I wasn’t quite sure how the day would turn out when I found myself at the head of the 7:30 pace group at the NYRR Long Training Run (LTR) early this morning in Central Park. Although I, along with a couple of my Flyer teammates, were responsible for leading a group of runners through four loops of the park for a total of 20 miles, I was not at all confident of my abilities to accomplish this mission. Given that my longest distance run to date since the Boston marathon has been one 16-miler 2 months ago and my running overall over the past week and a half has been slow and uninspired, I wondered aloud if I had enough stamina to handle the distance, much less carry a brisk 7:30 min/mi pace for the duration of the run. Still, since I signed up for this way in advance and didn’t want to rescind from my responsibilities, I managed to show up at the starting line ready to run and lead the pace. Just in case however, I warned my partners that I might drop off at the end of sixteen miles if I find myself struggling to keep up.
Well, as it turns out, the running gods must have heard my silent prayers because I passed my first long run test of this training season in flying colors. Not only did I finished my first 20 miler of the summer and maintained between a 7:08 and 7:33 pace for the duration of my travels, but I also kept my heart rate down and ran so comfortably that by the end I felt strong enough to have tackled another 6.2 miles if asked to. To be honest, it was largely because we had a picture perfect running weather in the city this morning. But running with a group and having others to pull you along also definitely contributed to my positive experience. I am not completely sure I could’ve handled the distance if I was just hammering out the miles on my lonesome. The conversations were minimal in our small running group, but the feeling of comadarie was evident as we reminded each other every so often to slow down the pace whenever we felt we were pushing too hard.
At the end of run, quite a few runners came up to me and thanked my personally for guiding them around the park at a steady pace. I sheepishly grinned and accepted their appreciation, although I felt as if they were every bit as motivational for me as I was for them. I doubt I would even have been out there running 20 miles today if I hadn’t signed up and hadn’t challenged myself to step up to the plate. The funniest compliment I heard while running today was from a slower and older woman runner who, as we were running past, exclaimed, “In my mind, you are what I see when I close my eyes. Go, fast people!” It was such a nice thing to say and made us all run a little straighter and a little faster.
After this experience, I think I’m finally back to running strong and running well again…as least I hope I am. I’ll post my grid tomorrow so you all can keep tabs on my progress, or lack thereof. I have high hopes that I’ll be able to get in a strong longish run tomorrow run to celebrate the third anniversary of my running blog and my 34th birthday. We’ll see in the morning if my legs (and the weather) will get with the program. Hope everyone is having a fantastic running weekend!