Dayenu

The Jewish holiday of Passover just finished last night at sundown. I was a little less than observant this year. I went to one seder (at my rabbi’s home, which was wonderful), and I broke the dietary rules a day early (I wanted to do a dry run of pre-race oatmeal before my last 20-miler, which I ran yesterday morning). At that point the dam burst and I followed the run with a chicken biscuit. And a pastry. And avocado toast. And a burger for dinner before the sun set.

But a piece of Passover has been playing over in my mind all week. A song that is sung partway through the seder – the traditional supper service at the start of the holiday (done on the first two nights for most Jews in the diaspora). This song, the Dayenu (דַּיֵּנוּ‬), is a thousand year old litany that translates to “It would have been enough for us.” Through fifteen stanzas, the poem lists out all that G-d did for us during the Exodus and following, extolling how if He had done one thing, and not the next, it would have been enough for us.

Had He brought us out of Egypt, but not executed judgment against the Egyptians — Dayenu. It would have been enough for us. Had He executed judgment against the Egyptians, but not executed justice upon their gods — Dayenu. 

And so on.

Like most distance runners, I’m a hopeless perfectionist. Some days (or weeks, or months) it seems like nothing I do is enough. I don’t do enough strength training. I don’t do enough core work. I don’t do proper warm-ups, or drills, or activators. I don’t run enough miles. I don’t run fast enough, push hard enough. I don’t get enough sleep. I don’t know how to tolerate pain enough. I don’t want it enough.

I’ve done this enough times by now to know the truth: that the vast majority of marathon training is a grind. Honestly, it sucks a lot of the times. It’s exhausting. It hurts. You’re sore and tired and hungry and cranky and a lot of miles feel like garbage. It seems like your legs will never feel springy and fast again. It seems like you’ll never have a light-hearted, fleet-footed run again. After a while you wonder, what’s the point? Why am I pushing like this? Why am I making myself suffer this much?

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Laying out on the bedroom floor with my feet up the wall, following a particularly grueling long run with pace miles.

The desire to qualify for Boston, to push myself to the brink for a PR, ebbs and flows, like much else. As we approach the final week leading up to this year’s Boston, I can feel that desire well up again. The energy I feel reading up on this year’s field (all the badass American women in particular), seeing friends taper for their first Boston, imagining myself on that hopeful start line one day…the feeling is electric.

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I never wrote a race report for the Albany Half this year, and I’m letting that go. I didn’t have enough to give that day for a PR, but what I had to give – and gave – was enough. It was a solid enough race, and a very solid workout. It was nearly three minutes slower than my PR, but I ran the whole race faster than marathon goal pace, and completed 17.1 miles on the day. It is enough. It’s enough that I was able to push that pace at all after a hectic week at work, and an especially hectic day before the race, during which I was escorting a seminar speaker from meeting to meeting all morning before furiously catching up on emails and wolfing down lunch once I actually returned to my dress before hitting the road for south Georgia. Looking at my stress scores from my Garmin for that week, it was no wonder my brain could ask no more of my body. It had had enough.

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For two different long runs, I had several miles in the middle during which I was meant to surge for two minutes at the start of the mile (at about half-marathon pace) and then slow to an easy pace through the remainder of the mile. Both of these long runs felt terrible. The earlier one was on an unusually warm and muggy day for that early in the season, and I suffered in the conditions; the second was following a wonderful but exhausting (for my introvert batteries) visit with family. I contemplated walking the last two miles back to the car during that run. As I plodded along, I saw my name – with my spelling – carved into the sidewalk. I took it as a sign and broke back into a 10:00+ pace jog, shuffling along until I hit the mileage I needed. And it was enough.

I half-quit on a couple of pace workouts under the beating sun in driving wind. I kept going anyway and hit a surge near the end of one such workout, chasing a faster friend who is headed to Boston next week. Seeing him ahead and encouraging me, even just for the last third of a mile when we ran into each other–it was enough. It was all I needed to keep pushing and reminding myself I had more inside of me.

And this week, it finally clicked. Every run felt good, and some felt great. On Tuesday, I ran a 3 x 10:00 threshold workout and nailed it. I was strong and controlled. Relaxed and happy. I was having a blast. I didn’t feel like I was redlining until maybe the final minute of the last interval. And yesterday, on a drizzly and cool morning, I had a phenomenal 20 miler. I ran most of it with friends, thanks to the Fleet Feet/Chick-Fil-A group run (which replaced the cancelled CFA Half), a lot on new Greenway trails, and felt incredible the entire time. I unconsciously picked up the pace the second half, hitting several 8:3x paced miles at the end. I felt joy. I felt like I could keep going forever, though I knew 20 miles was enough.

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Sara and I actually got to run a bunch of miles together, and the conversation made those miles fly by.

I’m just beginning to taper down these last three weeks. Last week was my highest mileage of this cycle at just south of 47 miles. It’s less than I’ve done for a marathon cycle in a while, but high mileage isn’t everything. This cycle was a lot about quality. My new coach challenged me with new workouts, worked my body and brain in new ways. I rediscovered some paces I hadn’t dug out in a while, and found new ways to enjoy the push and pain and speed. And it was enough.

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Friday morning squad runs are always the best.

If I PR, but don’t get into Boston — it will be enough.

If I don’t PR, but I run the strongest race I can that day — it will be enough.

If I don’t run my strongest race, but I enjoy everything the Eugene Marathon has to offer – including seeing two wonderful friends while we are there – it will be enough.

If I get to the start line healthy, and remember my Uncle Eugene, and honor his memory, and all of those who I keep in my heart as I run — it will be enough.

If I remember why I love to run, and why I keep on training for and running marathons — it will be enough.

Dayenu.

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I'm a 30-year-old writer and runner. This is my running blog.

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