Ok let’s talk about that time I ran 20 miles, because I still can’t believe I did that. Seriously.
If I’m being completely honest, the whole run was a bit of a blur so I’ll recap what I can remember! I’d been horrifically sick on the Friday and Saturday, and decided to take the pressure off, sleep all day Saturday, and reluctantly accept that I would have to peak my training at a 15 mile run. I decided that if I was feeling better on the Sunday, and since the cold hadn’t spread to my chest, I’d get 3 or 4 miles in to get me moving again.
But I woke on Sunday morning at 6am, entirely rested, quite hungry, and completely awake. So I decided to have breakfast- PB and banana on toast- then second breakfast- oats with PB and a banana-, procrastinated a bit, and then headed out to the roads. My energy was up by this point and I knew I was capable of going further.
I headed to Greenwich and crossed under the river via the foot tunnel, and essentially ran the whole way along the north bank of the Thames until I reached the Houses of Parliament. Then I crossed over somewhere in the region of Waterloo, and ran back. I kept marathon pace for 15 miles (which was a pleasant surprise!) and slowed things down as fatigue set in during the last stretch. I’d mentally broken the run into 4 x 5 mile stretches, which helped enormously; I felt guilt-free as I stopped at each break to stretch, drink water and snack.
Like I said, most of the run was a blur; I had a great podcast on, and I took in the sights. I felt strong and ‘tapered’ from my intense day of sleep, and well-fuelled thanks to my huge breakfasts. The last 5 miles were a struggle; I’d run out of fuel and had to stop off at a local shop for some snacks and water. Then my Garmin alerted me that the battery was about to die, as did my phone. So I had to turn my music off for the final leg, and struggle along relatively quickly (because I’ll be damned if I run 20 miles and don’t have proof of it).
The last leg was particularly horrific; I had to stop every mile at the very least to stretch- my hip and piriformis muscle startred to hurt, and mentally I was drained. I managed to break up the final two miles into very small increments: make it to the lampost; then make it to the bin; then make it to the bench. Times were desperate, but I managed to pull it off- and mental strength is such a vital part of training for me. I made it to 20 miles and stopped immediately, feeling exhausted but incredibly proud.
Following an ice bath, a hot shower and two lunches, I was chatting to my Mum and I said I felt like superwoman (or at least Kara). And I did! As ridiculous as it sounds, I had just achieved something I hadn’t thought I was capable of. Not only is running 20 miles scary, and sometimes I don’t feel like a real runner (whatever that means)- but six months ago a severe bout of plantar fasciitis had left me unable to even walk comfortably.
Professor Greg Whyte talks about these mental barriers in Achieve the Impossible; citing the attempt to break the 4-minute mile. Scientists genuinely believed it to be impossible, but it had been achieved initially by Roger Bannister, his record barely stood for two months. Once we knew it could be done, the mental barrier was broken, and it became within the realm of possibility-and that kind of mental barrier applies to all runners.
So yeah, I ran 20 miles. It was horrific, beautiful, exhausting and transcendent. I suffered afterwards, but I stand by what I said to Mama Bear- it made me feel like Superwoman.
How do you feel after your peak training run? Anyone starting to taper?