The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

The Long Up

with 2 comments

I’m still running, and I guess if there’s anything that I’m Thankful for, it’d be that.  I ran my 18th 5K of the year this morning, even though (shhhhh…) I wasn’t registered for it.  When we did that back in high school, we called it “Bandit Running.”  I guess I haven’t outgrown it yet.

I found out this year that I don’t handle the heat as well as I used to.  The drought in the middle of the summer took its toll on my times in at least three races, and there were several more when I just plain felt out of it.  I wasn’t breathing well, I felt sluggish, and I had recurring thoughts about whether or not I had met my Waterloo.  More often than not, I found myself thinking that the only way I may be able to keep running is to run longer distances at a slower pace so I stop trying to beat myself each time I race.  That lead to thoughts about whether or not I was the right size to run longer (I weigh 200 lbs, so I tend to break down if I go over four miles),  and how changing my lifestyle to run longer might not even be possible.  So the mechanics of my running were on my mind while I was running, which is the least opportune moment.  Self-doubt does not make a good running partner.

What I needed all along was some retraining.  I couldn’t feel my pace when I raced, and as a result running was feeling unnatural.  I remedied this by getting someone to pace me on a bike so I could run a consistent speed throughout a run and focus on adjusting my breathing rather than thinking about whether or not I was keeping good time.  It was the end of August when the thought hit me, and after 3 sessions with a pacer, I wished I had done it back in April.  I remember announcing that I felt a change in my running and my summer of racing was about to break wide open, even if summer was almost over.

I was right.  Throughout September, I went on a tear.  I set personal records on three different courses on which I had raced several times, and turned in three of my four best times of the season.  It all came to a head on September 22nd with a half mile left in a cold and rainy race in Waukegan.  I had been in a small pack of runners for five or six minutes, but it thinned out as we turned and faced a long, steep uphill climb.  Once we reached the top, we would turn directly into a stiff wind.  I started thinking about who was saving themselves for the end, and who I had a shot at beating.  I also could feel my training–I felt just as strong then as I had at the start of the race.

The Long Up.

A woman next to me gasped, “Oh, no…”, which I took as my cue to leave her behind.  Ahead of me, about a quarter of the way up the long rise, were two other runners.  One was wearing Skele-toes and running sleeves.  I took him to be a seasoned and dedicated runner, the same as the woman next to him, and got to thinking that if I didn’t overtake both of them right then, I might not be able to catch them by the finish.

I dug into the hill and drew even with them by the time we were three-quarters of the way up.  I was pumping hard and breathing deep; the guy with the sleeves was wheezing and slowing his pace, and the woman was in stride with him.  I left them behind, caught another person at the turn, and another as we ran head-on into the wind on the straightaway before we turned for the finish line.

The pack I had been with was nowhere to be seen.  I couldn’t hear any of them breathing or pounding the pavement behind me, but I wasn’t going to take any chances by not finishing hard.  A guy passed me at the final turn, and he was hauling ass.  I didn’t think about it.  I wasn’t about to fight him to the finish line because he was going too hard and I had already done the most important things to me–conquer the hill, leave the pack behind, and run a consistent race without being flooded by self-doubt.  Besides, I knew the guy was running like my former self:  If he was running that hard at that point, then he must have held back and was now going for the glorious hard-charging finish.  I was running a measured race at my optimum level, and there was nothing to prove.  Racing a ghost of myself was only asking for an injury that would staunch my hot streak.

I kept everybody off my back except Mr. Sprinter, and crossed the finish line in 24:13, which was my second-fastest time of the year.  Since then, I’ve run two other races close to that time, and set another personal record on a different course.  Unfortunately, we’re about to get into bad weather season.  5ks are rare from now until April, so I’ll have to let this this come to an end.  I’m glad to have run out the streak, though, and am thankful for still being able to do so.

Finally, I came across a poem recently by one of my favorite poets.  It seems to me that it’s all about running.  I can’t help but think, too, that it’s all about that Saturday morning two months ago when I faced the long up.

The Long Up by Kay Ryan

You can see the

land flattening out

near the top.  The

long up you’ve faced

is going to stop.

Your eyes feast

on space instead

of pitch as though

you’d been released.

The measured pace

you’ve kept corrupts

with fifty yards

to do–fifty

times as hard

against the blue.

Written by seeker70

November 22, 2012 at 11:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I love a running post Jeff. Every race is a tale of drama to tell and think about for as long as it stays in your memory. I’m going to experience my own drama tomorrow at the Cross Country Challenge in Gilberts. If you have never done this race you must! check it out. – JR

    Jason Rush

    December 1, 2012 at 8:30 am

  2. […] run a 5K almost 2000 times.  But I got to thinking last summer while in despair about running (a funk from which I eventually emerged) that maybe it was time for me to go further and do it slower, despite my physical limitations and […]

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