My long run last weekend was a lot harder than it usually is. Not because of the distance (it was a 20 miler, but my third of this training season, so it felt surprisingly comfortable in that respect), but rather because of logistics. Steve and I were in Murphysboro, Illinois, my hometown, to retrieve Jack from my parents.
It's hard running in an unfamiliar setting, and I honestly wasn't sure how I was going to run 20 miles in Murphysboro - it's really small. The last time I tried was at Thanksgiving, when I decided to do an explore run, feeling flexible on the distance, but wanting to cover a decent chunk of mileage. I went all the way across town, through a park, and back to the house and discovered I'd only done a 5K.
My dad suggested that I go to Lake Murphysboro State Park, where there is a 4 mile loop that I could just do five times, "but it's hilly." I drove through it to see just how hilly it was. The park was beautiful - trees everywhere, glimpses of the lake... but it was so hilly that my Achilles tendons were like, "Lady, no. You've got to be kidding me." Okay, fine - but I'll be back there during my unofficial cross country season in the fall.
I decided to wing it, doing three six mile loops, with stops back at the house for water or Gatorade, then a two mile loop.
As I started the first loop, it became quickly evident that Murphysboro is not designed for runners. There were no sidewalks, and the shoulders weren't especially wide, either. I ran facing traffic and felt like I had to keep dodging pickup trucks. I ran on some random country roads, and it was really pretty - trees, little ponds, deer - and people who looked at me like I was crazy. Unfortunately, I also saw a lot of trash on the ground, including an empty case of beer next to a home pregnancy test box. Classy! I had to slightly modify my planned course when a bunch of dogs chased me.
Six miles down, and it was time for the second loop. I ran across town, then turned in a direction that I was hoping would lead me to some decent empty space. A few turns later, and I discovered myself under a huge blue sky, facing one of those Stealth Hills. The kind that is not steep, but is very, very long. I hit eight miles and noted my time for Nancy's Olympic Challenge - 1:25:33. I ended up at Lake Murphysboro, where I saw the only other runners I encountered the entire time I was out. They gave me a look of started recognition, as I suspect they weren't used to seeing other runners out and about. Oh, and trash report? Condom wrapper. I like to think that the people whose story began with the beer and home pregnancy test was concluded with that Durex wrapper, that they learned their lesson.
I hit Stealth Hill after Stealth Hill and comforted myself with the idea that the way back would be downhill. Turns out it wasn't - heading back, I saw another Stealth Hill. I told myself that if I hadn't noticed it sloping down, it shouldn't bother me sloping up.
As I ran back for a drink, an old man in a pickup truck called out his window to ask if he could run with me. "Sure," I said. "Come on out." Then he got a good look at the Ridiculously Short Shorts(tm) and said, "You sure look good out there." Still got it, baby! Sure, he was a semi-creepy old man, but I take what I can get.
It was time for the third loop, and my dad had suggested that I run to the high school, that it was about three miles away. Unfortunately, he miscalcuated - it was only two. I did my best to add some distance on by wandering around the athletic fields, but no such luck. I just wound up with a bunch of cut grass stuck on my legs.
I ran to a park for the final portion of my run, hit 20, and felt incredibly proud of myself for finishing it up despite the odds against me. I celebrated by diving into the swimming pool in my running clothes, which highly entertained Jack.
I may celebrate further by getting myself a present.