A patient, a runner herself, said, "Think of this as a dress rehearsal." Very wise words! The night before the CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) sponsored 20 miler, I was mentally preparing myself. I had never run more than 16 before, could I do it? I did treat this race as a rehearsal of sorts... I wore the same clothes, socks, down to the hair band that I am planning to wear on Oct. 13 for the Chicago marathon. I ate the same breakfast, and did everything as routine as I could. Driving down to Lake Shore Drive and Foster, where the race kicked off, was also part of the planning. They used the same Gatorade, the same goo, and had aid stations and water stations to mimic marathon day. How did it go? I would say my saving grace was Emily, the pacer leader. I listened to her instructions, when to walk through the water stations, when to watch for traffic... it was almost as if I surrendered my will to her. Whatever she said was what I had to do. When I felt at 17, 18, 19 miles that I was absolutely going to stop, her enforcement of "You can't stop now Saera! " got me through to the finish line. I was ecstatic, 4 hours later, to reach that timing clock, only to realize on race day, at that point I would have 6.2 more to go. It will have to be on pure adrenaline. Now I've heard the favorite part starts now... taper!