The Kandahar Marathon: Week Eighteen
“Good things come slow—especially in distance running.”
The nurse at school emailed to suggest I cool it with the running while my Covid symptoms persist. I had forgotten until then that she followed me on social media, and had clearly seen my post about the half marathon I ran on Sunday all by my lonesome. Stop running? She might as well suggest I stop breathing. I checked my resting hear trate, and was relieved to have it come back at 64 BPM, still elevated from my usual 55, yet much improved from the 97 I had logged late the previous week. I’d like this to pass, of course, but then I’d like a lot of things.
Monday I got five easy miles in on the treadmill before hopping on the Peloton. It was raining hard outside and in the low 40’s, and I was thankful to have an indoor option. Tuesday I went out on the trails and got in eight more. My pace was terribly slow; my heartrate remained elevated, my breathing bated, a constant struggle. Tuesday afternoon I tested negative for Covid. Wednesday, I got five miles in on the treadmill. It was difficult to get out of bed. I took two shots of espresso, put the treadmill on a decline, and jogged the five miles slowly while toggling back and forth between ESPN and CNN. ESPN was focused on the NBA finals, as was CNN at times. When they weren’t, Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife was a hot topic, as was the seemingly inevitable reversal of Roe v. Wade. Nothing about Ukraine. Nothing about Afghanistan. My theory unfortunately seemed to hold. How easy it is to become yesterday’s news, even if nothing much has changed.
I taught all day Wednesday with a throbbing pain in my sinuses. After school my doctor told me sinus infections following Covid were common and wrote me a scrip for some antibiotics. Thursday morning, I ran eight and a half miles in a light drizzle, enjoying the soft light of dawn. My hips felt weak, my head was cloudy, and my sinuses throbbed until at last the acetaminophen kicked in. I realized that I was scheduled for a long run of twenty-two miles this weekend—on Mother’s Day no less. I looked at my schedule and decided to try to move it to Saturday so that Sunday could still belong to Sonja.
After a rest on Friday, I went out Saturday afternoon for what was supposed to be LSD (Long Slow Distance). I decided to push the pace slightly, seeing if I could keep it under nine-minute miles the entire time. It was in the low sixties when I went out, shirtless, with a couple of gel packets and a couple of small bottles of juice. I felt great on the way out, though I was cognizant of the increasing temperature and the wind steady at my back most of the way. I knew also that the out part of my out-and-back was the downhill portion, and that what goes down must eventually come back up again.
The first few miles were steady and around 8:45, but by miles seven and eight I was under the eight-minute mark. I slowed after that, conserving energy, but kept my pace well under nine still. By mile eleven, I was more than ready to turn around, and starting to feel tired. At twelve, I was passing by a running store I frequent, and I stopped in to slam a Gatorade. It helped. Miles thirteen and fourteen went well, but from that point forward it became a real struggle. By fourteen I was out of liquid again, and by eighteen dehydration was setting in. I’d find out much later that I had sunburned pretty badly. At nineteen I was ready to collapse, and at twenty I allowed myself to stop and walk in. My heartrate was near 180, and it took far too long for it to descend to anything like normal. Damn covid. Twenty miles had me at 2:59:21, under a nine-minute pace, but barely, and I was reminded of the conventional wisdom of the marathon runner: it’s a twenty-mile run with a 10K at the end, and the 10K is the hard part. I drug myself home and slammed Gatorade with the NBA playoffs on in the background. I could barely move. Sunday my five-mile recovery run was painful, and I realized I’d done some damage. Hopefully rest will be all I need in order to recover.
These days, if I hear about Afghanistan, it’s because I’m listening to myself as I speak. I haven’t seen a news story on the country in several weeks. I hear the families have moved into the house we set up and that makes me happy. Nevertheless, I feel as if I’m losing momentum as the world loses interest. I’m going to devote some time to sorting that out. If you have ideas, I’m all ears—ears and tired legs, that is. Have a great week everyone.