Tales of Running: The Post-Run Run Victory Lap Edition

A screen shot of my timing on my Garmin Connect screen.
For the last few years of running, I have been trying to improve my time on the longer runs.  Particularly, I wanted to hit under two hours for my half-marathon time and four hours (or at one point, just anything better than what I had done) for the marathons.   Last fall, I broke the two-hour mark with my half marathon at the Half-Marathon by the Sea from YuKanRun, coming in at 1:55:08.  It was an exciting day to break the time and realize that the kid who couldn't do one mile in twelve minutes for much of his life, was now averaging 8:45-minute miles for over thirteen miles.  

As accomplished as it felt, the Doubt Demon in my head still continued to tell me it was a fluke.  It was a one-off.  It must have been a mistake.  I'm guessing some of you have had this experience if not this particular anecdote.  So present was this idea that I made it a goal this year to do it again (and maybe somewhere along the line improve upon it, but actually doing it again ranked higher).  

When I showed up for the Fast Half, maintaining was my goal.  Hell, I just wanted to come in under two hours. I didn't even have to match the same time; "Just show me under two hours isn't beyond the realm of possibility" is what I thought to myself.  Well, it wasn't.  I crossed the finish line under two hours and with a new personal record:  1:52:35.  While I can believe I did it, I am still elated by the fact that I did.  For the first time, I came in the top one hundred (94 out of 324 to be specific) and even came in 19th in my age group.  And true, it may not be ranking high on any list, but it's ranking first among mine.  The ranking itself serves more as a sense of how I have improved over the years and less about whether I am winning or losing against others.  

Lance Eaton crossing the finish line.
Elated as I was in the moment, I think felt it most strongly two days after I ran the race.  Typically, the day after, I will make it an easy day.  I may do some physical activities (e.g. walking), but I avoid running and let me body rest.  By the second day, I am usually looking to dawn the Vibrams.  However, that's also the day in which the soreness peaks.  I hobbled around the day feeling the tightness and sore muscles moan with each step and fully cry out when I tried to descend a staircase (this is the of the post-run soreness; I cling tightly to all handrails on staircases in the aftermath of a hard run).  

I got suited up and ready to take my run, which was a battle in itself.  I knew a light run would do me well, but another part of me (those aching muscles), begged to take another day off, to bask in my victory a bit more and be sure not to push myself into injury.  I pushed on and got ready.  I got to where I usually start my runs, activated the GPS watch, and hit play on the music.  I lurched forward and my muscles cried in a mixture of pleasure and pain.  Pleasure at the familiar cadence and movement, pain at the familiar cadence and movement.  These were going to be some slow miles and that was ok.  I wasn't looking for speed, just mileage and to stretch out the legs a bit.

However, around the one third-mile mark (basically a few minutes in), it happened.  I wouldn't find my speed for this run, but I would find my pace and my peace.  At this mark, I felt the gears shift within me and my body recognize what it was doing; it stopped fighting me and starting working with me.  The muscle ache dissolved and I moved smoothly along. 

Lance Eaton with his finisher medal.
Muscle memory is a funny thing.  I can't say that I entirely understand it or know whether it is a real thing.  But I know in that moment, by body recognized what it was doing and let go.  It also triggered the memory of running the race two days previously.  It brought me to the hard and constant push I pursued for nearly two hours.  It reminded me of the determination, the excitement, and the sense of accomplishment I felt two days prior.  None of this is to say that I found my groove and sprinted off.  Rather, the run was a nod to and appreciation of the distance traveled two days earlier. 

The lifting of soreness, no doubt a chemical reaction of some sort, also felt like my body thanking the mind for trusting it, pushing it, and loving it.  My body moved along smoothly after that; each step came easily.  It wouldn't be a long run, just a run long enough to work the body a little bit without further harm.  But like so many other runs, my body had given way from resisting to embracing, from dreading to loving. 

In this way, the run was a victory lap of several sorts.  A run to celebrate the recent personal victory but also a run to celebrate the overall victory of becoming and continuing to consciously choose to be a runner.  A run to say that I can do this and I can keep doing this and will keep doing this.  

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