After getting a migraine and sleeping for 10 hours on Saturday, I was a bit apprehensive about attempting my first nine mile run on Sunday. However, I felt right as rain when I woke from my coma on Sunday morning a decided to give it a go. I made sure to drink plenty of fluids before leaving and to take my hand held water bottle with me, and a post run water bottle, which I left in my car for after my run. The plan was to run in Umstead, continuing the same course that I have been running, and just add another half mile on to the outward portion of the run.
I began my run at just after 8:30 am, but I could already tell that the air was much less humid than it had been on the prior morning. First mile, felt a bit ragged to me, and I had an odd pain in my shoulder blade. However, the pain faded right around the first mile mark, and I seemed to settle in to a good groove. Around this time, I began to think about the prospect of running nine miles, and the idea of nine miles began to intimidate me. I was beginning to have doubts, and just as those doubts were taking root in my mind, a guy just blew right past me. I hadn't heard his foot steps until he was right behind me, which was strange because the dirt and gravel roads of Umstead will usually let you know that someone is coming up on you. I got a little annoyed that he blew past me so easily and that my head was filling with doubts.
I began to think that there was a better version of myself out there somewhere in the world that wasn't having doubts about his run and that didn't care about some ninja runner dude blasting past him. I started to think that this better version of myself was just in front of me and right around the next bend urge me to catch him. I have often had these thoughts in the past as I have run, but this time I seemed to be in a full blown fantasy land and started to get a more complete picture of this better me. The prospect of running nine miles wasn't phasing this better version of me because he had been running his entire life. This better version of myself wasn't a heel striker. His breathing was impeccable, and he didn't weigh 282lbs. I started thinking about all the ways that he was better than me: he didn't mind cleaning his cat's litter box, he played high schools sports and was good, but not cocky, where as I quit in Jr. High. He spoke three languages and was working on a fourth, he didn't mind running in the humidity, and wasn't bothered by Horse Flies, he didn't get angry in traffic. This better version of myself can do long division, he gets Bebop and The Beat poets, he can run a 5k in under 20 minutes, he love to do push ups, and doesn't get nauseous at sight of coleslaw. He can spell the word "subconscious" correctly every time without the aid of spell checker, and he loves to proof read. I imagined that if I squinted just right I could see him about to crest a hill on the horizon just powering over the hill.
As I kept thinking of all the ways this other version of me was better, the miles were clicking off. I started to think that I'll never be able to truly catch this better me, and that I catching him wasn't the point. The point is that I am not sitting on my couch drinking beer and watching TV, I am not still 330 lbs, and I don't look on runners from from the window of my car and wonder what madness compels them to run. I realize that what's important is that I am out here giving chase to that better version of myself. And as I passed the four mile point on the utility road for the first time in my life and committed myself to running nine miles, I realized that by going beyond this point that I was about to eliminate one thing from the list differences that separates the me that I am to day from the better version of myself that exists in my mind. I was about to find out something he knew, which I hadn't until now. I was going find out what the next half mile of this rod looked like, and then I was going to find out what it felt like to run back to where I started and complete a nine mile run.
When I reach the turnaround I was tempted to start thinking about all of the versions of myself that were worse than me, but I decided that it wasn't necessary because our paths weren't going to cross on this road today. I am well aware of many of the mistakes that I've managed to avoid, and revisiting my good fortune just seemed unnecessary. The next 4.5 miles weren't a struggle, nor were they filled with thoughts of my better self. These miles were peaceful and fill with a sense of pride that come from doing something that was once unimaginable. The last mile was the up hill struggle that it always is when I run this course, but no more than it is when I run eight miles. When I finished my run, I began to think of next weeks nine miler not as a mere possibility but as a certainty.
I did 9 Mile in 1:37:07.57 for a 10:47 pace.
Mile 2: 11:12.13
Mile 3: 11:09.30
Mile 4: 10:42.44
Mile 5: 10:38.08
Mile 6: 10:14.22
Mile 7: 10:22.84
Mile 8: 10:33.55
Mile 9: 11:40.55