Starting over: A 6-mile ‘long run’

We were at Parkview Field for the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ last regular-season game Friday night when I got this crazy notion: What if I tested out my hamstring the following morning with a last-minute signup to slow jog the 10K portion of the Parlor City Trot?

As usual, Ben immediately shot down my idea. “Could you even run 6 miles right now?” he asked. “I mean, you haven’t been running hardly at all for weeks. You’d probably start out too fast, and then you’d get out there and your hamstring would give out.”

All reasonable points. What he didn’t know was that I’ve secretly been scared to try any kind of distance lately – not just because of my hamstring, but because of worries that my stamina was basically gone. Running with the herd at a race – even if it was only the 10K instead of the half marathon — might help get me over that hump, or so my thinking went.

I didn’t go, in part because something else came up that I had to deal with. But by early afternoon, when I’d tackled that problem (related to a home repair issue), the question of a test run reasserted itself. I set out for the White Bridge, a site along the Parlor City Trot course, thinking I’d do a couple of miles and see how I felt. It looked like a storm was blowing in. But I went ahead and grabbed my state park pass, just in case I got to feeling adventurous.

That seemed unlikely. A couple of days earlier I’d done a 3.75 mile run/walk that left me feeling slow and out-of-shape. My confidence was shot. Now, I wondered whether I should walk over the bridge to the access trail, or start running at the usual spot at the edge of the parking lot.

I decided to start at the usual spot. And that – along with the fact I was wearing my worn-out marathon Newtons rather my new Adidas Glide Boost (which I mentally associate with this rehab period) – made all the difference, I’m convinced.

I consciously worked at not thinking or overanalyzing anything, just settling in for a run with no pressure attached. I felt OK, for the time being. In fact, I felt way more than OK – I felt somewhat like the old me, especially in this slow “go all day” pace I’d settled into. Wouldn’t it be cool, if I kept feeling this way, to go on into the park and run the 6-mile out-and-back segment I’ve run so many times before with my sister? And wouldn’t it be fun to tell Ben – off at a cross country meet on the other side of the state, with his own rehab issues to contend with —  that I managed a 6-miler after all?

No pressure no pressure no pressure … but no pain, either. And not much heat, in the shade with a possible storm blowing in.

The longer I ran comfortably tucked inside my former state-of-mind, in shoes that had toughed out a marathon, with no watch or worrywart inner voice or even burning lungs to remind me it was time to walk, the closer I came to the decision point –

And then I was past it, on the path leading to the interior of the park, no turning back now.

“Man, I really miss these long runs,” I thought over and over, realizing that earlier in the year this would not have been considered anywhere close to a long run. But that’s what it was on Saturday afternoon – a long slow 6-mile run.

That’s how it is now, starting over. And you know what? I’ll take it. Especially since it came and went with no pain, just a little tightness afterward. Nothing that some stretching and rolling can’t iron out.

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