Sunday’s run was the most anxiety-provoking run thus far.  Even after all of the crazy hill runs we’ve done, no amount of intensity could’ve prepared us for the thought of running 20 miles.  As with most challenge-related fears, the best way to overcome them is to roll up your shirt sleeves and "tear off the bandaid"–or in this case, lace up your running shoes and start with a slow jog.  Which is exactly what we did.

Our three-man group planned an easy three mile warm-up jog, before settling into our individual paces.  We caught up about the week and shared travel stories as we climbed the mild incline on San Vicente.  As soon as we hit the three mile mark, our group started to spread out.  I turned on my i-pod and was comforted by Al Green, Fleetwood Mac, Thievery Corporation and many more (by the end of the run, I had listened to 41 songs).

After looping down Montana Ave, back towards the ocean, we hopped on the bike path, with seven miles down and thirteen to go.  The bright morning sun warmed our skin.  The waves were choppy and a pod of dolphins played in the water.  I even saw one jump high out of the water to dive back in.  Nearing the turnaround point, I spotted one of the team members running back towards me.  We gave each other high fives and kept on going.

At mile twelve, I realized that I was more than half-way done.  I was comforted by this thought, as I gazed out at the wind-blown sand covering the beach, decorated by ripply patterns that made it look like a mini Saharan desert.  Before I knew it, the Santa Monica pier was behind me, the fifteen mile marker had been passed, and Venice Pier, marking the final turnaround point, was just ahead.

The last four miles whizzed by.  As often happens, I had reached "the zone" and managed to stay there comfortably. Dodging in and out of crowds along the Venice boardwalk, I slowly closed in on the finish line.  I even picked up my pace when I saw that I was closing in on another distance runner who had passed me a mile before.  After "picking him off", I ran up the Santa Monica pier and coasted through Palisades Park, until finally reaching the end.

While stretching in the warm sun, I couldn’t help but smile with joy.  The longest training run of the season was over, the big day that we’ve all worked so hard for was just a few weeks away, and our fundraising efforts were adding up.  While the sunshine heated me up on the outside, gratitude and pride radiated from within.

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