Many things happen while running the distances we do. Some of them are physical while others are mental, and some are completely fictitious creations of our mind to keep us occupied. I thought I would share an event that was real, but obviously just “bubble gum for the mind” as I was running a mid-week 20 miler of what will be a 103 mile week. I had just finished a couple of 93 miles weeks back to back, and this was my peak week prior to tapering. I had taken a paved trail along a canal with lots of wildlife, and though there were other runners and cyclists it was peaceful from the lack of traffic sounds. It was another afternoon run to pick up heat training and be better prepared to handle it if the pending Iron Horse 100 turns out to be hot, like last year.
While moving along at a nice 8:45 per mile pace I was feeling pretty good for being 8 miles in. I ran 16 miles the day before, and today the pace felt very good though not easy. There was a slight breeze, puffy clouds in the sky, and I was thinking that after I finish my first 100 mile ultra I will use the gained fitness from the training to concentrate on my speed and finally get Boston Qualified.
As I was crossing a street I noticed a young woman running toward the trail. At a glance she didn’t have the appearance of a regular runner, though she was in good shape. In her cotton t-shirt and normal gym shorts her calves lacked the “look” of someone who ran much. At my current pace I passed right by and didn’t give it a second thought as my mind switched gears and the young woman was forgotten.
I continued at the same pace and was thinking more about my strategy for the upcoming race. Then it happened. From the corner of my eye I saw someone passing me. At first I thought it was probably a cyclist since they use this trail as well. Then I noticed it was actually the young woman I saw earlier, and she was listening to an iPod and smiling slightly as she passed. I remember thinking “Well, good for her. I am glad to see her feeling good about her run.”
When she was about 10-15 yards ahead of me I decided to match her speed, because I was curious how fast she was actually travelling. Garmin said we were running a 7:50 pace. I had no intention of passing her because I was getting in a much longer run than she was probably doing, and I did not really want to run at my marathon pace right now. However, she must have sensed me trailing because she increased speed to a 7:33 pace and maintained it for another 1/2 mile as I matched her. Again, I had no intention of passing her. She was going much faster than I intended to run, but I was feeling pretty good so I continued to match her speed while maintaining distance.
I was actually interested in her running form as we were running a pretty nice pace. She seemed to be running pretty easy, and while her form was not graceful it was very “easy” looking and she gave no open signs of fatigue. I was impressed and continued to tail her to the next street crossing the trail where she got off and stopped.
After safely crossing the busy street I continued the remaining 11 miles of my run at the planned pace now that my mental deviation from the run had passed.