26 Mile Run – Northern Virginia

When the universe knocks you down, it’s just a matter of time before it picks you back up. This was one of those runs that just felt good. (If you read about my recent 24 mile run, you’ll know all about the “knocking you down” part of this story.)

Distance: 26.2 miles

Trail: Offshoot trails and Potomac Heritage Trail from Algonkian Regional Park to Great Falls Park, VA

Mile 15, just outside the Great Falls Park visitor center

It’s sunny and life is good.

Miles 0-6: Other than taking 3 pit stops within the first 30 minutes (the term “squirrel bladder” comes to mind), this run is awesome. The weather is beautiful, the trail is in good condition, and the legs are feeling strong.

Did I mention that we once saw the President on this part of the trail? It’s not every day that you get swiped by the Secret Service in the middle of your trail run. But that’s another story for another day…

Mile 8: Pit stop #4 (this is getting ridiculous) and snack time. On today’s menu we have a Honey Stinger waffle, chocolate peanut butter-filled Clif Bar, and a chocolate brownie Clif Kid ZBar (because sometimes the kid’s version just tastes better).

The kind of action shot you don’t typically see in the running magazines…

Mile 11: Great Falls Park, VA. It’s a crowded and cheerful Easter weekend at the park, and the smell of picnic lunches and charcoal grills perks us up a bit.

Miles 12-17: Okay…this is getting weird. After getting absolutely annihilated on our 24 miler, how does this still feel good? And how have I not fallen on my face yet?

Mile 18: Pit stop #5. I really need to get this under control before race day…

Miles 19-21: Aha! There are my knees. I started to think either my legs had fallen off or my knees turned into steel and could feel no pain, but they just reminded me of their presence. Downhill we go (literally and figuratively)…

Attacking/surviving one of the gnarly downhill sections

Mile 22: The chances of my right knee spontaneously combusting are now greater than 50%. Thank goodness we’re on the last set of hills.

Mile 24: The knees are back under control, then…SNAKE! Thankfully, I didn’t even flinch. Okay, okay…I might have shrieked.

According to Snakes of Virginia, our new friend was a Queensnake. It was a pleasure meeting you, your majesty.

Mile 26.2: New personal best time for a marathon distance! This one goes onto the list of best runs ever. Minimal griping, minimal pain (despite the brief knee flareup), zero falls, zero emotional breakdowns, and a LOT of cute dogs along the way.

The perfect way to end this day? Mexican food!

Lessons Learned:

  1. Sometimes runs suck, and sometimes they’re amazing. If you grit through enough tough runs, you’ll inevitably have that breakthrough run that makes you feel like you can conquer anything.
  2. Watch out for snakes! You don’t want to get bit and they don’t want to get squished, so keep an eye on the trail.
  3. Let yourself go on the downhills. I find that my knee pain is much worse if I try to hold myself back and slow my momentum. It’s scary but effective to let it go and fly down those hills.
Potomac Heritage Trail, about 8 miles outside of Great Falls Park, VA

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