Saturday 6 August 2011

A lesson in toughening up

Endurance is in the mind, I'm learning.

Get me. After a rough morning's run I'm Papillon.

Seven miles through the nature reserve and gated communities of footballing millionaires in tidy Barnet is not sufferance, and now that I'm sitting on my sofa with a cup of tea and only moderately aching legs I can see that.

But at nine o'clock this morning, mud-splattered and winded, I was locked in a form of solitary confinement that was as close to despair as anything I have so far experienced. (At this point I am resisting the temptation to draw parallels between the life of a working mum and that of a hard-core felon sentenced to hard labour and only limited contact with other adults.)

Today's run was a shortie: a bit of down time between the 10 and 11 miles of recent weeks and the 12 and 13 mile tests that loom next. In between my long runs I've been trying to improve my strength and speed: doing lunges and sit-ups that leave me purple-faced, alternated with 3-mile dashes that induce such nausea I have to resist the impulse to stop and vomit into the bushes.

A lot of training doesn't feel nice. But then some of it suddenly does and I'm spilling over with purpose and happy chemicals and the certainty that I can be everything Grace needs and that we can together emerge victorious from this marathon.

But, oh God, this morning's run.

It was supposed to be easy. It was supposed to be confirmation of how far I had progressed, how tough my legs and body and core were becoming. Instead it was an awful, shambling progression during which a voice in my head crowed in triumphant dismay that I'd made absolutely no progress at all, that I'd been kidding myself if I thought I could do this. By the time my watch beeped the signal that ended my torment I was nearly in tears. How could I have gone from 11 miles last Saturday via two mid-week runs totalling 8 miles (and yielding two personal bests) to this?

I still don't know the answer and I'm still as bewildered. At times this morning I've veered into panic about how I'm going to get to the end of those 13 miles on October 9.

But I'm not going to let the voice talk me into defeat and depression any longer because my phone has just beeped to say that Grace is in a taxi home.

Grace has been on holiday for two weeks and is now coming back to me. My stomach flips as I write that sentence. I can't wait to hold her to me, to fit her head under my chin and wrap my arms around her. I can't wait to brush her hair away from her forehead and kiss it, to bury my nose in her neck and inhale the smell of her. I can't wait to watch her face while she talks for hours about her accomplishments and adventures while she's been away.

I wanted to greet her fit and energetic, and strong for both of us. As long as I ignore that voice and tell myself I'll keep running, I think I can.

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