Ah, the long run. I love it and hate it and need to embrace it. Even when I’m visiting Houston in August. That means: wake at 5. Eat at 5:30. Get in a car at 6. Start running at 6:30, just as the first light comes along.
These days I run on weekends with a beloved hydration pack: a small, tight-fitting pack that just fits a camelback reservoir. On this steamy Texas morning it was crucial to have it filled with my favorite Tailwind sports drink, forcing myself to drink every mile or so.
Luckily, I was not alone on this run. Kelly–looking smashing in pink– had offered to ride along on a bike. 20 miles is a lot of miles, I knew it was going to be slow, and so I eagerly accepted the idea of my athletic love distracting me, supporting me, cheering me on, being there. Her parents kindly gave us a ride, and off we went.
I have often prostelytized about one of the top reasons running is great: it gets you to see and experience places that would otherwise remain unseen, unexperienced. In this case I was surprised to see how lush, green, pleasant and even beautiful Houston is. They have opened up miles and miles of biking, walking and running trails. I was happy to see hundreds of other runners and bikers using the paths. Company makes running easier, and seeing all of these die-hards out there by 7 was just inspiring.
Kelly was a blur of pink speed in front of me. She served as my pacer and target. She would often disappear for a while, but knowing she was around the corner, beyond the trees, somewhere in front of me, got me to the 10-mile turnaround point almost effortlessly.
Then the challenges came. It was getting warm, about 90 degrees, and so very humid. Shade seemed harder to find. My stomach started protesting – “leave me alone, enough with water and electrolytes!”
I put my head down. I slowed down. I kept running, except for one mile, when Kelly took over and I rode her bike to relax and stretch my tired legs.
Finally, a sprint up the final hill and those 19 miles were behind me. I was reminded of summer runs in New York’s Central Park. And I learned once again what running can bring: discovery, camaraderie, and a bit of “I can do this” confidence.