My body is tired. Actually, to say that my body is tired would be an understatement. My body is exhausted, spent, wasted…. In the last 26 hours, I have run 32.2 miles and muscled through (literally) a strength training workout. I wonder how it’s possible that my legs can simultaneously feel like spaghetti and lead posts, yet that’s exactly what they feel like. My joints are stiff and achy and my metatarsals crackly and sore. The balls of my feet feel a bit like mashed hamburger, and as I bend over to paint my toenails in a halfhearted attempt to mitigate the toll my training has taken on my feet lately, I feel the sharp pinch of sciatica shoot down from my lower back to my hamstrings. It’s a pain in my ass, quite literally. My body feels broken down, worn out, and completely depleted. And I absolutely love it.
I feel victorious in my fatigue, though you wouldn’t know it from watching me hobble around my apartment. I ran 13.6 miles yesterday morning and stopped at the YMCA afterwards to lift, as I have finally concluded, after eighteen years of running, that regular strength training really does make a difference. I struggled through my exercises, my arms shaking through my last set of bench presses, confounded at how tired my upper body was from my run. I then went home, ran some errands, took a brief nap and convinced myself to lace up my running shoes again in the early evening for 6.5 more miles. This morning I reluctantly got out of bed and hit the pavement again for 12.1 more miles. I feel a sense of deep satisfaction in my training this weekend, knowing that it came from a source of intrinsic motivation and self-discipline. I did have the good fortune, however, of running with two great friends for a good portion of my Saturday morning run, for which I am very grateful.
There is something about pushing the limits of my body that empowers me. I have learned from my limited experience with ultramarathon running that the training has nothing to do with building speed and everything to do with teaching my body to keep going long after I’ve reached the point of wanting to lie down on the running path and sleep. It’s much more an exercise in mental fortitude than physical ability, and in conditioning the mind to stay in the game. Of course, I say this within reason, as there are certainly times when we must throw in the towel to preserve our health, often at the expense of our egos. As my good friend and fellow runner and blogger put it in one of her recent blog posts, we runners walk a fine line between tough and stupid, and sometimes the real strength comes in admitting when our bodies have had too much.
Thankfully, I did not have to make any such decisions this weekend, although my body certainly wouldn’t have rebelled if I had shaved a few miles off of my runs. The last two days have been tough yet productive and have helped me build confidence in my running as I prepare for my big event, which is now fewer than three months away. My goal for the weekend was to run myself ragged and then keep going. I’d say I did a fair job of accomplishing that goal, as I have spent more time training this weekend than I have sleeping, primarily because I chose to forego rest in favor of the company of good friendship… a worthwhile decision, as it turns out, because I not only got to spend quality time with a dear friend; I also had yet another opportunity to train through fatigue and test my discipline and endurance.
Running on empty, besides being a good Jackson Browne song, takes a certain determination that I am still learning. I am not sure that I have it entirely, but I began this journey in large part to find out. As I continue to experience the ups and downs of pushing my body, negotiating proper nutrition and rest, getting sick, and wondering if this is all completely absurd and unrealistic (because you and I both know that it absolutely straddles the line between tough and stupid… not to mention crazy and masochistic), I remind myself that part of my goal in training for this twelve-hour run is to take in each moment, for better or for worse, and use those moments to learn about myself and become a stronger, better person. Running on empty will eventually lead to living on full. Or so I hope.
In the meantime, I could really use a massage, a nap, and some good food.
Thank you for reading!