With eight weeks to go before my first outdoor marathon, the inaugural Fort4Fitness race Oct. 1 in Fort Wayne, my sister and I headed out for a 10-miler yesterday. It turned out to be good training for a marathon, but not in the way I imagined.
Because we’d be running during the hottest part of the afternoon, we originally planned to run 15 laps at the relatively shady local 4-H park, where we could grab drinks from a cooler in the car as needed. When there turned out to be a huge crowd at the park for some kind of outdoor event, we decided to run along the River Greenway out through the State Park instead. But how would we stay hydrated? I spent the first two miles on my cell phone, trying to find somebody at home who could stash some water someway along the way.
After finally making those arrangements, a new problem developed: I’d forgotten to wear compression shorts and now my legs were chafing, badly. I got back on the phone and asked if Ben and Colleen could grab me a pair and drop those off with the water.
There was nothing to do now but run – with frequent adjustments to pull down my shorts in a fruitless effort to protect my increasingly raw skin.
I was angry with myself for such a stupid oversight that was getting in the way of what felt like might otherwise be a pretty motivating run. We hadn’t done a 10-miler in months, and Traci, at least, was feeling pretty good. I decided that the best possible spin to put on my situation was to work on mental toughness. You never know what unanticipated source of pain or discomfort might develop during a marathon, and when that happens, it doesn’t really matter if the damage is self-inflicted stupidity or just rotten luck. Either way, you’ve got to deal with it.
I continued my ridiculous pattern of adjusting my shorts every few strides and tried not to talk about the increasing pain. Traci picked up the lull in conversation and steered us onto topics that had nothing to do with running. I really wanted to make it to the 7-mile mark, where we’d presumably find the water and compression shorts I’d ordered up. But at mile 6, I suddenly found myself walking without actually making a conscious decision to do so.
“I’m sorry,” I told my sister. “Go on.”
But she didn’t. The heat was getting to her. We decided to walk to the water drop.
Though the kids had dropped off a welcome supply of both water and Powerade, somebody had grabbed a pair of swim bottoms instead of my compression shorts. We jogged a couple more stretches, then settled into a fast walk the rest of the way with brisk, long strides that seemed to reduce my chafing.
I was disappointed I didn’t tough it out the whole way, but in retrospect it was probably a smart call. I might have felt like I’d won a mental battle if I could’ve endured the pain a few more miles, but tearing up the skin on my thighs would’ve messed up my runs for several days. Luckily, I’ll have many opportunities over the next eight weeks to work on my mental toughness.