It has been a while since I had a long run. The last time I did one was twelve days before Christmas on a more moderate route. This time, I was taking on that big climb again. The route went five kilometers uphill, not that steep, but a steady climb that could easily turn untrained legs to rubber. The demand on the lungs as you steadily climbed was another matter. Before that, I already have to go uphill for two and a half kilometers before hitting the closest thing to a flat road on this route.
Three years ago, I had more time to go on runs of fifteen kilometers and beyond. Work changed all that. But I hope to build up on the distance again this year, and this is my first venture into the twenty kilometer zone.
I went through the first four kilometers of my run at six-minute pace; it went down steadily as I started the gradual ascent to the nine-kilometer mark until it hit seven minutes. You can never hit negative splits on a four-kilometer ascent, I suppose. I didn't. But then again, that's me -- a mere mortal trying to emulate the gods of running, they who run three-minute kilometers and faster, who have iron lungs and legs of steel, who stand glorified in the hallowed halls of running heaven.
And there's the cold, seeping to the bone, as I crest the first of two climbs going to my turnaround at the ten kilometer mark. Maybe I would have been better off just doing a shorter run and not suffering this much. Perhaps it would have been even better if I just stayed in bed today and slept until the sun was high up in the sky. After all, I have been running everyday for thirty-one days since the start of the New Year. The break definitely wouldn't be bad. But I am stubborn, and I am a runner.
I hit the ten kilometer mark after still another climb, shorter this time. I make the turn and head back for home. I told myself this would be easier, it was mostly downhill. I ran occasionally on the grassy shouldering of the paved road. It felt nice on my feet, soft and cushiony, a great break from all that pounding on concrete. I look ahead at the road stretching before me. If I were riding a bike, this would be the time I rest my legs and just coast down the road till I need to pedal again to keep moving. There is no such thing in running, you move your feet, always, go one step at a time, or you don't move at all.
So I go on, one step at a time, just taking on the kilometers at they come. I know that at the end there is breakfast and a shower waiting. That would be my reward as always, and the joy of having accomplished something and feeling truly alive. That is good enough. I thank God for it.