Trial by denial


As somebody who meticulously analyzes their training and tracks all imaginable body parameters, it makes perfect sense to take the body through rigorous training challenges. Least favorite, and the one you actually never plan for, is the unorthodox method: the hungover long run. It comes when you least expect it and takes you through hell and back.

Despite having a 2+ hour run scheduled, you spend the previous evening having wine, and when that starts to taste like SIS carb gel way past the expiration date, you change to beer. You successfully silenced that inner voice, trying to remind you about the scheduled run. Why the hell are IPA hangovers so much worse than any other regular hangover?

The following morning greets you with a dry mouth, throbbing headache, and the realization that your run is impending. You roll out of bed trying not to think about that fucking Garmin that tells you that your sleep score if 3 out of 100, and your body battery is at 5.

You have your sour coffee and dress in your semi-clean running tights and a stenchy long-sleeved shirt, pack some energy gels and water in your run pack, and step out on the chilly morning of Christmas Eve.

Cloudy skies greet you – it is unusual not to see blue skies in Colorado. But today, overcast seems fitting. The gusty wind bends trees, and it feels like gusts are coming from every direction but primarily right in your face, making every stride harder than it is supposed to be. Nature tries to tell me something, and I know precisely what, but I choose to ignore it.

The world feels muted, wrapped in a shroud of grey. The usually vibrant colors of Colorado’s nature are dulled, reflecting your inner state perfectly. Your hands quickly become numb from the cold. The air is crisp and biting, each breath a sharp reminder of last night’s Chianti and IPA.

You navigate the sleepy neighborhood trails and meet only a grumpy dude walking his always-happy golden retriever. Why the fuck is he this happy this early gloomy morning?

As miles pass, your feeling of “I’m about to die” is replaced by a hint of a potential runner’s high, but only a hint for now. Your poor body is busy processing formaldehyde leftovers and can’t just switch to producing endorphins yet.

That small hill at mile 5, which is usually barely noticeable, now feels like a wall. You put one foot in front of the other and repeat, accompanied by the monotonous chomp-chomp sounds of the carbon plate in your shoes. Eventually, you make it to the top of the hill. But you don’t ease off on the crest – you carry your speed over. That feeling of relief that you’ve conquered the hill brightens your mood a bit until you remember that you’ll have to do it all over again on the way back.

As you continue your death march, you question your life choices.. was it smart to sign up for the March marathon and subsequently sentence yourself to big mileage weeks in the dead of winter? Why the hell do you even do this when your 5th decade is about to start in a few months? Every step feels like a debate between the part of you that craves discipline and the part that succumbs to fleeting pleasures.

The steady rhythm of your strides begins to soothe your mind. The cadence of your breathing and the metronomic sound of your feet hitting the ground lull you into a near-catatonic state. Your thoughts are clear, and your emotions numb; it’s just you and the immediate task at hand. Nobody made you do it. You did to yourself. You made the decision to become a runner. You do what you gotta do. You need this.

A huge flock of Canadian geese blocked your way, but you press forward. Slowly and reluctantly, these pests of a bird moved, making a small opening for you to pass. Concrete trail is now a minefield of their shit, so you have to navigate carefully not to ruin your Alphafly shoes. Each footstep, carefully placed to avoid the mess, becomes a symbolic act. It’s a dance of caution and persistence.

Despite the struggle, you keep yourself afloat and finish the run. That runner’s high never happened, but you feel way better now. Physical strain, brain fog, mental exhaustion, severe dehydration, unruly stomach – what’s all these vs that feeling of accomplishment?