Running Past the 10-Mile Threshold
By Tim Butterfield '12, Copy Editor
During my high school years, the time I spent running with Ant every afternoon was the best part of my day. That winter of 2007, we were working hard together to reach a goal that we had set — running 10 miles without stopping. Every run brought us closer to that goal, and I loved being able to work hard and be with my friend at the same time. We would joke around, laugh and have serious discussions all the time, improving our running all the while.

Then, in late January, we took a big step. During fifth-period study hall, we decided to attempt our longest run yet that very afternoon. We mapped out a nine-mile route and planned to run it that afternoon.

Looking back at the run now, I’m not sure why we failed. Our earlier runs indicated that we could run almost that far without any problems, and we could always push each other through the challenges. But for some reason, Ant and I both had some major struggles that day, and we quit after three miles.

The first problem was our attire. Expecting a typical frigid January afternoon, we were clad in long pants and sleeves, hats and gloves. But as we left campus, we realized that the irregular St. Louis weather had dealt us a blow. The temperature reached 60, and the afternoon sun shone directly overhead.

Ditching our layers one mile from school, we pressed onward, only to discover that we were both suffering from shin splints — a pretty common running injury. Neither of us had dealt with this type of injury before, but we were both crippled by it on the same day.

We had trained together, so I guess this made sense, but that day we could barely walk without severe pain. Of course, the discomfort had not kicked in until the run began, so we had not been able to plan an alternate activity for the afternoon. We made it three miles to the Des Peres movie theater before turning around and hobbling back in disgrace.

The next week, we were at it again. Determined to pursue and complete the same route, we set off feeling great, and we returned to campus, still feeling awesome, as the sun was setting. We weren’t any more fit than we had been the week before, but we’d rested our screaming shins and moved forward. We had run nine (well, 8.91) miles non-stop, and were nearly at our original goal of 10 miles, the big 16K.

One day, Ant and I decided to do a workout on the track. We wanted to cover five miles, or 20 laps, non-stop. We even persuaded our friend Garner to ditch his winter conditioning group and join us.

Boredom kicked in, and Garner was done after two laps. Ant dropped out after four. That left me alone to pursue 16 more. I was pretty bummed — until the rain started. With the water pouring down, I picked up my pace and flew through the last four miles. When I was done, I treated myself to a slip-n-slide session on the football field. People thought I was crazy for running 20 laps on a track, but I loved it. Others were just plain ticked off that I could have ruined the football field by diving around on it. But the way I saw it, if the football players could practice on the baseball field and dig up our grass, why couldn’t I return the favor? Or maybe I was just on a runner’s high.

On the last day of winter term, Ant and I set off on our final run together — a 10-miler — to achieve our ultimate goal. We hadn’t gone further than nine miles before, but we knew that one extra mile would mean nothing after traveling so far. One mile into our run, we encountered our friend Duncan — a very talented runner who had led us on many runs that winter — on his own run with the long-distance guys. He was heading in the other direction, but our friend and running guide took a moment to shout out to us, “You can do this, boys! I’m proud of ya!” He knew what the run meant to us, and we knew that he had played a big role in preparing us for it.

An hour later, we were booking it up the last hill in front of school. Reaching campus marked the nine-mile point, and we were going strong. I reminded Anthony that we still had to run one more campus mile in order to reach ten miles. I also informed him that I felt good enough to pursue a greater distance, and I intended to replace the final mile on campus with a four-and-a-half-mile route we had often run.

Ant had to be home in just a few minutes, though, so he respectfully declined my invite. As we parted ways, him going right to complete the last mile on campus, and me turning left to crank out a few more miles, a wave of emotion came over me.

I watched my training buddy and good friend head off into the distance, and realized that we had made it. We might have been finishing in different directions, but we had reached our goal right by each other’s sides. Neither of us could have made it without the other.

More than a half hour later, I was done. I had run 13.69 miles. I was proud of Anthony and proud of myself. I knew we had accomplished our goal and then some.

It’s so cool to remember this winter of my life, when Ant and I were new to running and really had no idea how to go about doing it appropriately. But we set our goal and pursued it with everything we had, and, with help from friends like Duncan and Garner, we made it through the big 10-miler feeling the support of others.

The experience of setting a goal, working hard to reach it and latching on to every moment to grow along the way stays in our heads forever. Since the winter of 2007, I have set higher running goals and worked even harder in preparation for a triathlon, a marathon and dozens of runs longer than 10 miles.

But the memories of finishing those events are just as sweet as what I remember from pursuing this long run with Ant, because they involve the aspects of accomplishment that mean much more than the physical distance traveled: hard work and sharing the experience with someone else.

Issue 11, Submitted 2010-12-08 15:53:40