25 February 2015

Things I Forgot About Long Runs

It's been around 20 years since I've been able to run long. Since then, I've done some very long bike rides and hiked the Hundred-Mile Wilderness and climbed Mt. Katahdin (around 115 miles total) in seven days. But since The Offspring came along eleven years ago, and I started being plagued by chronic health problems, I haven't done anything close to that strenuous.

In my training for the Milton Keynes Marathon, I'm only running twice a week in the hopes of staving off re-injury. I'm mixing it up with weights, bike rides, yoga, the occasional swim. But there are still the weekly long runs.

And there are things I'd forgotten.

The Hunger. Oh, the hunger. When I was training for the New York City marathon in 1991, I'd do a long run and then go out for brunch: pancakes, eggs, fruit, home fries, plate after plate of food. On backpacking trips, I always lose weight -- I just can't eat enough to keep up with the calorie needs.

I've gone vegan since then, so no more eggs and cheese, and packing in the calories can be a bit of a challenge. I'm also trying to stick to real food -- no goos or weird energy bars or sports drinks -- and I'm still working on finding easily digestible high-calorie gluten-free vegan foods for mid-run. And I'm open to suggestions!

The fatigue. I'm sleeping well. Very, very well.

Black toe nails. For me, it's always the second toe on the right foot. Switching to wool socks helped with shorter runs, but that nail will be long gone before I get to the marathon starting line. No, I'm not going to post a photo.

The pain. Was training this painful when I was a quarter century younger? Did the long runs hurt this much? It's not even the whole of the long runs; only the part where I run longer than the previous longest run, forcing myself to push through and just keep moving. If running hurt like this when I was in my 20s, I've completely forgotten.

Runner's high. The best part. I'd forgotten about the euphoria during long runs. Monday's run was 13.5 miles along the River Cam towpath -- sun, wind, clouds scudding across the fields; birds of many kinds and occasionally another runner. It was glorious.

I also forgot how good it feels the day after a long run, the pain gone and the stiffness receding. I forgot how awesome it feels to be in really great shape.

And when I was younger, I took running for granted. I didn't finish every long run feeling like it was a miracle I could even get out there. Now, I feel grateful during every run that I'm able to do it.