A few weeks ago I hit 1000 miles for the year. I’m not sure why this was a goal with me, but it always seemed to be a big milestone. I actually tried it last year and fell short. Injuries and motivation hindered me.
When you are at mile 1 on January 1st, 1000 miles seems so distant. Constant motivation is the biggest key. If one were to keep looking at their internal odometer, motivation and desire can be lost. You cannot think about mile 995 while you are on mile 2, your mind will discourage you.
The main time I thought about the 1000 mile goal was at the end of each month, I would look at my monthly total and add it to a little “score sheet” I had in my desk drawer. This helped me keep the goal in mind while not focusing on the miles ahead.
As the milestone approached, I realized that it would be somewhere close to the finish line of the Soaring Wings Marathon. The night before the race, I sat down and did the math. I needed 26 miles even for my 1000! The finish would be literally in sight when I hit this personal goal. I knew this would give me motivation throughout the race. It was as if there was a double goal thrown out in front of me.
The first ten miles or so I felt great. In fact, I felt better than great. Everything was flowing and I was in the zone. During this time, a car pulled up next to me (the course was not closed). It eased along with several of us. I wondered what they were doing, then I heard my niece, Carissa, yelling. It was my wife’s car! She had tracked me down so that our Carissa could see me running. At this point the child was pulling herself up as much as the car seat would allow and hanging out the window cheering for me.
Carissa has always shown an interest in our running. She is constantly asking when she can have a medal. We have drilled it into her that medals are earned, not given to you because you want it. She has asked if I would take her with me on training runs so she will be able to run a “big race” like me, but at 4 years old she is still a little shy of training age.
When she comes over, she will stare at our medals. In the past, she has asked us to give her one. We’ve explained that medals are to be earned, if we gave her one without the work then it would not mean anything.
This day was the first time she had actually seen me in a race. She had seen me around the neighborhood since she lives just around the corner from me, but she had never been able to get out to a race.
It is amazing to me that while she has no concept of distance and miles, she somehow knew what I, along with the other runners, where doing was big. After our meeting on the course, my wife took her to the finish line to wait for me and cheer the other runners on. I’m told that it was during this wait the she started picking flowers in the grass and handing them out to runners as they came in.
I wish she would have been at mile 20 or so. This is where I began to struggle. Mile 18 has a beast of a hill. I have heard it compared to Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon. As I reached it, the temperature was starting to rise significantly. We were having an unusually warm October and I was feeling it.
Mile 19 came and the only reprieve was the hill giving slightly. At this point of the race, we are on the edge of a small town, spectators are few and far between. The heat sweltering off the asphalt, a constant head wind and mental fatigue had started wearing me down.
Looking back, I realize that I had let my nutrition and, to a smaller extent, my hydration get behind. It seems like once this happens you are fighting to catch up constantly. I never fully recovered during the race, but soldered on, knowing I had a goal that was at hand along with family and friends waiting at the finish line.
The last mile of the race is mostly downhills and flats, so I pushed myself as much as possible. At this point I was close to a PR and I knew it, but all the nutrition mistakes had caught me. The heat was killing any drive I had.
As my personal odometer turned, my 4 year old niece ran from the crowd, yelling “I want to run with you, Uncle Jeff!” Of course, I was happy to oblige. While she doesn’t understand the concept of running 1000 miles, or even 26.2, she does understand that she ran with me. The race officials even bestowed her with her first medal.
I missed my PR by 90 seconds, but who cares? It was my PR for the course by 4 minutes or so. My biggest prize was the chance to show someone what it feels like to finish something big. That’s not anything that can be worn around your neck like a medal, but with a little satisfaction in your heart.