I had my long run scheduled for today, though it was a taper run of 12 miles given the fact that I am now less than two weeks out from running my first ever full marathon (yikes!). Speaking of taper runs, let me just say I am definitely not one of those people who experiences any sort of phenomena even remotely resembling “taper tantrums“. When I see that both my scheduled weekly mileage and my long run distance for the week are significantly less than the week prior, I breathe a sigh of relief rather than becoming riddled with anxiety or overcome with an irresistible urge to cram in a few more miles. Does that not make me a “real runner”?
Regardless, I had initially planned to complete my 12 miler out on the Wannamaker North Trail. Mother Nature and the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission had different plans for me, however. I checked the trail website last night (as it has a tendency to be shut down when there’s been significant rain in the recent past), and sure enough the trail was closed. Boo! Though as of right now, I see that the trail has re-opened. The Parks Commission probably reopened it as soon as I set off for my back-up running destination this morning. Yup, the whole world is against me. Is that paranoid?
That back-up destination was the West Ashley Greenway. This is a spot that I ran pretty frequently when I first moved to the area roughly seven months ago, and have just re-discovered recently. Essentially, it’s an 8.25 or so mile trail/greenway with one terminus in West Ashley over by the Windermere Shopping Center (where Earth Fare is) and the other end on Johns Island. Strangely, numerous websites list the trail as being 10.5 miles in length, though my own experiences and examination of Google maps leads me to believe that it is indeed only 8.25 miles (unless I’m missing a little over two miles somehow?). Thus, if you were hypothetically planning on running a 19 miler on this greenway, you may end up running along a train track on the Johns Island end of things. Though that is illegal and thus cannot be recommended. Hypothetically.
Back in the day, I essentially abandoned running the greenway due to the fact that the first four miles from the West Ashley end is all paved greenway and at the time the county was doing construction on a good portion of the trail. It was my fear at that time that they were opting to replace all the non-paved trail with new pavement, and that was part of the reason I decided to take my running business elsewhere. “I can run on roads anywhere I want, why would I come to your “greenway” just to do that?!”, I exclaimed to no one in particular.
However, as the fates would have it, the powers that be did not pave the dirt portions of the trail, but rather cleaned the trail up overall and brought in some hard packed dirt to smooth out the trail. Hooray! I discovered all this a few weeks ago when I came out to the greenway to do a long run and mix up my running terrain a bit. I can safely say I was pleasantly surprised. I also learned that the “far” end of the trail (the Johns Island end) offers some great views of waterways, runs along a big ol’ organic farm at one point, and does not have nearly as much stops for street crossings. Plus this end tends to be less crowded (although I fear that may be changing). Needless to say, I now always park and start off from the “awesome” end (read: Johns Island end) of the greenway nowadays.
Views like the one above made the run much more enjoyable. The clouds were threatening rain for most of my time on the greenway, but luckily they were all just bluffing in the end. As for the run itself, I actually felt pretty solid. Prior to the run and early on during the first couple miles, I think I made the mental mistake of thinking that I could knock out 12 miles easy as though that number of miles was “nothing”. Hey, after all I am running a marathon in a couple of weeks, right?
Well, I learned (or rather re-learned) that thinking in such a way is foolish. I am clearly nowhere near the level of running excellence where 12 miles is something to laugh at. Luckily, I remembered that early enough that I didn’t fall apart or bonk or cry (what?) during the run. At the end of the run, I was happy with my overall pace and the fact that I felt pretty good all things considered. Could I have run 26.2 miles today if I had to? No, I honestly don’t think that I could, and that’s a semi scary thought with my marathon approaching so quickly. Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to throw down 26.2 right now since I’m just coming off my highest mileage week? Maybe I really could run that distance, and rather it’s just that my mindset was to run 12 today and that’s how my body responded? I don’t know.
My doubts and uncertainties aside, I did observe an interesting phenomena out on the greenway today. As a bit of a backdrop, you have to know that I belong to the breed of runner guys (and gals) that will always shoot you a nod or a wave or a smile when I pass you. Why? Well, I guess because I think it’s the polite thing to do and also because I’ve always felt a strong sense of community and camaraderie with fellow runners. Hey, we’re all out here sweating, breathing the same air, and pounding the same pavement, right? Totally, dude…
In any case, as I ran into the more populated and less awesome portion of the greenway (read: the West Ashley side), I noticed that the runners I passed were becoming increasingly antisocial. Either they would fail to make any sort of eye contact (ok, that’s somewhat understandable) or they would blatantly ignore the wave I shot their way (now, that’s not cool!). Were all these other people having the worst day of their collective lives? Did I look like a serial killer? What is the deal here?
Thus, after I made the turn to head back to the awesome end of the trail where my car was parked, I continued to think about anything and everything (as you do on a long run) which appropriately included this blog. At that point in time, I had landed on “Running With Jerks” as an apt title for this entry. However, this title was thrown in the mental trash bin a few miles down the road when the strangest thing happened. Other runners started to wave and smile towards me as I passed them. Some even initiated these basic social gestures before I did. A dog even ran with me for a short bit (after I had chatted with his owner for a second, and thus knew it would be ok). What was happening here? Had I entered a twilight zone of happiness?
I found my answer as I looked towards my feet. I was back on the beautiful, hard pressed dirt and off the unforgiving and punishing blacktop that lines the trail near the non-awesome side.
And thus, I concluded that dirt is good for your soul.