20 Miles is Not Easy

Running 20 miles is not easy.

Running 20 miles when you’ve been struggling with anxiety is not easy.

Running 20 miles when you spent the entire previous day at a wine tour is not easy.

Running 20 miles when you start after 9am is not easy.

Combine all those? Yeah, definitely not an easy run this morning.

And to think, I had sort of been contemplating running the Yonkers Marathon with Laura for “fun” today. I thought perhaps I could just run at training pace and get a decent “long run” out of it. After a day of wine-touring yesterday, I luckily realized how dumb that was.

I’ve been trying to not be harder than necessary on myself lately, and this week that meant not having my training be something that stressed me out. That meant that I skipped a 10-mile marathon goal pace run that was on my schedule Friday. I wanted to get to work early, and I knew a little extra sleep would do my soul well. I set my alarm for early yesterday morning before the wine tour, but I had a hard time winding down Friday night and went to sleep too late to get it in before the wine tour.

I took another day of sleeping in this morning and woke up thinking “Why don’t I just call this week a wash?” I was stressed, tired, it was late–maybe that was what I needed?

I had nobody to run with this morning, so I spent way too long screwing around before finally leaving sometime just before 10.

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I found this route on MapMyRun, and thought it looked like a good one. 20 miles solo? I definitely needed a different route. This one went down the West Side Highway, over the Brooklyn Bridge, down Flatbush Ave to Prospect Park and back. I’ve only run races in Prospect Park, so I was excited at the prospect (see what I did there?) of running there.

I started off with a really negative attitude the first few miles. Every time my Garmin beeped, I thought, still 18 miles left? Still 17 miles left? Once I got down to Battery Park, around mile 4 or 5 or so, I realized I needed to change this mindset or this run would seem even longer than it actually was. Strangely enough, once I decided to be more positive about the run, my pace slowed. Crap, maybe negativity is actually better for running.

I ran past my old downtown apartment and then over the Brooklyn Bridge, which I used to run often when I lived down there–and I never got sick of it. My pace slowed again considerably running over the bridge, and I tried really hard to not obsess over what my watch read. And not to throw elbows at the tourists on the bridge.

I got to Brooklyn, turned on Tillary and found Flatbush pretty quickly. I ran down Flatbush for about 2 miles to Prospect Park and entered by all the food trucks. At that moment, I wished I were walking, not running, and could stop for a lobster roll.


I settled for taking a picture of the Grand Army Plaza arch, which is not the same as a lobster roll.

Like I said, I’ve only run in Prospect Park for races (Valentine’s Day 5K, Nike Human Race and Jingle Bell Jog) but I figured it’d be pretty easy for me to find my way around the loop, since it, you know, was just a big circle. The loop is around 3 miles, and I figured I’d run the 3 miles and then just run back on Flatbush the way I came.

I hit around 12 miles while in the park and took some Gu Chomps, after a very kind family let me use their key to puncture the bag since my sweaty fingers were not doing the trick. I started up again and realized I hadn’t paid attention even a little bit to what the entrance looked like when I came in and what I should look out for exit the loop.

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I ended up thinking I’d passed where I’d entered, but in reality, I exited clear on the other side of the park and had to double back to Grand Army Plaza.

I hit 16 just past Grand Army Plaza, but as I was doubling back, I kept thinking “I don’t really need to do 20. This was a tough week. It’s hot. I’m tired.” But, as usual, I thought how much more satisfied I’d be if I actually finished what I’d planned rather than bailing, and I kept going.

I hit 16 around 2:40, which is what it took me to run 18 last weekend. I was a little discouraged that my pace was so much slower, but reminded myself I hadn’t spent the entire day before last week’s long run drinking wine. And that I started nice and early last week. And had buddies by my side the entire time.

At some point, I got a little lost and took the Flatbush Extension, instead of regular Flatbush Ave–which worked out perfectly, because I was able to take the Manhattan Bridge back, which is a little closer to my apartment than the Brooklyn Bridge. I was around 17.5 going over the bridge, and questioning all life decisions. Why in hell was I running a bridge 17.5 miles in? I just kept thinking “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” which, of course, led to some Kelly Clarkson in my head. This is why I don’t need headphones when I run.

The bridge spit me out in Chinatown, and I shuffled west to finally make it to Broadway. I ended just before Union Square and really wanted to find someone to high five, but nobody looked receptive to a random sweaty girl high-fiving them.

The last time I ran 20 miles after a wine tour (since, yes, this is not the first time I’ve done that…) I nearly passed out afterwards, so this time I was really conscious the entire time of hydrating well. I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out this time, which I consider a major accomplishment.

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I don’t know if I’ve ever run such uneven splits before. No, Laura, I was not trying to do intervals!

I’m so happy to have my first 20-miler under my belt. This is always the point in marathon training where the idea of running 26.2 miles becomes less abstract. If I can run 20, I can run 26.2. (Although I’ll actually be doing a 22-miler this year…)

A huge thanks to everyone for your sweet comments on yesterday’s post. It’s always helpful to know you’re not alone–and if that post helped one person in some way, it was completely worth it.

How do you soldier on when your run’s not easy? When does the training transition to I’M ACTUALLY GOING TO DO THIS THING for you? When will I learn to not schedule a wine tour for the day before a 20-miler?

21 comments on “20 Miles is Not Easy

  1. Caroline

    Great job on your run! There were a lot of reasons that played into your run being a bit difficult, so great job for pushing through. Running is SUCH a mental game, and sometimes the mental aspect is the most difficult to push through. Congrats.

  2. Martha @ running in mommyland

    Not only did you do it, but you were fast! I would be jumping hoops if my splits looked like that (uneven or not)! You should feel really great about that run.

    P.S. I really appreciated the “anxiety” post. I have “been there” myself. Asking for help is so important. We are only human, after all!

  3. Ash Bear

    I really think having a blog makes it easier. If I’ve shared with people that I’m going to do something I really want to follow through. If I’m thinking about quitting I just think about how I’ll feel a few minutes later.

  4. Wendie

    Congrats on the 20 miler – super impressive, makes my 3 mile run this morning pretty wimpy 🙂 Even more impressive is you did it on your own, with every excuse why you didnt have to, no music and still pressed on. When I have a tough run, I always remember what Carrotsncake blogs about – which is the tough runs make you appreciate the good runs so much more!

  5. Chase

    Seriously. I could NOT have muscled through a 20 miler the day after a wine festival. I can barely check my email on those sorts of days. Way to go!

  6. Ari @ Ari's Menu

    Ummm, you are amazing for getting it done! I hear people give excuses for not doing things all of the time, and in the end, I think getting through the hard runs with less than great circumstances is what makes us stronger than any perfect run!

  7. Michele @ Nycrunningmama

    Congrats on a great run!!! Honestly, if I’m not out the door early for a scheduled long run, it’s not going to happen…so I give you so much credit for heading out – SOLO – after 9am!
    Hope you were able to enjoy the rest of this beautiful day after the awesome run =)

  8. Emily

    Congrats on your long-run! 20 miles is wonderful. I also ran 20 miles this weekend. It’s so funny because the days leading up to these runs (although I’ve ran the distance several times over the years) I let it stress me out. However, while I’m running it is the only time my anxiety about my life goes away.

  9. Erica Sara

    Totally wish I’d been in Union Square because I would’ve hi-fived you 😉 Nice 20 miler lady. It’s funny that no matter how many times we’ve done them and know we can, we still dread them.
    A few weeks ago I was dealing with some major stress and anxiety and it really took it’s toll on my running. This weekend, I took some time to relax and have some fun in Philly (but no drinking) before my Half and it made all the difference in the world. Wishing you some calm and happy weeks ago 🙂

  10. Gene Dalais

    Hi Theodora! I’m so thankful I found your blog enroute to running my FIRST marathon! I did my first 20 miles on Saturday and honestly felt that darn wall at about mile 18 and was like, I paid money to do this?!!! I hope that the race day feels better! Glad to know someone else out there, feeling my pain 🙂 I did the last 20 miles of the Chicago marathon route for a mental picture. I need vision to run that far, keep them posts coming. Loving it!

  11. Jen @ Such a Funny Fat

    I know it sounds dumb but (and I haven’t even come close to running 20 miles) I just keep thinking if I don’t finish this run that I have to come out and start it all over. Let’s face it, if you’ve made it a few miles or halfway through a long run you definitely don’t want to start over. I applaud you for sticking with it! Nicely done Theodora! 🙂

  12. Nicole

    I’m impressed you remember all of the details of your run! I always seemed to just zone out during 20 mile training runs and the most I could think about was left foot, right foot, repeat!


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