Soon after climbing out of the valley where San Sebastian is situated I entered tropical forest - few habitations and spotty cell service, so intermittent navigational help from Google.
Beautiful scenery but the pictures are deceptive: they don't show the difficulties I encountered today.
As I said - today's run was the hardest.
Harder than the first day in Puerto Rico when I got off the plane from Boston and ran across San Juan blurry-eyed, got lost several times, was stopped three times by weather and had problems with my pack.
Harder than the second day when I ran 44 miles, again in the rain, learned I couldn't rely on Google (my only friend here ;), had no choice but to run on in the dark and ran into a mud-filled drainage ditch before finally finding my hotel.
Today's run was the hardest.
Comparatively not so long at just under 19 miles. Comparatively not so uncomfortable nor nerve-wracking as I got rained on only once and traffic was light. (Yet not non-existent - on Xmas day. In the middle of nowhere - where are these people going?)
Today's run was the hardest physically because of the peaks and valleys and no flats in between.
It was the hardest mentally because it wasn't the first, nor the longest, but it was complicated. I knew stores would be closed so I'd have to be mindful with food and water, and this run was another one I had to get through to get on to the next one.
It was the hardest emotionally because after ten-miles of churning up steep twisty roads and struggling not to outrun my feet on the hair-pin curves on the way back down running hurt - and I still had more run to do.
Today's route was up and down and up and down - no flats -
from the very beginning to the very end. Every mile long down-hill stretch led to an immediate uphill section, and curiously - I started to pay attention and measure - the uphills were longer.
The downhills were too steep and too twisty to run at speed - so I felt I was losing time - and they took so much energy and strength to control that I pushed on the inevitable uphills to try and hold my time. At the end of the day I was sore from hips to feet and demoralized. (I wonder how my body will do tomorrow running 20 miles to Paraguera. I know I'll have to steel my mind. Happily the route is mostly on the flat and the destination is a beautiful beach and a day off from running on Monday.)
This run tested my will and made me make the choice to be glad I made this trip.
Yes, I chose to do this: today I had to decide it was worth it. I had to choose to be happy about it - and I did.
Running is like life (hackneyed phrase, but true), and I run to know I can be my best when challenged, and to know what the best I have in me is when under duress.
At the ten-mile mark, legs chewed up and looking at another long uphill climb, this run challenged me.
I was sitting in a shelter that was a bus-stop at the bottom of a hill, eating my lunch - an energy bar and water, watching clouds gather for the next downpour, and contemplating my sore feet. The idea of getting on a bus was tempting. My resolve was challenged and thinking about it (and this is why I am in love with running) I thought about why quitting was pointless.
It is because, as in life, I - we all - have nowhere to go but forward. The arrow of time allows no other outcome.
A friend reminded me that in life when challenged we can choose to mill about awhile before finally moving with the flow of time and overcoming our obstacles. When running milling about is not an option - it wastes energy, making the obstacles that much harder to beat. When running the only options are stop or go. Running teaches that the only way to overcome obstacles is to admit the pain, uncertainty and fear, to move in the direction of time - now - right now - and to not stop until you get to the end.
So I stood up noticed my feet and legs hurt and I kept moving, struggling up every interminable hill, and hurting down every steep descent. I kept going and knew I would not stop. Then at mile 14 (unbelievably) I had to fight off two dogs that actually nipped at my heels - and then had to face them again: I'd taken a wrong turn down a dead-end street. When I came back down the road they backed-off immediately. I didn't feel strong, and I didn't feel brave. I felt determined, and was determined I'd keep running.
I finally got to the end of the run - I made it to Mayaguez! I cleaned myself up and went for a stroll. It's Christmas night. Restaurants are closed - the only food for sale are sweets: pastry and ice-cream, and the town square is a big party.
This is why I run.
Mayaguez, PR, 12/25/10.
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