I remember when I accidentally ran 6 1/2 miles.
This was before I ran with my cellphone tacked to my arm. When I used my 2008-era iPod and tracked my distance online, long after the run had ended. I had a vague idea where I was going, went on my run, expecting a challenging 4-miler. I ran, I struggled, I felt like my legs were turning into jelly, but I finished.
I got home, tallied up my score, and learned that, somehow, I had ran 6.55 miles.
I was at the very beginning of my half-marathon training at that point, working my way up to a whole 5 miles on my new, natural run. I thought about how exhausting and frustrating and demanding the run was. And then I thought about how, somehow, between that point in May and October 27th, I needed to double that. In fact, my half marathon would be exactly twice what I had just run.
That was the first time I regretted registering so early for the half marathon.
Somehow tackling 13.1 miles felt like some elusive goal, one that I would never actually see. I felt like October 27th would come and go and I would be forced to take a step down and participate in the day's 5k "Fun Run" instead. But, somehow, I added on the miles. I was addled by injury and blisters and a supreme lack of time. I learned that I not only needed knee braces, but anti-chafing cream, blister-resistant socks, and earbuds that don't pop out of your ears after the first gust of wind.
But then, last week or so, on my very last long run before the race, I hit 13.33 miles. I ate an entire sleeve of those Gatorade "chews" during said run. I drank 24 ounces of water somewhere in between all that "chew"-chewing. And, weirdly enough, I felt perfectly fine afterward. I took a shower, ate a lot of pasta, and went about my day. My knees were a little sore the next day, but that was the extent of my injuries.
And while I love I get to calm down a bit for now ("tapering off" as they call it -- a drop in the number of miles you run in order to reduce the chance of injury just before the race), a little voice is still in the back, poking at me like a second grader trying to start a fight, and reminding me of one little bit of information:
"You know, you'll have to double that distance if you are going to run a marathon."
Way back in June, my best friend got laid off from her guaranteed-but-mind-numbing job in Boston. She had been talking about moving to Chicago someday, and getting laid off seemed like the push forward that she needed. As much as I wanted her to stick around in Boston, I knew that she had outgrown the city. There are few things as scary as packing up your life and shipping out to a city you've only been to once before. I told her that, if she had the gumption to move out to Chicago, I'd have the gumption to train for the Chicago Marathon. On July 1st, she boarded a bus to Chicago, and I attempted to get a run in while in Colorado.
(Spoiler alert: I got two miles in and thought I was going to suffocate and die.)
The Chicago Marathon is a year from now. Almost exactly. The 2013 marathon happened just this past Sunday. And while 13.33 miles was exhausting to the point of delirium, I'm not afraid. I went from the girl who patted herself on the back when she ran a whole 5 miles to having her 5 mile run days count as "downtime" days. I have pushed my average distance from a okay-for-an-American 3 miles to an impressive-unless-you're-Kenyan 8.
The ultimate goal is, by springtime, to push that average up to 12-15 (while focusing on 5 mile runs with sprint intervals over the winter, because no one wants to be outside running in January weather for two hours). Then, sometime around June (just in time for the heat waves), start upping the ante until I'm at 20 by September. For a first-time marathoner, 20 miles is were you cap it until marathon day. But, then again, according to some training schedules, a first-time half-marathoner is supposed to cap their training at 10. So it's safe to say that there's a good chance I won't rest on the schedule's laurels.
It's hard to say exactly what will happen between now and next year. Heaven knows, last October, I couldn't have imagined that I would be where I am now. But I do know one thing: when it comes to marathon training, I'm not afraid. It's going to be challenging. I'll probably get injured a ton. But I'm ready. Bring it.