On Saturday my running group was scheduled to do a 26 mile training run. This is part of the Galloway method of training and while I understand where the plan is coming from, I'm pretty well convinced that this level of preparation is overkill. Last year I did the 26.2 mile training run because I thought it would be fun to prove to myself that I was tough enough to run a marathon with no other incentive than that I could do it. Sure, it was on the training plan, but I knew deep down I could quit early and be in perfectly good shape to run my scheduled race. This year, it was coming up on the schedule again and while I remained skeptical, most of the others wanted to do the run.
On our long runs earlier in the summer we'd often talk about the 26 mile run. We plotted the best route, we discussed registering for virtual races so we'd get a medal on the big day, we thought about all of the reasons NOT to do it. It loomed large for all of us. As marathon Saturday approached, our group of five had dwindled to three runners: one had family plans in another state and couldn't make the run, one had a bad 23 mile outing and was timid about pushing all the way to 26. Personally, I was seriously considering skipping it. I have a habit of developing hypochondria before marathons. My typical M.O. is to imagine that I have a stress fracture about a week or so before a big event. This time though, I was fretting over a twinge or two I felt in my hip. Could this be the return of the problem I had two summers ago? I have too much on the line for that to happen! As I dug into the recesses of my closet looking for my super deluxe CW-X compression shorts, I seriously considered bagging the run for fear that it would jeopardize my trip to Disneyland for the Dumbo Double Dare one week later. As much as I thought about quitting, on Friday night I filled my hydration belt, gathered up my snacks and went to bed early.
Saturday morning was about as perfect a day as one could hope for when running a marathon in August. It was 54 degrees and chilly when I left my house, so chilly I actually wondered if I should change into something warmer (I didn't!) My hip ailment had disappeared and I chose my cute Skirt Sports skirt over my ugly but functional compression shorts. As I drove to the meeting spot, I started to get excited. Not quite race level excited but I was feeling confident and ready.
I'm lucky to live near a fantastic rails to trails system so we were going to spend the whole day running along the Perkiomen Trail and the Perkiomen Creek. It's a beautiful, green and shady trail and it's a wonderful place to run. Before I knew it, we were 8 miles into the run, refueling at a water fountain and appreciating the gorgeous morning. Things were still looking great at mile 15 when we passed a local convenience store and stopped for a quick hit of air conditioning and snacks. Everyone was in good spirits and as the day heated up we decided to work on keeping our spirits high and agreed that if things got rough we'd stick together. Slow the pace when we had to, take breaks when we had to, just get it done. Time on feet not time on clock. We chatted about books and vacations and sending kids off to college but mostly we talked about how much we were going to enjoy a chocolate milkshake when it was over. (One great thing about parking for your run across the trail from a diner is instant gratification when it's over!)
So what have I learned by running the Marathon to Nowhere? While running that far is never exactly FUN, it is satisfying in the way that only a long, long run can be. For me, who already has a lot of marathons under my belt, I think there is minimal benefit as part of the training plan but for those who are less experienced going the full distance gives them a boost and more time to experiment with nutrition plans. It's no secret that I think running a marathon can change your life and running a marathon when it's not a race builds upon that foundation. Pushing that far when there is nothing at stake takes a level of determination that I wasn't completely convinced that I possessed. I've done it twice now and I still think it's crazy but it won't surprise me if I wind up doing it again next summer. I was wearing a shirt during this run that says "I love running... just not while I'm doing it" and while that can be true for me on a homework run, on the long runs, when I'm out there for hours, I do love every second of it.
Next up: DISNEYLAND!!!!!