I’m running 20 miles tomorrow. I’ve been here before – many times – but this time feels different.
The last time I covered this distance was 2019 on my final long run of Eugene Marathon training, where I infamously injured my foot. I legitimately didn’t know if I could ever run this far again, and I made my peace with that future, more or less. I cried. I screamed. I went to therapy, both the physical and the mental kind. I grieved running’s absence in my life and did so many one-legged squats to get myself back.
Bit by bit, I’ve rebuilt my strength and stamina. I’m running significant distances again without pain, but I’m in a very different place than I was. By some metrics, I’m nowhere near as strong as I was 2019 – my current pace is over a minute per mile slower than it was, and my monthly mileage numbers are no longer in triple digits. Those stats felt impressive at the time, but they led me straight off the rails.
2019 Kate was an arrogant athlete. She was the captain of Team No Sleep, and would rise and grind with a smile, adamantly believing that more is always more. She’d drink coffee instead of resting and refused to listen to her body, at great cost.
I’d be lying if I said I weren’t scared to try 20 again, but I’ve learned a lot in the last few years, and I’m not the same runner. I’ve learned that sleep is essential, as is proper hydration. I’ve learned to build in deloading weeks to allow your body time to react to the increased strain. I’ve learned that bodies continue to change as we age, and holding yourself to the standards of your younger self accomplishes nothing. I’ve learned to be more present. I’ve learned to be more honest. I’ve learned that no matter how many one-legged squats I do, I will never, ever like them, but I’ve learned that they work maddeningly well at preventing future foot pain, so I’ve learned to accept their place in my weekly routine.
The hidden gift of the last few years has been rediscovering and redefining myself as a runner. My goals are no longer about hitting a certain pace, but celebrating that I can be doing this at all. I got a glimpse of what my life felt like without running, and now instead of thinking about what my younger self used to be able to do, I’m focused on my future self and making sure that 70-year-old Kate is still running at whatever pace suits that chapter of my life.
So yes, I am a little scared to face the distance that knocked me out, but I have confidence that the lessons I’ve learned will carry me through safely.