Mostly here, you folks get to hear about the good runs. Or maybe the hard parts of the good runs. Or the good parts of the hard runs.
But every once in a while, you have a bad, ugly run. No good in it, but that you did it, and didn’t die.
I knew this, because other people tell me it, all the time. They tell me on their blogs, with their inspirational slogans, and with their helpful horror stories when I talk about a wet run, or a long run, or a tiring run.
However, as of last Thursday, I have my own story.
It all started innocently. Stephanie and I had been travelling all week, since driving from Michigan to Virginia on Saturday. We had slept in 4 beds over 5 nights, travelled by train, foot, and car all over the greater DC area. We had enjoyed two big parties, slept in or risen early, made up our schedule by responding to text messages and facebook posts. I had run a 5 mile run on Sunday, a race on Monday, and then coasted for two days. But by Thursday afternoon, feeling guilty about food, and feeling lost without a run scheduled, I announced I would go for a run before Steph’s father arrived home.
I’d run in the area before, and knew it was hilly. I had been outside in the area all week, and knew it was hot. I hadn’t planned much of a run, and didn’t feel like I had much energy for one. I resolved to get outside, exorcise those demons, and exercise my too-quick-to-adapt-to-vacation keister. If I did 2 or 3 miles I would be satisfied, and enjoy my dinner without guilt.
I got out the door, and everything felt fine, once my legs were under me and moving. I headed toward a route I had run before, a 3 mile loop, thinking I would run it backwards for some novelty. Then, in a fit of spontaneity, I decide to add a short loop to it, by staying out on the roads that I thought ringed the cluster of housing developments.
See, I had run my first mile through the developed land in the center, land that had been scoured clean by bulldozers and developed in lots, 10 and 20 at a time. The trees there, even the oldest ones, were in backyards, hiding behind the houses, shading the homes, and blocking cool breezes. The road was hot, exposed to the sun, sheltered from the breeze. When I hit New Cut road, it was like an oasis. New Cut road was an old road, seemingly cut by hand and not razed by bulldozer. It ran by following the land, going around land people owned, trees the roadbuilders didn’t want to or couldn’t easily cut down, and traced along the path of a brook rather than bulling over it. Tall trees hovered along both sides of the road. The road itself disappeared around corner after corner as it wound its way down hill. Sure, I had to dodge cars with my heart in my throat, and more than once I hopped off the road onto the shoulder rather than risk getting run down, but it was cool, and lovely. And based on my previous runs on sections south and east of this spot, I should have only added a half mile to my 2-3 mile loop, depending on how much of the neighborhood I ran through afterwards.
The two roads surrounding the developed area in between actually split in a Y, about 2 miles away. By the time I met College Ave at the split, and started running south and east back toward home, I had already come 2.5 miles away. 2.5 miles downhill, basically. So I ran a hard 2+ miles back, with the sun glaring down on me for most of it. All the comfortable shade of the prior road was gone, and I hadn’t brought any water, so by 4 miles I was running out of energy.
I ended up walking and jogging the end of it, my heart pounding when I ran, my mouth dry. I was tired, muscles, body and soul, and I hobbled my way home. Still, for some reason I didn’t stop my watch, and call it a successful 4 mile run with a 0.5 mile walk home. I wanted to own my failure, to see what it looked like to be unable to push, but to keep trying.
I got back to the house, my whole body spent. I mumbled something about wanting gatorade at Stephanie, and laid down on the ground. Her father is a single man, and there was no Gatorade to be found, but some pouches of Capri Sun (no doubt the leftovers from his nephews visiting the prior weekend) were bouncing around the refrigerator. Stephanie leaned one on my cheek as I lay on the hard, thinly carpeted floor of the basement, and whined about my performance. I slurped the lemonade out of the foil container, and moaned for another. Once that was done I lay there, cursing the sun, and the roads, and my hubris to go out ‘exploring’ on a run with nothing but my clothes and garmin.
Still, I went for another run on Saturday, and Monday, and Wednesday. Each one a good run in their way. So I guess the bad ones come and go.