The magic of the second 20-miler.

Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 marathon training program has you doing 2 20-milers within two weeks of each other, which, if you look at it on its face and have never run more than one of those before in your life, seems insane. But, by God, I don’t think I’ll ever train for a marathon again without doing at least 2 20-milers, because this second one – which two weeks ago I thought there is no fucking way this is going to happen AGAIN in two weeks! – was absolutely magical.

Today dawned cool-ish (64 degrees), but humid (dewpoint 62), and sunny after 8am. I started around 6:30am, figuring I’d finish between 10:15-10:30am. (I finished at 10:20) Since I was in my hometown, I made two loops: one following the course of a popular ten-miler held in town every year, that runs right by my house, that I’ve STILL never run because it’s always on a weekend I can’t make; the second loop following a road north of town and circling back up a lot of long, nasty hills and ending with a 200-foot climb over a mile. This was sort of intentional: it was the most efficient way home, but it was also meant to mimic the end of the Marine Corps marathon, which ends with a 60-foot hill over 0.2 miles (I think – I just know that it ends uphill).

The first ten miles were great, as any first ten miles always are; I stopped at my house to use the toilet and swap out water bottles and pick up my Munchkins, and set off for the stupid-hilly, much-warmer second ten miles. I’m not going to lie, I was really irritated and whiny from miles 12-14 because they were infuriatingly gradually uphill and in the sun, and I was sweating and working hard and wishing I could quit, but I knew I had to power through. My mantra became “just a few miles until your next gel/water stop… and then two miles to the donuts. And then three miles to home!”

So, I powered through. And I was rewarded with a lovely flat stretch and some nice, shady downhills. And then there were donuts. It occurred to me somewhere around mile 16 that I was actually feeling really fucking good, and that those hills were really not as bad as I’d made them out to be. I felt like anyone who saw me would be surprised to learn that I was that far into a 20-miler, because I felt so good that I assumed that I also looked that good (a quick check of myself in a car window absolutely nullified that theory, but it was a nice thought!). I could feel myself picking up the pace, and as I wound my way down, down, down to the tiny flat stretch before the killer ending hills, I thought: this is AWESOME.

Magically, the Survivor song “Eye of the Tiger” has a habit of popping into my head as I’m tackling nasty hills, and the same thing happened on this final stretch. Pardon my French, but I absolutely fucking KILLED those hills. Up, up, up, level out, deep breath, small dip down, and up again, up, up, level out, cross the bypass, level out, up, up, UP FIST PUMP SUCK IT YOU ASSHOLE HILL! and then – whoa, what? There was the Baptist church that I know is just up the street from my house, and then – FUCK YEAH I’M DONE “excuse me sir, what time is it?” “10:20” “Thank you!” thinking FUCK YEAH I KILLED THAT RUN OH MY GOD I FEEL AMAZING. hey look, extra Munchkin in my pocket! *snarf*

Two weeks ago I ran a fairly flat 20 miles in 3:40. Today, I ran a fairly un-flat and rather hilly 20 miles in about 3:43-3:45. I was pretty bushed after that first one, but right now I feel awesome. It occurred to me somewhere in all of this that if I can feel this good and this energized and this strong – and I finished strong as hell! – on legs that are this tired after 16 weeks of training, then I am in very good shape indeed for achieving my goal of a sub-4:30 marathon in three weeks. THREE WEEKS! Aaaaahhhh!

So yeah, that happened. Magical. Let the taper madness begin – after football Sunday and beer! 🙂


4 Responses to The magic of the second 20-miler.

  1. That’s awesome!! I’ve never heard of doing 2 20 milers but seems like it worked REALLY well for you! haha

  2. Nice! It’s a nice feeling when you realize the training has worked. I’m feeling the same way. 5 PR’s since I started training 21 weeks ago. I’m in week 2 of my three week taper. I ran a half marathon yesterday!

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