There are some runs that you remember long after you've finished them, whether because it was a new distance, a blazingly fast time or perhaps a unique location. Then there are runs that are seared in your memory, runs that seem so vivid you may as well have done it that very same day.
I have several runs that fall into the last category and the only one in that bunch that was not a race was the run that catapulted me to the runner I am today.
My best run ever was on Nov. 22, 2009 in Renton, Wash. I ran 18 miles in pouring rain and 40-degree weather on the Cedar River Trail that day. With so much time removed from then, so many other grueling and not-so-grueling runs, I can say now without bias that that run made me a full-fledged runner.
I earned my runner badge along the Cedar River Trail.
I reminisced about that run recently because aside from the rain that pelted me on the trail, I came across two area runners who recently ran their first 26.2 mile run. In researching the area and potential running sites, I came across Kerrie T. of Mom vs. Marathon. Now, I had an 18-mile run on the schedule and was going to be up in Seattle on business, far away from the comforts of my running group. I was not going to skip an 18-mile run and was determined to run it.
Kerrie gave me some advice and suggested the CRT. Since I had no other options really, I figured why not follow the advice of a local?
The run itself was brutal. From the start. It was in the low 40s and rainy at the beginning and it was in the high 40s and rainy at the end. It didn't really let up either.
Somewhere around Mile 6, I literally ran across Kerrie and her friend Zoë of Run Zoë Run. We stopped, chatted, took a picture... or six...
They were training for a half marathon which in fact would be the following Sunday. They looked fresh and I wanted to run with them but they were going one way, I was going another and I was probably a bit too shy. Oh well.
I made it to Mile 9, turned around and all I needed to do was to run back to my rental car. Easier said than done. By about mile 13 or 14, I was feeling it. Water had long since penetrated through my shoes and socks and the cold threatened to do the same. By Mile 16, I was done but I had to push through, and push through I did. After running/walking/shuffling/hobbling for the last two miles, I made it Mile 18 and stopped.
I still remember vividly how it felt to finish that run. The lush green trees on my left, the beginnings of a rock-laden parking lot on my right, a foot bridge separating me from the final steps before getting to the car, taking my hat off and feeling the brunt of the rain on my face for the first time, the aches and pains that shot up through my legs, feeling the icy blocks that were my feet.
I got through that run and afterward really felt like I could run a marathon. Not physically, in fact I wondered how in the heck I was going to run another eight miles on top of that come Surf City 2010. But I knew proper training and a couple of longer runs would prepare me. Mentally, I was ready. I had all the confidence I'd need. Ever. After running that long, in those conditions, virtually alone, you can do anything, right? Indeed. I ran my first marathon about 10 weeks afterward, ran my second marathon later in 2010 and have run two other marathons since.
Now, my running buddies from that day are also marathoners. Kerrie and Zoë are full-fledged marathoners, having run the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon on June 25. They ran every step together, finishing in 4:42:51. (read Kerrie's recap here)
That's an odd time. It's a great time of course but it's odd because I ran my first marathon in 4:42:26. It's almost like it was meant to be. Well, maybe they don't remember that run as fondly as I do but to me that time speaks a lot.
Now, when I look back on that run, I will be able to not only see my own progress from that day but also will be able to use that meeting as further motivation. After all, those three runners had never run more than 15 miles on that day and now, less than two years later, are marathoners.