Yesterday afternoon I set off for my long run: an 8 miler. I had selected a route from walkjogrun.net which starts at the base of the Philadelphia Art Museum and then follows a loop next to the river, over a bridge, and back to the museum. The loop is a trail populated with bikers and runner and dogs and G and I had been there before (when these pictures were taken) so I thought it would be a good spot. Here's how it went:
Mile 1: Jogging slowly past Boathouse Row, still dodging lots of pedestrians. Still no Ipod (please mail it soon, mom!), carrying a water bottle for the first time, nervous about what's ahead but feeling all right.
Mile 2: Can't tell if it's the lack of music or my actual pace, but I seem to be going verrry slowly. Oh well, I've got a long way to go. There's a crew meet taking place in the river, so the banks are covered with tents and booths and parents and canoes. Or whatever the crew boats are called. At one point a team is carrying one across the path and I have to jog in place for a second to let it pass. This has never happened to me in the gym or in the city.
Mile 3: Still feel like I'm going at a snail's pace. There are spraypainted markers every 1/4 mile, and it's taking me forever to get from one to the next. G has run ahead of me, and all of a sudden I see him on the other side of the river, waving both arms in the air like a fool. It puts a huge smile on my face and spurs me on toward the bridge.
Mile 4: On the other side of the river now. My legs are beginning to ache. This is taking forever.
Mile 5: I've slowed down even more, and I'm wondering if I'll be able to finish. I tell myself that as long as I go even a step more than 7 miles, I'll be happy, because I will have increased my distance. I approach a little exercise station where a couple guys are doing pullups. The guy at the bar just keeps going--he must do 30 pullups as I approach. Then he stops and lets his friend have a turn, and wanders over toward the path. As I pass, silently admiring his physique and overall super-fineness, he opens his mouth and lets out an amazing Haitian/West African/French accent, saying, "Good effort, you're doing great." "You too!" I shout back, thrilled. I'm a happily married woman, but that gorgeous accent gets me through the next half mile.
Mile 6: Less than three miles left. I should be able to do this, but I don't feel like I have it in me. I try to come up with a mantra that will keep me going, but my mind is too alert and my body too tired to let the words take over and the repetition keep me moving. Instead, I keep changing it up so that I'm basically mumbling to myself like a crazy person. "You can do this. You can do this. No one can stop you. Only you can stop you. You won't stop. You will do this. Just keep moving. You are strong. Do it for the haters. Do it for the fatties." etc. etc.
Mile 7: There's some kind of bike race on the road to my right. Giant packs of cyclists keep whizzing by, giving me vertigo. There aren't many people here, and whenever someone passes, I have to fight the urge to scream at them, "What does it look like I'm doing?? Walking or running??" I can't tell anymore. There's tons of nasty goose poop on the ground, and whenever one of the Canada geese wanders into the path, I take advantage of the lack of people by muttering, "Fuck you, goose." A few minute later a woman runs up going the opposite direction and smiles at the geese. Bitch.
Mile 8. I've spotted G up ahead. He has been sick this week, so he decided to run 5 miles and walk the rest. Even so, he's still going to finish before I do. I can see the museum now, and am trying to figure out how the path works its way around--front or back? The route calls for going around the front and running up the steps Rocky-style, but if I can find a shortcut around the back, I'm going to take it. No, I'm going to finish. I have to finish. I run under an underpass and curve around the front of the museum, where well-dressed women are carrying their museum store bags and hipsters are climbing the steps. I'm red-faced, sweaty, absolutely gross, but I don't care. I run exactly to the center of the front of the steps and stop. I did it.
Mile 8.5 My legs are broken. My muscles are pulverized. I have to walk .5 miles around the museum to meet G, but now I know that I was running before because I can't walk. I stumble in slow motion past the Rocky statue and posing tourists. It takes superhuman effort to put one foot in front of the other. I stop and stretch. I wonder if I've pushed myself too far, if my body doesn't do more than 7 miles. I'm afraid I won't be able to do the Broad Street Run. I suddenly find a mantra. It goes like this, "Fuck Fuck Fuck. Fuck Fuck Fuck. Fuck Fuck Fuck." I try to keep moving, through parking lot, toward G. I wonder if I'll collapse, and have to stop someone and beg them to find my husband, the guy in the white bandanna, and tell him that his wife is back there and can't move anymore. Finally I see G, and start crying. He makes sure I'm OK. He thinks I'm crying because I didn't run 8 miles, but when he finds out I did the whole thing, he's super encouraging. I'm still wheezing and gasping and choking with tears dripping down my face, so he does the best thing: offers to go get the car for me. A few minutes later, I'm seated.
Postmortem: 3 Ibuprofen, 1 Gatorade, 1 shower, and 30 minutes of runner's trots later, I feel slightly human. I might attempt 9 miles next week.