This is the best time of year to be a runner in the Boston area. The weather is turning, and runners flood the streets. It seems like everyone is training for Boston. I felt the energy for the first time this year during my long run on Saturday. We had 45 degrees and the sun was shining. I ran my usual long run route on the bike path down to Alewife, then loops around Fresh Pond and back up to Arlington Heights via the unforgiving Belmont Hills. My legs did not show up for the first few miles. I felt tired (someone stayed up way too late watching Big Love and eating Belgian dark chocolate and oranges) and achy (even though I don't run on Fridays). My morning coffee was having all kinds of issues in my stomach.
I felt a little concerned, given that I had to run 18 miles, and the first 4 miles or so are on a slight downhill. Just as I was entertaining such negative thoughts, the Dana Faber Boston runners started flooding the path. I love greeting other runners and being greeted by them. It's like instant friendship, without care for the speed and pace. It feels great to be part of this large community.
After a few miles my legs woke up and I felt energized. I worked hard to keep the pace over 8min/miles, which was not easy given the slight downhill. My plan was to run a similar pace as last week, but be more consistent, rather than running crazy fast at the end of the run. I got to Fresh Pond in time for their weekly race. I have never participated, but I plan to, one of these weeks. Most of the racers are very fast and look the part. It's wonderful to watch them fly by, very motivating. After 12 miles, I got ready for 4 miles of hills before some downhill and flat for the last 2 miles. I refilled my water bottles at a gas station, changed from podcast to music, and was on my way. My pace slowed down a bit but I worked hard and got it back. At 13 miles I started cresting up the .3mile Belmont Hill. Every time I run up it I remember my first attempt at it, about 3 years ago, with a few Runaway Mom's friends. I had such a hard time, and almost puked by the time I got to its top. I still struggle with this hill, mostly because it gets steeper and steeper, but my pace is much faster at this point in time (still 30 seconds or so slower than MP, though). I completely lost my legs on these hilly 4 miles, and slowed down some, but I was OK with that. I strive to maintain my pace on hills, and sometimes I get in trouble with that and want to stop. It is a bit of an all or nothing approach where I feel I'd rather stop and rest than keep going up and seeing the pace on the Garmin slowing down. So my new rule is not to look at my watch while going up hills.
More runners showed up as I was struggling with the hills. Their encouragement pulled me up those hills. Next, the downhill section where I flew down at a 6:30 or so pace and got my average pace down to where it had been before the hills. Finally, the home run, 2 flat miles up to the Starbucks, and a .5 mile walk home while enjoying a tall vanilla latte.
Next week, my 3rd 20 miles, on the Boston course! Yay for long runs!
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