First 20 of this training cycle

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20 miles. It sounds almost as daunting as 26.2, am I right? The training plan I’m using this time around calls for two 20 mile runs and a 22 mile run and I had my first 20 today. Will you donate $20 to Bright Pink for the 20 miles I ran today? https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/team/team-bright-pink3/leahbacko

A little chilly for my liking but the sun was shining and it was a beautiful run on the towpath, my favorite place to bang out a long run. I switched it up this time. I almost always run south from the Canal Visitors Center when I run the towpath but for whatever reason, I decided to run North today. It was a nice change of scenery and I can’t wait until they finish construction so that the northern route goes all the way downtown.

This first 20 miler, I just wanted to stay under an 11 minute average pace and attempt to get a negative split and that’s exactly what I did. My final average pace was 10’46” and I managed to finish the second half of my run just slightly faster than the first. 

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Something that really helps me get a negative split for these longer runs is to listen to podcasts the first half of the run and music the second. That way, I can sort of just dial in and focus on a steady pace for the first half and can run to the beat of my favorite run tunes on the second.

Today’s podcasting was a new discovery: the Rambling Runner podcast, which I’m now obsessed with. Basically interviews with all of my favorite insta-runners and some other just average runners. It’s not really the elites that are on this podcast and I think that’s why I love it. It’s real people, some of whom currently have or have had paces similar to mine: aka not very fast. It really helped me have a steady pace for that first half.

At mile 10, I switched to some of my go-to run tunes and finished out that second half of my run. I even stopped to fill my water bottle and still had a negative split. 

I am almost always one of those people who thinks I wish I’d gone faster but overall, I’m really encouraged by this first 20 miler. I feel strong and capable and like I have a shot at a PR for the Cleveland Marathon.  

Something else that I mentioned in my Instagram post that I want to elaborate on here is the spiritual connection I feel when I’m running. It’s Easter. One of the most important religious holidays if you’re a Christian. For those of you who don’t know, I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic schools most of my life and was heavily involved in ministry. But when I went to college, as many young adults do, I questioned my faith. I still am. I explored other religions and decided that overall, it was just more important for me to be a good human who does good things than it was to decide on a religion and go to church every Sunday or whatever day the religion calls for. So that’s been my main focus.

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But running these great distances is something like church for me. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel insignificant and significant all at the same time. It’s a time when everything makes sense to me and also a time when I work through things in my head. So I don’t feel bad that I didn’t go to church on Easter Sunday. Running 20 miles is my church. The blue skies and the pounding of my feet, I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s definitely a spiritual thing for me. 

So happy Easter everyone. However you celebrated, I hope you had as good of an Easter as I did.  

And don’t forget, if you still haven’t signed up for the Cleveland Marathon and want to, use my code: LBCLE10 for a discount! 

Leah Backo