You know, after plotting out tomorrow's course with my dad (mostly so he and my bike-riding mom would know where to drop water bottles early tomorrow morning, swell parents that they be) I'm starting to reconsider my training schedule. Maybe I'll start my taper RIGHT NOW.
Seriously? Ten miles was really cool. The day I ran my first ten-miler, my dad waited for me on the front porch and there was massive high-fiving and I was incredibly proud. Because ten miles is really far to run.
But this? This is insane. The numbers are just starting to get really incomprehensible. 18 miles? 18 miles is not a distance to run. 18 miles is a distance to drive; 18 miles is a distance between exits in some parts of Pennsylvania: "Oh, good. There's a Waffle House at the next exit. Can you hold it another 18 miles, honey? Because then we can pee and eat some scrapple." (FYI, you should totally imagine that in my husband's voice. Because that is one sentence that would never be uttered with the roles reversed.) 18 miles is the distance from our house to the nearest Starbucks, in any direction--a positive thing, in my fair-trade-bean-loving opinion. 18 miles is the length of a really bad delay on the Turnpike during a snowstorm, or the backup if they close the Tappan Zee.
18 miles is a lot of things, but above all, 18 miles is really freaking far. And I'm not sure I'm ready to get intimately acquainted with just how far that is. As Dawn Dais said in her book, The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide for Women, "After 18 miles, I had run out of thoughts." The good news, for me at least, is that's when running starts to get easier. In acting school, they call what I do, "reading too cerebral." My husband used to just call it "really fucking annoying."
"Baby," he'd tell me. "Just shut up. Stop thinking. Please. For me." So when I'm somewhere halfway between Stockton and nowhere, and the trail is looking a little unfamiliar even though I've been there three or four times a week since what seems like the beginning of time when I started training for this thing, and my brain slowly gets unhinged--that's where the running gets good. That's where 18 turns from being something scary and real into just another number, the way my student loans were so absurd that they stopped seeming like real money. (Six hundred dollars for a new rear bumper? That's too expensive. But thirty thousand dollars' worth of student loans? That amount of money, all in one place, and that place being "my lifetime," was just so inconceivable that it used to make me laugh giddily, even while I was paying it.)
And now, since Taper Madness will not actually officially begin in Three Feathers until two weeks from tomorrow, on October 3rd, I give you the next best thing.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Tapir Madness.