“Only 14 miles.” Those are the words I said to myself before I set out on my last “long run” before the Chicago Marathon, just 14 days before the race. ONLY. It’s a powerful, yet a dangerous word when using it to approach a run.
I have spoken (or thought) it before. It usually helps me when I’m feeling nervous before I head out (which is always). “Only” or “just” make me feel capable and up to the challenge. “If I have run 26.2 miles and if I ran 20 miles last week, then only 14 miles is easy.” These thoughts help build up my energy and allow me to make what is certainly still no easy task, seem a little easier. Doable.
Sometimes it does feel “easier” or at least a lot shorter than 20 miles I suppose. On occasion, I’ve set out saying this and have had a completely and totally enjoyable shorter, long run. These days I can run 14 miles and not have to walk down the steps sideways the next day. But it’s all relative, I guess. Because now I know what my body feels like after running a full marathon.
Other times thinking “Only 14 miles” can backfire. Because running 14 miles is never easy. It is still (for me) two full hours of running. It means running to the next village 7 miles up the road and back. Inevitably, there will still be cramps and foot pain, blisters and chafing. Oh, the chafing. That’s what ended up getting me this time. I forgot to put on the Body Glide and boy did I regret that for the last 5 miles of my run and for the last two days since. There is always something that makes me regret ever even thinking the word “ONLY.” It’s almost like I jinx my run if I let that cross my mind.
And let’s back up for a minute. Just three years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of running 14 miles or even 5 miles. Back then, my goal was three miles. And just two years ago, when I ran my first half marathon in 2013, 13.1 miles was my ultimate goal. It was “the impossible.” And when I finished I couldn’t walk right for probably a week. When I consider that, saying “Only 14 miles” seems almost… inconsiderate.
So what’s a girl to do?
These days I use the words “ONLY” or “JUST” very carefully when it comes to my running. I think them quietly and humbly to calm the nerves and to pump me up, but once I set foot out my door, I forget I ever thought it. And then, I run the mile I’m in. I’m not overconfident. And I never assume it won’t hurt. Because it will. But I don’t wallow in my fear and uncertainty either. Because the minute you start telling yourself how hard it will be, your brain will convince the rest of your body to turn around and head home.
For me, so much of running is mental. To be successful you have to be confident, but not presumptuous. Courageous, but realistic. With this in mind, run with the knowledge inside your heart, your mind and throughout your body, that you are strong and capable because positive thinking feeds positive running and enables you to meet your goals.
As I approach The Chicago Marathon in just a week and a half and feel excited yet nervous, I can’t help but wonder if someday I will have an even bigger goal. Someday, might I quietly think to myself, “ONLY 26.2”?