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Posted: Friday, October 23, 2009 4:15 pm

Two weeks ago, I ran 20 miles. Check that. I tried to run 20 miles.

Perhaps I should have stayed in bed. I hadn't been sleeping well. My mind was racing with other concerns. I didn't have my watch (I'd left it at work after a photo shoot).

Nevertheless, I set out at around 8:45 a.m. with a bottle of Gatorade in my hand and PowerBars and gels in my pocket. And I felt pretty good. My legs felt springy, my breathing was solid. I picked up the pace...

And I bonked. That is, I crashed. It didn't happen immediately; through 15 miles everything felt great. But I had gone out too fast, and it came back to bite me. After mile 15, everything started to fall apart. The muscles above my knees began to twitch and tighten. My shins began to ache. I gulped air, and my stride slowed to a sickening shuffle.

In the end, I couldn't do it. I tried, but at mile 19 I didn't have much left to give. I walked about half of that last mile, rousting myself to jog the last quarter-mile or so before my body practically begged for mercy.

I finished in about two hours 45 minutes, but I felt the aftereffects for days. You're always going to be sore from a run from that length, but it was a good two or three days before my legs began to feel good again.

And, the whole time all I could think of was this: What have I gotten myself into?

This morning, I planned to run 20 miles. I was not feeling good about my chances.

My body felt lethargic. Last night, it felt downright awful. But I'd slept a bit better, and figured I'd give it a shot. I set out with more Gatorade than normal, and the same amount of PowerBars to fuel up with throughout the run.

Most importantly, I had my watch, and I checked it often. I made sure to drink more, earlier, and eat more often, too. The result? As bad as I felt two weeks ago was as good as I felt today.

Everything clicked as the miles melted by. Again, the first 15 were no problem. But my muscles remained strong, even as I passed mile 16, 17, 18. As I neared the end, I briefly considered going longer, tacking on an extra mile or two to up the workout to 22. But I didn't have enough to eat or drink, so I decided it was best to finish on a high than to risk breaking down due to overzealousness. (Because, as I have said repeatedly, I always think I'm a world beater, even though I know better.

Then it was done. My body ached, but wasn't sore. Whereas two weeks ago it took a good hour for my breathing to settle back into normalcy, this morning it felt great.

How long did it take? Two hours, 44 minutes.

It just shows you how fickle running is. But I'll happily take this as a win, use it as a building block for Nov. 22. I'll remember that run two weeks ago, too. It may be more important to my success come marathon day if I take the lessons learned that day and use them.

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Kevin Clapp
David Weinberg
James Clark
  • James Clark
  • Sports Writer
    The Press of Atlantic City
  • E-mail: jclark@pressofac.com
  • Phone: 609-272-7000
  • James Clark has been following local high school sports since his time as a student at Ocean City High School in the 1980s. Clark also serves as The Press' soccer blogger and coaches his twin sons' U13 soccer team.
Mike McGarry
Susan Lulgjuraj
James Clark
  • James Clark
  • Assistant Soccer Coach at St. Augustine Prep
  • James Clark has been writing about soccer for various media outlets, including The Press of Atlantic City, for 15 years. The Northfield resident coached travel teams in the South Jersey Soccer League for a decade and is currently an assistant soccer coach at St. Augustine Prep. Clark's blog will appear three times a week and daily during this summer's World Cup.
David Weinberg