Every runner has hit the “wall” at some point. I have seen the strongest, most experienced runners have days where they were forced to shuffle until the end of a run. Sometimes the reason is due to mistakes. Maybe you didn’t drink enough, didn’t get enough sleep, didn’t train enough, trained too much etc. And sometimes there is no specific reason, the body says “that’s enough.”
Last night a group of us ran to the beach in Tel Aviv. The run was originally planned to celebrate our friend Rich’s 53rd birthday by running 50 kilometers the the beach and then another 3 along the shore. Rich is a runner we all admire greatly. He has broken the golden barrier of three hours in a marathon — something very few accomplished runners are able to do. Even more impressive since he is a few kilometers older than most of us.
This was the kind of adventure that I live for. When you decide to run through the night rather than sleep, you are breaking the rules. You control your time rather than letting it control you. It may be hard to understand, but sometimes doing something completely crazy is actually a very sane thing to do. It’s not a race. There are no registration fees or trophies and no one cares about how fast you are.
It is running just to run.
And to feel alive.
Because of our “situation” at home, I really never know if things will be ok enough to do these crazy things. So I was very happy to meet up with the group at 1:00 in the morning to begin the trek.
There’s an amazing feeling when you are pushing your body forward while most of the world is asleep. Stopping at gas stations at 3 in the morning and waking the sleeping clerk to buy bottles of water. Talking about anything under the sun way before the sun has risen.
We ran mostly together (there were eight of us, plus one who had planned on meeting up along the route but ended up running alone the whole time!) We stopped every now and then to get everyone together and have a drink. The pace was moderate, but not slow. (Probably should have been a bit slower.) But enough that we could speak as we cut through the night and bit by bit made our way to the shore.
After about 38 kilometers, we would run 2 and walk for 500 meters. I still felt fine. There is nothing that can release stress like a long, night run. You might think that such a run would create stress — always wondering if your legs were going to give out at some point in the middle of nowhere. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s not real stress. That’s just part of the excitement. Nothing truly horrible can happen besides having to walk/crawl a few kilometers — or having your exploits posted on Facebook before the run even ends. But I can deal with that.
I felt really good, really strong. Until we hit 44 kilometers. And then my body had had enough. My legs hurt, I had a shooting pain in my knee, I didn’t really feel all that coherent. As I said — it happens to the strongest runners sometimes.
All you can do is somehow keep moving at whatever pace you can manage.
Because at some point — the run will end. The pain will fade and you can relax again. You can lie back, let the waves flow over you, and gather strength.
Until the next time.
Seeing a runner complete a serious run to the end without difficulty is impressive. It is much more so to watch someone you know is amazing reach their breaking point and keep going. Some of the group broke and some didn’t. That didn’t matter. We all made it to the ocean and jumped into the surf.
Feeling the surf flow around your body after running 50K? No words can do it justice. (No one really had an appetite to do the extra 3. So Rich is now 50 once again.)
I am always in awe of how Stella deals with her treatments. They have horrible side-effects that seem to get worse each time. Sometimes, she is able to push through a chemo treatment and its aftermath without letting it take her down.
But I am more impressed with the way she deals with what she calls the “yukiness.” This is when her body says “enough.” Yet however she can, she does not say a nasty word. She doesn’t scream or get mad. Her run may be a walk or even a shuffle. But before I can ask her how she is feeling, she asks me how was my run and how am I feeling.
In may not always look pretty, but we will both just continue on the best we can and never give up the hope of a better day.
Sometimes life can overwhelm you. So you just have to overwhelm it back.