I did it! My longest running distance ever! And it was about time. I keep telling stories to everyone about how running saved my life, how I became a long-distance runner, how cool it is to have a healthy life full of adrenaline, etc. Yet, in reality, when was the last time I ran more than 20 km in one session? Must have been about a year ago. Now, I do believe in all things I mentioned before, and I do keep my running routine sacred. There is hardly a week without at least two 10K sessions, sometimes more. The reality is however, that I plateaued on the range between 10-15K. For longer distances, I either did not have the time, the physical stamina, or the patience.
That is, until this morning. I decided to try to beat my distance record yesterday, so after I woke up this morning, I put the running gear out and rushed out, before the crowds of cyclists , thirsty for some German sunlight, come out. The first couple of kilometers felt harder than usual. Did I put myself in too much mental pressure? Time to change the game. At the first opportunity, I swerved and chose a rather unexplored running track. I have ran along that path a few times before, but not near close to its end (if it even had an end). Great! With a new path to conquer, my mind would be less focused on the physical pain, and more on the direction. With no known end, I could run for as long as I wanted - that is, for as long as my legs would hold.
The second thing I did, was to pause my constant stream of aural information overload (podcasts, audiobooks), and instead, focus on the sound of the surrounding nature, my breathing, and my steps on the path. It felt like a long meditation and looking back, I should do this more often. We’re overloaded with tons of information on a minute-to-minute basis. Wasn’t running supposed to ease your mind. Why using this precious time to fill your mind with even more stuff?
Remember the people I was trying to avoid stumbling into. Eventually, it became so warm outside that the track became full of other runners, cyclists, and people just walking around? Normally, I would start bashing about how they all appear out of nowhere, as if in a game, only to make your challenge harder. This time, I wanted to play a different game, remember? Have you ever seen bus or taxi drivers develop this non-verbal way of greeting each other, even though they may have never seen each other before? While running, I would occasionally wave or make a friendly hand gesture to other runners following the opposite direction, as if trying to say: “Don’t give up, fellow comrades, we are in the same team!”. It had a very positively unexpected effect. All of them would wave back, many would even smile, or cheer, as a sign of respect to the fellow runner following his personal challenge. This felt great, and I thought about if and how my simple way of paying respect could have motivated them them to continue. Another thing I should remember to more often.
Without realizing, I had passed the 23km mark - the longest I have ever run before. And all that with half of the mental and physical exhaustion of my last 21K+ run. I stopped, not so much because I was tired, but because I did not want to put unnecessary pressure on my knees before the half-marathon I’m going to next month. After all, I did beat myself, didn’t I? I did, but I also learned a few new things about myself, which is why I decided to write this post.
I hope you enjoyed reading it. I would love to hear about your running challenges. Please, feel free to drop a comment. I’m off to the next challenge!