Early January. In Chicago. 11 degrees high. Wind chill at -7.
And Sunday’s are long run days.
9 miles in sub-zero temps. A new low.
I was scared.
Seriously, legitimately nervous.
I had second layers, gloves, a windbreaker, a scarf, and a hat. Extra bundled, still worried. But we press on. I have a work out to do today and I’m not skipping it.
Mile .5 = Feelin’ good, though oddly my headphones froze.
Mile 1.5 = My phone shuts down. (What is it with my phone issues??) Turns out batteries prefer being warm and sitting on the couch, too…
No music, not tracking, and a long way to go. Sound familiar?
It was the same situation I was in at Mile 20 of my first marathon – except the fun fact of it being bitterly cold and I have over 8 miles to go.
From then on every step was a decision to keep going.
But I know this trail, I’ve run it more times than I can count. I know know the whole route, the cracks in the pavement, where the potholes are, everything.
So what was really holding me back?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Running long distance is a mental game.
God, was that a trek. I had the Rocky Theme song playing over and over in my head, reminding me of how badly I wanted this. Not just to be done – because I could stop, phone a friend, and call it a day – but to finish this cold, frustrating, awful run on a high note.
Here came a fight. Constantly, a recommitment to what I set out to do.
Not just today but for 2016.
Was I really serious about wanting to run this? Train for this? Was I ready to earn those 32 fewer minutes for my goal time?
Up until that point the Nashville Marathon experience had been registering, getting the vacation day approved and finding an awesome spot to stay at in Nashville, plus maybe a few runs on the treadmill. Sounds tough, huh?
This run wasn’t big in my training, just another long run, even shorter than most of the ones I will face in the coming months. But marathons aren’t easy. They aren’t supposed to be. And it’s the battles you face during training that get you ready to wage the war on race day.
This easily one of the most challenging runs I’ve ever done in my life. Not even the marathon in 2014 was as much of a mental test. But I learned a lot about myself in that moment. Learned more about myself than I ever was expecting to that day.
It may have been a trail I knew well but I learned what I could conquer with determination. I learned cold sucks but it won’t stop me. I learned just how stubborn I could be to not give in.
The trail may have been known but I was in whole new territory.
So in writing this, I hope I inspire someone else to keep going even if it’s harder than expected. Go learn something new about yourself. Go find your uncharted territory.
You just have to set, and keep, your mind to it.
The person in the picture above is not the same person who finished that run.
She’s a whole lot stronger now.