The Saturday of Running That Wasn’t

This past weekend was supposed to be about running.  I was supposed to log 13.21 miles.  The weekend was supposed to end with a grand sense of accomplishment.

Saturday’s main event was a 13.21 mile run with Nike in honor of the 40th anniversary of Steve Prefontaine’s death.  Thirteen minutes and twenty one seconds  (13:21:00) was Prefontaine’s fastest 5k time, hence our 13.21 miles.  Personally, I thought running for thirteen minutes and twenty one seconds as fast as we could sounded like a better idea, but hey, I don’t make the plans.  I just follow them.

Our usual Saturday long run time of 9:04am was shifted to 1:04pm this past week.  The time change would allow us to gather on a local bar roof top to watch the Prefontaine Classic races after our run.  Jay and I woke up leisurely on Saturday, made a nice breakfast, and headed up town for the run.  Walking to the train, I realized how hot and humid the weather was, but I tried to put it out of my mind, telling myself that I’d run in hot weather before. We arrived at the Nike store and the afternoon’s festivities began.

Coach Julia called all of the runners out into the street to gather.  The street was closed due to a street fair that was going on, so no, we weren’t dodging taxis.  We stood in the sun listening to Coach Julia’s motivational speech about Prefontaine, and what we were about to accomplish.  I listened, joined my pace group, and we were off.  Our route was supposed to take us north towards the Bronx, which it did.  We headed east and ran up First Avenue in the bike lane.  There was very little shade, and when I say that, I mean there was no shade.  The temperature was somewhere between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity was serious.  As I ran, I realized that the heat was getting to me, and by the light at 95th St, I realized I was feeling a little nauseous.  Still, I pressed on. After all, I had 13 miles to run and I had never cut a run short in my entire life.   Thirty blocks later, I realized that I needed to stop.  As much as I hated to cut a distance, I just didn’t have it on Saturday – the heat was just too much for me.  I tapped my pacer on the shoulder and said “I’m okay, but I’m going to drop.  I have my metro card and money on me, so I’m fine.”  She said she understood, and empathized that it was really hot out.  I tapped Jay and told him the same.  He stayed with the group, which is what I wanted him to do.  I did what I had vowed to never do and I cut my distance short.  Never one to avoid self-punishment, I beat myself up over the decision for the rest of the day.

I took the train down to the bar where some of the six milers were starting to gather for the post run activities.  They asked me how my run was and I was honest.  Every single person responded, “It’s okay.  That happens to every runner.  Good for you for listening to your body.”  This is why I love my running community.  I felt terrible about the decision that I made because it felt like failure, but I had a room full of people, many of whom were far more experienced runners than I, telling me that it was okay and that it happens to everyone at some point.  That message was comforting and helped my running confidence to remain somewhat in tact that day.

I usually prefer to write about running successes, times when I felt challenged and rose up to meet it.  On Saturday I wasn’t able to do that and I still feel compelled to share.  Every day isn’t, and can’t be a success, but that doesn’t mean that we make a habit of quitting, or that we don’t get up the next  day and try again.  It just means that things happen and we have to adjust.  My body would not have made it 13.21 miles on Saturday and I was smart enough to listen and acknowledge that.

So today’s Hill Help is this:  Always try your hardest to rise up to meet your goals and challenges.  The vast majority of the time you WILL be able to do that.  But sometimes you’ll realize that the day wasn’t intended to pan out the way you’d hoped, and that’s okay.  It’s fine to listen to your body and make changes accordingly.  You’ll be smarter and healthier for it the next time you set out to take on a challenge.

A few of my wonderful running friends and I from Saturday afternoon.


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