The build-up. The anticipation. The grind. Rep #7 of a 15x 1 minute Fartlek. The easy 6 miles before you start to pick up the pace and finish hard in a long run. Mile 4 of a 10 mile steady state run. Miles 1-16 of a marathon. The morning of a race.
As runners, we spend so much time in the middle. There are so many miles, so many steps, so many thoughts, between the beginning of a training cycle and the end of a goal race. There is so much time spent in each run to anticipate what your body will feel like later, the discomfort and often times outright pain your body will experience in only a little while and that only you have the power to stop it or press into it. You already know your answer. Whether your mind is reluctant or eager, you will press into the pain. How much will you press into the pain? How will your mind and your body respond to this pain? Is your fitness where you thought it was? Hoped it was? Are you going to be tough like you told yourself you would be? It’s not IF you will begin to hurt, but HOW will you hurt? THESE are the questions that build anticipation, anxiety, excitement, fear, and motivation because they all ask the same question that can only be answered in the heat of the moment. We write the answer when the anticipation is over and you are nearing the end of yourself, squeezing all the remaining juice out of your muscles, and screaming on the inside for the finish line. Then the finish line comes and it’s all over. A dream race, a goal achieved, a disappointing performance, or a bad day all have one thing in common: the end. It’s done.
The amount of time we spend in the middle makes the end what it is, whether the overflow of tears is happy or sad. Without the middle, the end wouldn’t be so significant. We know that to reap, you must sow. But sowing doesn’t always mean reaping. Sometimes we sow for months, we labor, we sacrifice, we hurt so that on the one day we have to we’ll be able to run fast enough and hurt enough to see our biggest goals achieved, but it doesn’t always happen. That’s why the middle is what it is. That’s why I LOVE the middle. I LOVE the anticipation. Not knowing the outcome can be so nerve racking that some can’t handle it. I LOVE IT! The unknown is blissful hope (or hopeful bliss). In many ways, the middle is my favorite part. I think it’s why I enjoy the longer races more. The early miles of a marathon where the pace is only mildly uncomfortable and there is still a long way to go. Then the hurt begins to creep up so slowly. You know that it’s only a matter of miles before the pain seeps into your legs until your muscles and body are flooded with the hurt. I used to hate the middle. I hated the anticipation and just wanted to be in the hurt locker already. Not anymore. I embrace the months, the 1000’s of miles, the morning of, and the early miles of a workout or race just waiting until the hurt sets in.
In a week I run Rock’ n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon. If all goes well, all signs point to a PR. Then I’ve got 9 weeks to get specific with marathon training for California International Marathon. Loving the journey to the start lines. Excited for the journeys between Start and Finish.
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