The Twelve Miles of Christmas

I thought it was time once again to up my long run’s distance. After spending what seemed like months at 10 miles, two weeks ago I ran 11. Last week was the 15K (9.32 mile) race. So this week felt like the perfect week to go to 12.


Making the what I assume is the universal symbol for 12

By the way, that’s the biggest mid-air split I can do. Just one of several reasons I was never a cheerleader.

Backing up a bit: a couple days earlier, I used to find another two miles to tack onto my usual 10, and found them right at the start of the run on some busier roads south of home that eventually led east and then back north to join up with my usual 10-mile clockwise route that circles my town on mostly residential streets.

I am obsessed with and have spent way too many late nights plotting out courses and measuring distances when I should have been in bed. I’m so BAD!!!!

The temp was in the lower 30s – undoubtedly more comfy than the 20º F (aka witch tit) weather I experienced last week, but still, I should have worn thicker gloves. I wore my normal Nike running gloves which are great when it’s in the 40s; not so much 30º. I was constantly shrinking my hands into fists and grasping onto the insides of my long sleeves for an extra layer of protection between my skin and the air, alternating covering my thumb with my other fingers and my other fingers with my thumb.

Other than cold fingers, the only mildly annoying thing I had to contend with were unshoveled sidewalks. It snowed a couple of nights ago, and there was a clear delineation between sidewalks in front of homes and businesses that gave a shit, and sidewalks in front of those that did not. It made me think of how terrible it would be to have to navigate snow-covered sidewalks in a wheelchair. At least when the sidewalks were a mess I could run on the shoulders, most of which were relatively clear.

One new thing I tried on this run was eating a couple Clif Bloks, a recent purchase I thought might come in handy on my longer runs. I only brought two pieces, wrapped in a paper towel and stuffed into my leggings pocket, even though the package’s instructions say to eat a whole package (six pieces) for every hour of activity. I dunno, that seems like a lot to me – and it has caffeine, which I don’t ingest a lot of – so I thought I would try just two and see how it went.

An hour and 11 minutes in, I ate both pieces. I never eat (or drink) during my runs so it was a nice little change. They tasted good – like gummy bears only in block form. It was nice to have a snack. I love black cherry. After I ate them, I promptly forgot about them.

That is, until about 20 minutes later while on the last quarter of the run – probably around the 9-mile mark – going uphill, mind you – and I suddenly felt good. Like super good. Weirdly strong, full of energy. I thought this is weird until I remembered: the Bloks. It must be the Bloks!

So score one for Clif Bloks*. Maybe next time I’ll space them out and eat one earlier in the run and see what happens. Maybe I’ll try three.

*not an ad

As I’m settling into longer and longer runs, it’s becoming more clear to me just how much running is a mental discipline. There is a physical component, obviously, but that’s the easy part. You work up to that the same way you would any other skill – you put in the time and effort, you see results. What used to seem daunting eventually doesn’t. You keep setting goals, and when you reach them, you set new ones. For the most part, it’s cut and dry.

The mental part works the same way, but for me, takes more effort. There is a level of patience you need to be okay with, and this is sometimes hard for me – probably others as well, as I can’t imagine I’m alone in feeling this. It’s one thing to run for half an hour or 45 minutes. An hour, at this point, doesn’t even feel like much.

But 12 miles at an easy pace – I was looking at a two-hour run. Normal for some runners, new territory for me. And not the longest I plan to run in the near future.

Two hours spent running is two hours I can’t check my email, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Two hours I can’t respond to a text, vent to a friend, post something online, read the news, or have any inkling as to what new disaster is happening in the world. Two hours I can’t check something off of my to-do list. Two hours I can’t eat anything other than Clif Bloks.

Just moving, breathing, listening, and thinking. Just being.

Make no mistake: this is a good thing. It’s nice. But I still have to quell those rising waters of anxiety when they appear, and tell myself that the world is getting on quite nicely without me “doing” anything. I am fine exactly where I am.

Anyway, I reached the 12-mile mark about a quarter mile away from my house, and when I ran up to my house I looked at my watch: 1:59:00. So I ran down the street for 30 seconds and then back, giving myself not only a 12-mile run but a two-hour run as well.

Amazing that for many years, my long run was an hour. I thought that’s all my body could handle.

I guess I was wrong.

By the way, when I think of the number 12, this is what I think of first:

(I’m old.)

7 thoughts on “The Twelve Miles of Christmas

  1. Love this post. The long run is addicting and a bit of a science. I agree that a full thing of Bloks is a bit much for a long run. Try spacing them out and experiment. You will find the perfect combo and as you continue to run longer and more often, you might find you need them less as your body adjusts. So excited to follow your progress!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, I’m sure as I go I’ll make adjustments and figure out what my body needs. I almost wish those bloks didn’t taste so good because I kind of want them all the time like candy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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