It’s The Climb

 This is where I am at the end of the first interval of 99% of my training runs.  Within five minutes, I am far enough away from the main road to not hear traffic and far enough into my session to begin realizing how blessed I am to live where I do.  We may not have Starbucks or malls and we may have to drive more than 20 minutes to get anywhere…but look what we do have.  It’s not a fair trade; we certainly claimed the long end of the stick.  At this point, I am more likely to run past fishermen than cars and am more likely to be alone than in the presence of fishermen.  It’s a quiet beginning to a quiet run, just the way I prefer it.  If anything is going to throw me off on Sunday, it will be the chaos that accompanies every starting line.  Because from here, I move on to this:

More tranquility, more beauty, and even less signs of progress.  My usual company here consists of geese (although, those geese aren’t always tranquil…) and the occasional farmer on his tractor.  If the stream is high enough and rapid enough, I like to lower the volume on my iPod so I can listen to the water rush by.  By the time I get here…

I am already feeling the zen of sneakers hitting asphalt, the evenness of my breathing, the energy pushing my legs faster.  To the right is the lake, where I’m likely to see more fishing enthusiasts and runners like myself.  This is when the rest of my world begins to fall away, when I forget about the laundry, any temper tantrums or bills to pay, and my mind shifts instead to what lies ahead.  Because from here, it’s only a few miles to get to my favorite spot…

This is my treat, one I only get when I do distance training.  It’s about ten miles out and if I want to go through here, I have to plan on at least two to three hours of run time.  I’ve previously described the “veggie portion” of my runs.  This is my double chocolate fudge cake, fresh out of the oven.  It’s worth busting through any tiredness that tries to creep in to hear the gravel crunch under my feet and know that I have a good two miles to be snug in this trail before I re-enter the real world of painted lines and fast cars.  I swear, the best songs always play here and I do some of my clearest thinking along this path.  Many a blog entry has been formulated between these trees and many a problem solved.  If my race has any spots like this, I’ll be golden come Sunday.
No matter how far I run or which route I take, I always start and finish on the same road, with the same hill.  Setting out, the downhill is a great warm up and spur to get my feet movin’.  Coming home…it is the bane of my existence.  There was a time, seven or so months ago, that I was barely able to walk back up.  It required everything I had to breathlessly climb this hill.  Now…I run it.  Slowly.  Awkwardly.  But I’m running.  This hill may not be the steepest I’ve encountered during my months of training, but it is the most symbolic.  I can’t get around it.  This is the way home and the last few minutes of my run.  I can either make it count or I can decide my run is over at the base.  I decided long ago to make it count.  So while this picture may not seem impressive or beautiful to you…to me, it is a turning point not only in my physical strength, but my mental determination as well.  If I can conquer this hill after a 21+ mile run, I can certainly finish that marathon. 

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