Six months ago, my longest run was somewhere between 5 and 6 miles, with a fair amount of walking involved; my total running miles: 77. I rarely ran routes that had any elevation at all -- and had never run on a trail. In fact, I had probably only hiked trails a handful of times in my life and knew very little about the beautiful trails that were actually within 5 miles of my home.
Further, my self-discipline left something to be desired. I had little trouble accomplishing things when other people mandated the accomplishments (work, school, etc.), but had great difficulty prioritizing my personal goals and well-being.
With the goal of making running a part of my life (because of its mental, emotional and physical benefits) and improving my self-discipline, I decided to run a marathon for my 30th birthday. Then I realized a trail run would be preferable and settled on the Big Basin Redwoods 50k -- the scenery would be beautiful, it would be 30+ miles for my 30th, and travel would be accessible and affordable.
And so, my training began. I discovered mornings (real mornings 5 and 6 am mornings, not 10 and 11 am mornings). I discovered the necessity and importance of sleep and good eating habits. I discovered the incompatibility of a glass of wine at night and a good run the next morning or coffee during the day and a good run at night. Hydration and rest are critical.
At the end of May, I ran 10 miles. The first time in my life I had ever run that far. It was challenging and exhilarating. I experienced my first true runner's high.
Then, in June, I spent 21 days in production on a feature film, working 14+ hours a day; exhausted and caffeine-addicted, my training fell by the side.
When I got back on track after the film shoot, my running mentor stressed integrating trail runs into my training process since the 50k involved 6,000 feet of elevation. Out on the trail, I learned how different trail running is from street running and how inclines affect stamina, endurance and pace. Trails required more mental engagement, too, with rocks and roots sticking out here and there. They also offered much better views -- mountains, valleys, trees, streams. It was beautiful.
On race day last Sunday (the 16th), my 50k became a15k (thanks to the knee injury I had suffered 10 days earlier) and that 15 took longer and felt much harder than I expected. The trail was difficult with some very steep parts that my aching, swollen, stiff knee did not appreciate. Taking a hard fall during the run (and ripping skin off my hand and shoulder) didn't help much either, nor did capping off the run with a slight diversion from the trail (I was told to go the wrong way by some ill-informed and well-meaning hikers) and a twisted ankle. I had hoped to turn my 50 into 25 that day. I discovered I had to be proud of my 15 -- proud of the fact that I had learned to prioritize my health and well-being over a need to be superwoman, proud that I could tell the difference between sore muscles that can be pushed through another 10k and a swollen, twisted, injured leg that needed the 15 to be enough on that day, so that there would be more runs in the near future.
I may not have run 50k that day. But, I know that I can and will. My knee will heel and I'll be back on the trails for good. Running is a part of my life now. It is something I'm committed to. My longest run to date is an 18-20 mile run with 350+ miles under my belt this year, which is a major accomplishment for me.
The Good Long Road has truly been good and IS truly long. I am still on it. Running (and blogging) has been an incredible experience that has given me a new understanding of my needs and abilities. The support I received from friends and family was incredible, getting me through some challenging runs and a frustrating injury. On race day, I ran with a medallion from my father around my neck and with the knowledge that my mom, brother, boyfriend and a few other close friends were just outside the forest. I smiled when I looked up (perhaps 3 miles to go) and saw my brother and boyfriend, Ramon, walking toward me carrying Benedryl and water, concerned about bee stings, which other runners had suffered. I enjoyed a weekend of love and support. My uncle and brother were inspired to run the 10k next year. The fundraising had brought in nearly $5,000 and words of support from people I had never met. Friends had written to tell me how inspired they were by my blog.
The whole experience has been incredible and I look forward to continuing along the Good Long Road.
Thank you for your support.