Part of what I really enjoy about running is pushing my limits. I would love to go faster, but deep down I really want to know how far is too far. Last month I pushed the limits a bit and ran just a bit shy of fifteen miles. So this month I decided to have a one day running adventure, I wanted to tackle twenty miles just to see if it was possible. Besides pushing distance there was little reason to do this run, except to see if I was up to the task of running twenty miles.
Before I set out I figured my path and found spots where I could refuel as I ran. My goal was simple, just run with no particular goal pace and just enjoy the run. I decided I would try to stick to a 1:30/:30 run/walk ratio, one I had been using on my shorter runs. In preparation for this run I bought a water bottle lumbar pack and figured I could carry my normal 20oz in my hand and the included bottle in the pack. The pack also gave me the added benefit of a little bit extra storage, so I stashed enough gels and my credit card as well as a spare battery charger for the phone. Before I left my house I applied anti friction glide to all the necessary areas and I was ready to go.
My first stop was just passed the local dump, about four miles away. I have ran this path a few times and biked it more often in the past year. The goal here was to just go slow and ease myself into my run, let everything adapt to the act of manual locomotion. I sorta like this section as the end marks the first landmark, the unincorporated town of Pine Log. Pine Log is a small dilapidated one street town whose locals have never left and in some ways it has a rural america feel to it. Pine Log also marks the first major turn on my route shooting me onto a road I would stay on for a little while. The only highlight on this road is the old Baptist Church and the first wide open cattle fields.
Eventually I turn onto Tennessee Street and start heading to the small town of White. This section of road is extremely long and hilly but luckily weaves in and out of shade between cattle farms. By this point I have it a rhythm and my mind has locked onto the task at hand. My legs still feel fresh and the running adventure is not yet half way. I foolishly count down my miles as time rolls on, partially because its so fascinating to think that my half way point would be ten miles. I know there is more running to do and I just keep chugging along, watching birds fly in formation and mooing at cows… I was really enjoying myself. After eight miles I finally arrived at White and in no time I ran straight through it towards my half way mark.
As I pulled into White I ran into my first cyclist gawker (I was running on a very popular set of cycling roads). As often happens he stopped to politely inquire if I was the same runner he had last seen a few hours ago and how far I was going. I told him I was doing a twenty miler and for the first but not last time of the day he asked if I was training for a marathon. I honestly did not even think of that when planning this adventure, I just wanted to know if I could do the distance. He thought my lack of marathon dreams and running a twenty miler for the sake of running the distance to be amusing and admirable and wished me luck as we moved our separate ways.
As I left White I gained a spring in my step, I was heading to my midpoint resupply truck stop and nearing the ten mile mark. As I have ridden parts of this course on bike before I am familiar with mileage. I trudged on keeping with my interval, up and down hills, basically I just kept moving. This section of road was busier and I was eager to get to the Truck Stop to grab some nuts and refill my water.
After a long three plus hours of running (might have been close to four) I finally came up to the truck stop and resupply point. I ran into my gawker from earlier and he sent me encouragement as once again we went our ways. After running for that period of time and covering a half marathon already I was famished. When I smelled the grilled burger scent in the air I made the one decision I would later regret, just because I know it was counter productive to my end goals. I bought some almonds and refilled my water then proceeded to order a cheese burger. I got a couple of inquiries to my disheveled appearance and everyone was enthralled that I had been running over three hours and still had seven miles to go. The question kept coming up though “Are you training for a Marathon?” They were more puzzled by my just for fun and challenge comment, not understanding why anyone would want to spend a day just running. I unwrapped the burger and tossed all extra paper and boxing in the trash and then headed out the door and proceeded to eat and run. While I regret that decision now, it was the best burger I have ever eaten, yet it felt like it barely scratched the hunger I built up.
When I left the truck stop I knew I had some good hills left and with seven miles left I was sure I could finish. As I neared the final fifteen miles the climbs started to really put a hurt on my legs. My pace slowed to a crawl, but I was determined to the mileage so I walked when I needed to and tried to run as often as possible. I knew that once I got within four miles I would have a steep uphill climb, followed by a short down then two to three miles of steady moderate uphill. I pushed and fought for every single mile. I realized at the end that the aggressive run/walk ratio really took its toll. I looked up and before I knew it I was at the head of my driveway, I had finished 19.4 miles. It was six tenths of a mile shorter than I wanted, but I was very pleased with the distance and the enjoyable adventure. The biggest surprise came when my I found my wife waiting for me on the driveway, protein shake in hand and congratulations on finishing.
I almost lost it right then and there, I had only just finished my first half marathon last November and now I was completing a twenty mile run, albeit at a snail pace. Of course I was not training for a marathon, I just wanted to know how far I could go… and while this proved challenging I still have not reached my limit on how far and long I can run. Til next time.