Many of you already know that I’ve been training for the Twin Cities Marathon over the past several months, and I’ve about reached the end of my preparatory, longer runs. This past weekend I was scheduled to run my last 18-miler (20 miles is this coming weekend!), but hurricane Hanna had other plans.
I had arranged to meet up with 4 other women from my running group at 6 am saturday morning, to knock those 18 miles out of the way before breakfast. I usually run at 7 am, but my running partner was out of town that weekend, and the only group of folks I knew that were also running 18 were even earlier risers than I usually am. That said, I thought this might be a good thing as the heaviest rains from the storm weren’t scheduled to hit until 10 am.
Though the idea of running 18 miles makes me physically ill, these longer runs are some of the most important training you can do in preparation for a marathon, and because of this amazing Cambodian organization that I’m raising money for (please help!), I am determined to finish Oct 5ths 26.2 strong.
Even so, I woke up at 5 am Saturday and looked outside, praying for a proverbial “rain-out”. Alas, it was just a light drizzle and incredible dense heat that met me. I took my dog for a brief walk, gathered up layers of dry clothes to put on afterwards, loaded up my gu and gatorade, and headed up to Bethesda.
Everyone in our group showed up despite the forboding sky. We headed out onto the dark, Capital Crescent trail around 6:20 am, with just a little drizzle and incredible thick air. As we neared Georgetown, most of us kept yelling aloud, “Where is this rain? It’s SO hot!” Soon enough, the sky opened up and a light rain began to cover the path and our wicking shirts. The dampness felt great on our boiling skin, and as we headed back up the long, 6+ mile incline back to Bethesda, our clothes and shoes soaked up the water and we lost track of what was sweat and what was rain.
This first 2/3 of the run wasn’t bad at all - in fact it was downright refreshing compared to the initial 80 degree, 95% humidity we began the run with. However, as we reached our Bethesda starting point, and continued on towards Silver Spring, the rain began to fall harder and things began to get less and less fun. Puddles filled up the gravel path and our shoes became weighted down with rainwater, sloshing with each step. Our legs became covered with mud puddles and debris, and things began to chafe more as our clothes became more soaked and the wind picked up. My ankle developed a nasty blister, which broke open and bled through my shoe (and never clotted because the rain kept coming). Our muscles stiffened, and instead of sounding cheerful, we began to complain more and more about the pain that was this run. Also, the path almost completely cleared of people; we were the only hardcore (idiotic?) folks out there.
Somehow we made it back to the cars in one piece - and surprisingly, with little injury. The rain never let up and instead seemed to worsen as the hours grew later. I sacrificed my cool down stretching routine for the warmth and dryness of my car, and headed back to Arlington to survey the overall impact on my person.
Despite the fact that it wasn’t fun at all times, the huge accomplishment - not just the 18 miles, but the horrendous conditions - made the run truly worthwhile. I also sincerely appreciated the support of the awesome gals who kept me running despite the weather (thank you ladies, you rock!). Each time I set my foot out on a running path and contemplate stretching my body to its ultimate limits, I consider the street children in Cambodia who walk into the Friends training facility in Phnom Penh for the first time, take a personal risk and stretch their own lives to the limit, considering that they could be something more than even they and their parents had imagined. And I watched their lives change permanently, for the better. All with one step.