In the last mile or so of my run yesterday, I felt a new sensation and it wasn’t the delirium from the heat or the miles. I realized that when I finished this run, which I would very soon as I jogged past the final familiar landmarks, I would be free; my obligation would be fulfilled, absolved. That’s a weird way to think about a run, but for the last year I had been steadily building towards a goal, at times vague and undefined, but now crisp and tangible, so close. At each increment of distance, I had increased the miles, then repeated it for 2–3 months or more, before increasing the distance, speed, or varying the route. In a year, I doubled my distance for my weekly long-run.

From experience, I know I have a set distance within which I can safely operate. Pass that line and I end up hurt. I reached that threshold yesterday, 13.3 miles, at the beginning of a regional heatwave. While I could blame the weather for wanting to taper off now, I will instead say that I accomplished what I set out to do and I have no obligation to myself to do any more. The slate is clean. I’ll still run daily, but earlier in the morning and at shorter distances, without trying to build miles. What else would I like to do with the time and energy I had been spending on the long run and recovery?

While I browse around and consider my options, I don’t want to forget that sensation from the last mile — elation, but also pride, defiance, and a bit of delirium. Running a personal half-marathon is just that, personal. You’re the only one on the course and the only reason you continue to move forward, a promise kept that opens up into possibility. What’s next?

Writer, researcher, observer