Sat. I completed the longest run of my life – 14 miles. Prior to that the longest distance I had ever ran was 13.1 miles. I wasn’t entirely certain if I would go for a full 14 or if I would be content at 12. Having ran the time trial of the half marathon last Sun. I knew I could complete the race distance. One of my running friends encouraged me to go for a 14 mile run though for the psychological element. Ultimately I decided I would let the weather and my body determine at mile 6 if I wanted to go to mile 7 before turning around.
I chose the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail to log my miles. Its entire distance is around 14 miles one way so it was perfect for a solid out and back run. I had ran and biked portions of the trail previously but never ran more than 5 miles total on it. The starting point in Columbia is nice because there is a visitor’s center with bathrooms as well as ample parking. Even with the annual bridge bust going on that day not all the spaces were taken. The trail goes through Chickes Rock County Park which is especially scenic this time of year. I even saw some rock climbers scaling the side of the cliff. I thought they were crazy (I hate heights), but I’m sure had I told them I was going for a 12-14 mile run they would’ve thought the same of me.
Upon exiting the park the trail took me along Front Street in Marietta which I absolutely adored. I felt like I had taken a step back in time with the brick sidewalks and corner taverns. Many of the houses had candles in the window which gave an 1800s feel to the whole area. The miles through Marietta were very enjoyable as I spent so much time looking at the houses that I wasn’t thinking about the increasing humidity.
By the time the trail turned back into an actual trail I was starting to play the mind game of whether I would go 12 or 14 miles. Upon hitting mile 6 and feeling rather good, I decided to continue on with the desire to say that I had ran my longest run ever. It was good I had mentally psyched myself up as that mile went through corn fields that were very open with no breeze. I knew I should have started the entire run earlier than 10:30am that day, but the desire to sleep in as well as the time it took to get to the trail pushed back my start time. I kept my pace rather reasonable and ran every mile slower than even my usual long run pace. After turning around at mile 7 I was feeling a little tired from the heat but knew I would soon be back in a wooded area again.
Mile 8 was a blur of being lost in my own thoughts but mile 9 hit hard psychologically. I’ve always struggled with the 9th mile anytime I’ve ran over 10 miles. Reaching 8 miles always felt like an accomplishment but running the 9th has always bothered me. Part of it was for some reason I thought I only had 4 miles to go. When I realized it was actually 5 miles I felt discouraged. I also realized I would need to start rationing my water a bit more. I love the river trail for its ample directional signs, several trail-heads and even porta-potties, but I really wish there would be a water fountain or 2 along it for fill ups.
Mile 9 became even worse when after turning a corner, I heard a man call out to a dog to come back and I heard deep booming barks. I slowed my pace, unsure of where the dog even was, and made an impulse decision to jump over the low wooden fence bordering the yard I was passing. Hoping that there would not be a dog in that yard I just trespassed into I quickly located the boxer 2 houses away looking at me. I waited a moment longer, afraid that if I were to resume running that he would give chase. Fortunately a group of bikers came from the other direction and I used that as a chance to hop back over the fence and continue my run. I spent the remainder of mile 9 silently cursing every dog owner who lets his or her animal run loose in the yard particularly those who live in developments.
Trying to be a little more positive I began looking at the houses in Marietta again. By that point I was feeling actual thirst so the wonderment I experienced on the way out was short lived during my return through the town. Each mile became slower, my feet grew hot, my skin itched and I was kicking myself for not being content to run 12 miles. I became desperate to hear my watch beep at mile 12. I knew when I only had 2 miles to go that no matter what I would be fine. I limited my sips of water to one small one each half mile until I reached my last mile. I have never been pregnant (nor do I ever desire to be), but I always feel like a pregnant lady at the end of my long runs in that I begin to crave anything and everything. The smells from the food vendors along the bridge did not help. I wanted a funnel cake, french fries, a snow cone… anything and everything greasy or refreshing.
When I finally returned to my car I was content to drink my lukewarm bottle of water and stretch. A quick text to my husband to please make me a green smoothie and I was heading home. Dehydration became apparent as my calves began to slightly cramp despite stretching them out. Each stop sign or light I used as a chance to rub the muscles more. I returned home somewhat tired, a little dehydrated but content that I completed the full 14 miles. I know when I run my half marathon on Oct. 22nd no matter what I feel I can draw strength from that run, physically and mentally.