I've been doing a lot of talk on the blogosphere about wanting to run a marathon. I still haven't fully committed to running 26 miles, but I am finally training for my first half-marathon at the end of the month...so I'm making real progress, I guess.
Last week I did my first "long run." I put it in quotations here, because depending on who the reader is "long" is a very relative term. I have recently joined a jogging club where other members routinely run 10+ miles and train for multiple marathons throughout the year. I also know that some of the members have completed ultra marathons and fifty-milers. Compared to these people, my "long run" was a mere warm-up. But I ran a touch less than nine miles, so it felt plenty long to me.
I was running on one of the troop trails on post sometime in the middle of the afternoon, and I figured that would keep me from running into any soldier training marches along the way. But as it turns out, soldiers apparently run at all times of the day.
About four miles into the run I came upon a unit ruck march. There were about 150 soldiers walking in a loose formation, each carrying around 100 pounds of gear. They were headed in the front by their company's guidon and were trailed by some kind of monstorous tactical vehicle that spilled over the pavement on either side of the trail. Being the good little Army wife that I am, I left the trail for the soldiers and ran on the grassy slope right alongside it. I was only about halfway into my run and I was feeling pretty good. I had to do a few prancing hops as I skirted along the outside of the trail to avoid falling in big holes in the grass or gracefully tripping and rolling into the road beneath me. Whether or not it was true, I felt the soldiers' eyes watching me. I was very aware of how I breathing, making sure it wasn't too fast or too loud--you know, anything that made it seem like I was exerting any effort at all. Eventually, I was able to snake my way around the soldiers and the truck and find my way back onto the trail. It only took me about three minutes. I was feeling proud that I had showcased such athleticism to those soldiers. And then about a quarter of a mile later, I realized I had to turn around and do it all again.
Upon the turn-around, I already knew I was in trouble. All of my prancy showboating had now left me with no choice but to pretend to be as athletic on the way back. But this time, I wasn't going in the opposite direction. I would have to be running with them. As I approached the armoured vehicle, I knew I would have to leave the trail again. I hesitantly veered onto the upward grassy slope. The first stretch was okay, but I began to notice that the slope in the hill was making my feet have an awkward gait. I decided the best thing for me to do would be to leave the trail completely and head for the shoulder of the road beneath to gain some flatter ground. Remember the gracefully rolling into the roadside part I mentioned before? ...That fate was only narrowly escaped. Once I found my footing again I continued my pace. For a moment, I was very happy that I was farther away from the soldiers. There was no way they would be able to hear my breath from down there--which was good because at this point it was unnecessarily rapid and loud. Since I had entered the shoulder from a hillside, I wasn't running on the best side of the road. Cars were whizzing past me from behind. Not the safest thing ever, especially in the winding hills.
I picked up my pace to speed along my passing process. For about thirty seconds, I felt like a champ again. I realized that if any eyes were on me at that moment, I was looking fierce. My Texas country music was blaring through my earbuds and I was tearing up the road. Then that thirty seconds was over, and I discovered that it was going to take me much more than thirty seconds to finish passing the group, even with my "super speed." (I put that in quotations because now I am just being sarcastic.) I was miserable and wanted to slow down. But I had this horrible realization that if any eyes had actually been on me, the brevity of my sprint would only make me look like more of a pansy. I continued my faster pace, now beginning to feel the added effects of my hopping and crooked running from before. Because I had gone down to pass the group, I knew I would have to go out and up to get back onto the trail. A few minutes later I saw the guidon flag and waited for an entrance point from the road back onto the trail--which of course was uphill. I powered up the hill, no longer caring about how loud or sporadic my breath was and just happy to be back on the trail again where I could slow back down...
That is, until I realized the whole group of soldiers could still see me directly in front of them. I continued running until I had determined that I was out of sight. I probably did it for much longer than was necessary, as I didn't want to look like a weirdo constantly checking back on them. About the time I felt comfortable with my distance, a group of soldiers in a Jeep were dropped off onto the trail beside me---I just let them pass me. Crazy breath and all.
By the time I had completed my run, I was hurting bad. I had a sharp, shooting pain in my heel that left me almost unable to walk. I had blisters on both of my feet and toes. My hamstrings were so tight, I almost could not sit down. I haven't been able to run a single time this entire week.
All because of a set of imaginary eyes I had created for myself. And because of a make-believe image that I wanted those eyes to see.