Running is about setting goals and challenging yourself. At least, that’s a big part of what makes it meaningful to me. And without races for the last year, a lot of runners have had to get more creative in doing so, myself included.
So when I saw a week-long spring break on my academic calendar, I decided to use my time away from books and screens as an opportunity to set a new personal record for my weekly mileage: 100.
In the running world, 100 mile weeks are regular occurrences for elites, aspiring pros, and crazy ultra-runners, but I have never ran one before. Even when training hard for marathons and ultras, my weekly mileage topped out at around 60-75. With a full time job in health care and other commitments, I couldn’t really imagine doing more. Plus, that third digit was just plain intimidating. Currently, I average somewhere between 30-50 miles per week. Could I really double that?
Not regularly. I knew that. But for one week, with a whole lot of extra time, sure I could.
So I made a plan: 100 miles over 7 days is 14.2 miles per day. Breaking it down already made it sound more achievable. I could handle two-a-day 7 mile runs. Plus, if I make Sunday my long run, as is customary, it’s even less daily mileage. And really, what better way to end a 100 mile week than with a marathon?
I was a little worried about having to run in the rain or cold, but Chicago’s weather was actually excellent for my spring break. The snow melted away as the days rolled on, and the extra sunshine made it a little easier to stick to my scheduled two-a-days.
On Thursday, I ran a half marathon and crossed the 50 mile mark. My legs held up just fine, but I was still a bit nervous about running a full marathon 3 days later. On the other hand, I was really starting to enjoy second-supper and my daily bowl of ice cream before bed. Turns out, when you run 14 miles per day, you also burn about 4000 calories.
On Sunday morning, I packed my hydration vest with water, a couple nutrigrain bars, and a bag of peanut M&Ms. Then I headed out the door for my marathon out-and-back on the Lakefront Trail. I kept my pace slow and steady on my way out, knowing that I had already ran 75 miles this week and my only goal today was to finish. The trail was sparsely populated with a few other runners and bikers, Lake Michigan was calm and deep blue, and the bright morning sunlight bounced off the windows of the skyscrapers downtown. When I turned around in Hyde Park, I was shocked by how good I felt. I started to pick up the pace on the way back.
In the end, I finished my marathon strong in a time of 3:35, and I finished my week with 101.9 miles.
My first 100 mile week was a challenge, but my body handled it a lot better than I thought it would. The regular base mileage I logged clearly helped. I was also consistent about the little things all week: sleep, nutrition, stretching, and vasoline. It’s these “little” things that make or break you for these kind of pursuits, and it’s an important reminder that I need to keep doing them when I go back to real life.
For now, it’s time to recover, relish the accomplishment, and then, set another goal.