Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feeling older and wiser after an 18-miler

I've identified a new sign that I'm getting older - a certain amount of realism attached to my own perceived abilities. It used to be that I would struggle through a long run and think, "Oh, if I can do (16 - 20) miles, I can totally do a marathon! No sweat! I'll just get through that first 20 miles and then it will be just like doing an easy 10k on top of that!"

I did an 18 miler last Friday, and my thought pattern was almost the exact opposite. The run went well - I averaged an 8 minute/mile pace, which was right on track for me. By the end I was, of course, in pain, hungry, tired and beyond ready to stop. What this all made me think was not that I'm capable of anything, but that having to run 8 miles on top of what I had just done seemed nearly impossible.

One of the reasons for this is that I'm not in as great shape as I have been going into past marathons. But also I think it's the experience that comes with having run, at this point, 3 marathons. I now know the thought that running a marathon is like doing 20 miles and then tacking on an easy 10k couldn't be more absurd. When I ran Vermont City two years ago, I remember the last half mile feeling like the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. Nothing about it was easy.

So maybe this is a good thing. I'm going into this marathon aware of what I'm going into. I know the first 15 miles or so will be fun, and I'll feel great, and I'll love every single person in that amazing crowd more than anything else in the world at that moment. But I also know that I'll get tired, and hungry, and my legs and back will hurt, and I'll grimace and sneer at those happy, cheering, non-running people that I love more than anything else in the world as they drink beer and eat hot-dogs on their front lawns. But just thinking about it makes me feel young again. Because despite knowing what I'm getting myself into, damn it, I just can't wait!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fear and Anger, and Love - Boston Marathon 2013

In the wake of the Boston marathon bombings, there has been more love directed toward this city than I’ve ever seen. But I have to be honest, going into marathon Monday I hated Boston. I had spent the weekend sitting inside the tiny apartment I share with my boyfriend in Charlestown thinking of the many reasons why.

On Friday I had walked over the Gilmore Bridge into Cambridge while cars were backed up in every direction and drivers were angrily honking their horns and speeding around each other. I actually swore (I never swear) at a woman who was beeping her horn right beside me so loudly my ears ached. I couldn’t breathe from the exhaust fumes surrounding me. I turned on the news that night to see a Boston cyclist complaining that she was always cut off by drivers and pedestrians. Cyclists hate pedestrians, pedestrians hate drivers, drivers hate cyclists, I hated this city. 

That’s why, even though I didn’t get a qualifying time for Boston this year, I had to run the marathon. Because to me, the marathon is just pure love. It embodies the very opposite of all the things I sometimes dislike about this city. There’s space and air, there’s movement, there’s joy, and there are people who don’t know each other who take the time and the attention to really care for one another. The love you feel along the marathon course and at the finish line is real, genuine and uplifting. The energy is mind-boggling and contagious. And the runners are just pure life-loving people. 

And that’s why, when shortly after crossing the finish line and soaking up the love from all these people, when I heard news of the explosions from a coffee shop nearby while I waited for my boyfriend to collect his father at the finish line, I, like everyone else, thought it was an accident. When I found out it wasn’t, and that there were casualties, and that people who hadn’t finished yet were being pulled off the course – people who had dreamed about crossing that finish line for years - I felt unbelievably angry. And I still do. 

The assertion immediately following the attacks that we Bostonians won't let terrorism scare us or prevent us from living our lives didn't speak to me, because I was afraid. On Friday, when the whole city went into lock-down, my boyfriend and I snuck outside for a 6 mile run in the Navy Yard, and the whole time I expected to turn a corner to find Tsarnaev waiting for me with a gun. But I also realized that the alternative was worse. Cowering in our apartment listening to the radio in fear was no match for facing down that fear with each assertive stride.

I still don't know what the right response is. But now, with every run I take, I concentrate a little more on the way I feel as my legs move underneath me and my feet hit the pavement. I try to soak up every moment (including 40 degree runs in the wind and rain – in April) even more than I did before. With each step I move a little further from the fear and anger, and a little closer back toward love.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 21 - 27

Sun: 16 miles along the river, it was a beautiful day and I felt great
Mon: 0 miles, but I walked the 4 miles into work
Tue: 5.5 miles, 40 degrees and raining
Wed: 6 miles along the river, beautiful, sore legs
Thur: 4.5 - 5 miles

VCM on my mind

I signed up for the Vermont City Marathon last Sunday. I had been putting off signing up because a) it's expensive and I'm poor, and b) I'm not in as good shape as I'd like to be. But my brother's running it, and I wanted to go to Burlington that weekend anyway, and nothing tortures me like watching other people run when I'm not running. So I signed up! And now I'm excited, and little bit nervous, but mostly excited. The longest long run I've done at this point is 16 miles, so this weekend I'm planning to do an 18 miler, then will maybe try to sneak in a 20 miler before the marathon. I've done speed workouts here and there this spring, but not nearly as many as I would like. I'll try to get a few more in before the marathon. But really, just being a part of that beautiful marathon in my beloved state alongside my brother and Alex is going to be worth whatever time I end up with.