About a week ago I went for my 12-mile long run happy for the beautiful day and looking forward to feeling very accomplished when I finished.
However, my legs were kind of tired or out of sorts and at about mile 8 my knees started to hurt. That wasn't normal, actually it had never happened before. Nothing major, just a nagging something. Then my legs began to get very tired by mile 9.
Tired as in I wanted to walk and I wondered how I was going to eek out three more miles. But I wouldn't let myself walk, because it's kind of a rule of mine -- "You can slow down, but don't walk unless absolutely necessary."
So, I kept plugging along, knowing I had to get home and making some deals with myself:
"The training plan called for 10-12 miles, so you can stop at mile 10 and you'll be good."
That thought really helped me and after that I started with the motivational internal dialogue:
"The next mailbox, and then the one after that...take it a little bit at a time."
"Hold your head up. You're running twelve miles today, you've got a lot to be proud of!"
"This pain is like the days you've cried and wondered if you can handle the stress of [___] one more day. You always make it through that and you'll make it through this too."
As I neared the corner of the main road and road that leads back into my neighborhood I decided I could make it home and told myself, "You can stop when you get home. It will be between 10-12 miles, so that will be perfect."
Then I got closer and I realized I'd get home at about 11.5 miles and I'm sure you can imagine the thought that followed...
"11.5 miles? You can do all 12, so let's take this little side road and get that extra half mile done before the house."
Somewhere in the middle of those last two miles I had the thought that will stay with me forever...
"So, you think you can take me down [stress]?? Well, I. AM. AN. ENDURANCE. ATHLETE. Yea, that's right! I CAN DO HARD THINGS. So, bring it on, because I know how to endure!"
Did any of these thoughts make my legs feel better? No.
But did I finish all 12 miles? I sure did, and I finished a little before my house.
And as I began walking I started crying a happy painful cry, not caring one bit what the neighbors thought. Every step hurt and I knew I had pushed myself in ways I didn't think I could.
I got to my house and my legs hurt so bad I couldn't even stretch right away. I walked into my living room, peeling off my visor, camelback hydration pack, and plopped down on the floor in tears.
I'm pretty sure I freaked out my family a little as I pulled off socks and shoes half sobbing, half laughing all while trying to tell them my legs hurt like the dickens but I was fine.
My daughter asked if they were "happy tears" and I nodded while my husband looked on confused about how there can be anything happy about pain.
Within the next hour I got my legs stretched, downed some ibuprofen and rested enough so my legs would hold me up in the shower. A couple hours later I felt fine and was able to complete some to-do's for the day.
At the end of the day I was proud of what I had accomplished; not only did I finish a 12-mile run strong even when I wanted to quit, but I proved to myself I can do hard things.
Pushing through those last three miles gave me the emotional strength I needed right now. I'll never forget those strong 12 miles and I'll always be grateful they showed up on my training plan when they did.