Tucked under trees, nestled in grassy forks along the trail, standing sentinel at the end of driveways are small, lonely coolers, scatterings of cups, groupings of water bottles and sports drinks.
Gels, cubes, and recovery drinks disappear from store shelves moments after restock.
Lonely souls are seen early in the morning, doggedly trudging along roadsides with sleep fazed yet determined faces.
It’s early in the training schedule – week 15 of 16 building up to race day.
There is method to the madness; after registering for a race, the ritual begins. Calendars – vertical format – for each month building up to the race are printed. Onto the Official Sports Clipboard™ they go; a new layer built on the remains of training plans past. Flip to the last page, write the name of the race on its appropriate square, and surround it with a large, jagged sunburst, lightning bolts, or other such visual indications of Awesome.
With indelible ink, number the weeks along the left margin of the page. The number dictates the severity of the plan – the more weeks, the better.
Switch to pencil: add the most critical part of training – the weekly long run. Working backwards from race day, fill in the mileage goals for each Saturday; some weeks advancing one mile at a time, others leaping distance in more aggressive fashion, a blessed few others backing off to provide a small measure of mental and physical relief.
The rest of each week is penciled in, populated with tempo runs, speed work, cross training, hill repeats, and that oft-neglected-but-oh-so-important component: Rest. As each daily milestone is reached, the individual accomplishments and failures are documented in ink.
As of this day, the motivation is to stay true to plan, and only the smallest hints of muscle ache are starting to whisper. Things will not stay so rosy. There will be days when mind finds the number of miles intimidating. There will be days when commitments force a run to be missed – the wise runner knows these are irretrievable, and will let them go. There will be days the body Does. Not. Want. To. Run.
But I’ve done it before, and I know I can do it again.
Blind Seer: You seek a great fortune…You will find a fortune, though it will not be the one you seek. But first… first you must travel a long and difficult road, a road fraught with peril. Mm-hmm. You shall see thangs, wonderful to tell. You shall see a… a cow… on the roof of a cotton house, ha. And, oh, so many startlements. I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation. – O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000
No, Melanie isn’t related to the Doctor either. She’s a skientist, a marathoner, a knitter, a gardener and a college instructor who was once mugged at gunpoint on a bus in Costa Rica. Although a full-grown woman, it is altogether possible that you saw her in costume for the last Harry Potter flick. She encourages you to help in the fight against MS.
Photo credit: Dan Poehlman