Not every run is particularly good or particularly bad. Most runs are…what they are, and the more you run the more each individual run becomes more anonymous. This isn’t a bad thing, it is just a symptom of daily practise. Perhaps it sounds like a negative, but what it really speaks to is routine, and once running becomes routine it becomes – relatively – easy to do something which many people consider to be prohibitively difficult. But some runs still have the ability to stand out; when you successfully pull off something remarkably tough, or when things feel miraculously smooth, or when you run somewhere new and beautiful, these in your body and mind.
They don’t all feel like that though, and they probably shouldn’t. Still, it’s a nice feeling to chase; a little high.
There is another way a run can stand out though, and instead of giving that post-run glow, that shot of dopamine, it makes you wonder if you really like this running lark at all. Sometimes a run just really, really sucks.
On paper, or on Strava, this long run is nothing remarkable. It is a fairly typical LR at a fairly typical speed, albeit at a distance which I haven’t attempted in a while but still, it is not completely out of the question. 16 miles is far, but that’s the point, and I’ve done it before.
Yet, it really, really sucked.
I should say, the first hour or so was actually relatively smooth but looking back we don’t remember the smooth bits, not if the rough is really, really rough. And the rough here was sandpaper.
It was windy. I knew this before I went out and I had the fear of God, perhaps specifically Eurus, God of the East Wind, in me. It’s flat out here in the fens, flat as fuck. And it’s open, open as fuck. And as such the wind can, and will, gleefully destroy you. From 10 miles onwards I was suffering, but the last 3 were agony. It was as if I had been running with molasses stuck to the soles of my shoes and my legs were wailing. I was really suffering, in pure survival mode. When I checked my splits after the fact, I actually didn’t slow down in this last section at all, but in the moment time seemed to march to a snail inspired rhythm. The wind was strong enough that when it was at my side I was working hard to keep going in a straight line, and then when it was behind me it was more disruptive than helpful to my stride. And then, when it was coming right at me, as it was for my last mile, it was just….dreadful. It was maybe the worst mile of my running career. When I clocked 16 miles I doubled over and looked down at my legs; they were twitching and quaking involuntarily. Originally I had thought I might go a little over the 16 mile distance to take me right to my front door, but I stopped my watch bang on and took a half mile walk home, deep in a well of self pity. I then malingered in a bath filled with narcotically hot water, and after the bath I malingered on the sofa with my legs up on the arm, and then I malingered myself through lunch and dinner and a multitude of caffeinated beverages, willing myself back to life. The closest comparison I have to this disconcerting, self pitying feeling, is a hangover.
Perhaps a hangover would have been better, at least I might have had some fun accruing the pain.
Sensibly, unavoidably, I rested the next day.
But by Tuesday I was back again, doubling up.
I had paid my dues to Eurus, and came out the other side unscathed, still running, still wanting to run, somehow. Routine pulled me back from the brink. This was very much not a run I enjoyed, but to its credit, it is not one I will be quick to forget.