I have recently realized that I’m a person who needs a chunk of dedicated alone time every day in order to stay sane. Writing time doesn’t count as alone time. I know that seems strange, but it doesn’t. Running time, however, is perfect alone time. And much like writing time, if I don’t carve out a rigid place for it in my schedule, it simply doesn’t get done. Hence this whole crazy marathon idea. It’s really just a bid for time alone.
I ran 14 miles last Saturday and it sucked. Scott has confirmed that this is the only time he has ever seen me get my feet within a mile from anything resembling ice, but ice those swollen puppies I did. Every week, my long runs are murder. I’m not exactly a sylph, floating along the path on fairy wings. But I finished it.
All of this running has allowed me to observe something about my mind and the way it attempts to defeat me. Along the course of every run, my primary recurring thought is, “There’s no way I can do this.” Last week, I talked back to myself (lots of time for crazy internal dialogue when you’re running for three hours) and said, “Thanks very much for that observation, but I am doing it.”
It’s still inconceivable to me that I’ll run 26.2 miles, but no one’s asking me to run 26.2 miles yet and it’s not particularly productive for me to focus on that number. All I have to do next is run 16 miles. That I can do. And really, all I have to run is the next step that’s in front of me. Sometimes even that seems nearly impossible, but I haven’t quit yet and I feel great about it, even when it sucks.
Working around a toddler schedule, alone time is something I secure with the help of daddy, friends, aunties and babysitters. I think running is kind of like writing in that it seems like a solitary effort but it’s anything but. My saintly husband has pretty much taken over the morning Tariku shift without a complaint. We used to switch off so that at least one of us could sleep until the decadent hour of 7am. That still happens once in a while, but not nearly as often.
Then there’s my friend Dylan Berkey, who has been showing up and helping to keep my core strong, both literally and figuratively. I attribute to her the fact that my injured back is holding together through all this training. She’s a combination of a trainer, therapist, buddy and shaman. Every Monday we climb a mountain and talk and then do a bunch of beastly exercises at the top, during which I complain a lot and tell her how I can’t do it (while I am doing it). Above is a picture she took of me on top of the mountain, practicing my triumphant double fist-pump. My time with her is one of the highlights of my week. You must check out her Traverse Integrative Outdoor Therapy website.
Then there are my new buddies at L.A. Road Runners. I do my long runs with them on Saturday mornings. Because I definitely need alone time, but not three miserable, foot-pounding, lung-aching hours of it. When things get hard, it helps to just space out and let the energy of the group carry me along.
Actually, is there anyone in L.A. I haven’t enlisted in my quest for alone time? Like with everything else in my life, I believe in asking for lots of help.