our way over the last 12 months — my hip injury and stomach flare-up and Z’s engagement, wedding planning and new job with insane hours — we met to run our very own 18 Mile Marathon Tune-Up.
So Z and I met up and the race began. Since we hadn’t seen each other in awhile, we had lots to catch up on. The first loop — six miles — flew by. Not pace-wise, we were pretty slow, but it felt fast and it felt easy. We hit Harlem Hill, one of the two really difficult hills (in addition to the many rolling hills) in the first mile so it wasn’t bad at all. I couldn’t believe how effortless it seemed.
And even a year after we saw the other Tune-Up, and even though we are both six weeks away from our marathon, we still had not even completed two loops of the park. Let alone three. So our second six-mile loop was in a way new to both of us. I never ran Harlem Hill or Cat Hill (the other brutal hill) twice in one run. Much less three times. So after the first loop, we were in unchartered territory.
The second loop was markedly harder than the first. I wanted to be done. It was hard, my body was hurting, I was ready to be finished. When we reached nine miles, the halfway point, I could not believe I had to do the same distance all over again. We pushed on.
[Me and Z pushing on]
Running became harder. At 10 miles, I told Z — who was doing 14 — that she only had four miles left, and four miles isn’t long at all! Of course she could push through. By mile 12, we needed a boost and each put our headphones on. That music gave us a much needed push and our pace increased.
After Z broke away, my body seemed to have a mind of its own and I started flying. Now I was the one with just four miles left. I repeated what I told Z, that we could always push through four miles. What’s four miles in the big picture of 18? I wanted to be done and really, I didn’t seem to have much control. My body wanted to go fast, so I ran fast.
When there was only two miles left, I told myself what I always tell myself when there are two miles left: Two miles is a short, easy run — it is only 20 minutes of running! You can run for 20 minutes.
When the last mile hit, I was so happy. Happy for my shiny new PDR, happy to be almost done.
Almost done almost done almost done. But where is that finish line? Why does this feel like the longest mile of my life? When can I STOP RUNNING??
And then I did it. I smiled as I approached the finish line of the 18 Mile Marathon Tune-Up. I just ran a distance that seemed so completely unattainable a few months — even a few weeks! — ago, that I wasn’t completely sure I could run it with no pain.
Despite the masked man on my heels at the finish line, I made it through alive — and happy!
Yep, wasn’t exaggerating on speeding up once I was alone. I just wanted to be DONE. And then I was, 18 miles down with just six weeks to the ING NYC Marathon.
. . . Dori runs 20 miles for the first time. See you then!