Last week I went on my first long run in months. Long, here, is generous.
It was six miles, a shortened version of a mostly flat (for Asheville) route I ran dozens of times when I was training for my hundred last summer.
Twice I stopped to walk. It was hot, but that’s not much of an excuse.
It was defeating to realize just how far I’ve slid since the hundred last July. It’s like when you go back to the gym for the first time in months or years, and struggle under a bar that’s a fraction of what you used to lift for double-digit reps. Or when you get on the scale after months of avoidance and see a number that quantifies how much you’ve let go with your diet and habits … and just how far you have to go to get back.
But something was different with this six-mile run. There was no guilt, no frustration, no overwhelm at the size of the task of getting back into marathon or ultra shape.
Because I’ve been on the roller coaster enough times now to know that this is how it works. Three different times I’ve started over in the gym, sliding back to 140 pounds after bulking up to almost 160.
More than once in my seven-year quest to get to Boston, I went six months without running — sometimes frustrated, sometimes injured, sometimes both. Once, I was pretty sure my days as a marathoner were over.
And from the time I first signed up for a hundred-miler to the time I actually ran one, I went through a lull in running where running 100 miles seemed a mere fantasy. Or perhaps a monkey I’d have to learn to be okay with carrying around on my back.
This, I realized, is the price of shunning moderation.When your approach to doing big things is to so pour yourself into them that you don’t want to think about them again for months or years, this is how it has to go.