I haven't run in a week and a half. Since Noel left, my late afternoon gym time has been taken up by picking up kids, fixing them snacks, planning dinner -- all the things Noel usually does.
But as I wait out the last few hours until he returns home, I'm thinking about what happens when I do run. I usually have a goal in mind; since the new year, it's been more modest -- a mile or two. That's because I experienced tingling and weakness in my left leg after training hard in November and December, and rest seemed to help.
I often keep in the back of my mind that I'll try to do a bit more past my goal, if I can. Sometimes I hit my distance expectations and can talk myself into keeping going for a few more laps -- maybe even a few more after that -- and if I can tell myself that I'm feeling good, maybe a lot more.
But sometimes I find that I've aimed at that goal so intently that I've worn myself out just as I reach it. I've rationed my expenditure of energy and stamina to run out right on time. If I had set a slightly longer goal, I always think as I slow to a walk, I probably could have made it, because I would have paced myself differently. It could even be mental -- I look forward to stopping, and the thought of bait-and-switching myself sometimes is too much to bear.
I've definitely aimed at tonight during Noel's nine-day absence. The fact that tomorrow is Friday -- even though it's an unusually tough Friday for me, with no fewer than three meetings and my first-and-only lecture in the freshman class to perform -- means that I've treated it as the start of my weekend celebration of freedom from sole responsibility for the family. Since Noel left last Wednesday morning I've been looking forward to tomorrow. To not fixing breakfast for the kids. To staying at work after 3 pm. To the usual weekend libations and treats I always begin allowing myself once the work day is over, but expecting them to be especially sweet now that I have the luxury of being off duty.
So what would happen if I were asked to push on a little longer? I know I could do it. But I also know I've paced myself with the expectation that I can stop running tonight -- rewarding myself for sustained effort with the sweet abandonment of that effort. I'm ready for the run to be over.