Monthly Archives: October 2014
It’s 4:45am on a Monday morning and my cell phone screen lights up with the alarm. I quickly silence it, swing out of bed, and grab the running clothes I laid out the night before. I change and sneak out into the dark hoping I didn’t wake my fiancee. With my eyes barely open I navigate my way onto the nearly empty Expressway. Mental check to make sure I’m headed to the right location. As I park and make my way towards the small circle forming under a street light I can hear the rumblings of early morning chatter. Our circle grows, the conversation grows with it. We huddle together and recite the Serenity Prayer. “…. the courage to change the things I can…”. And then, we run.
This is the incredible movement that is Back on My Feet. We are a running, walking, and wellness program that works with homeless or at-risk individuals. In joining our teams participants are able to gain a sense of community, of discipline, and of self confidence. With these gains they discover the power they have to take the steps to move their lives forward, to work towards self-sufficiency and independence.
My heartstrings are forever tied to this mission because I understand the transformative power of running. I’ve experienced it myself. I know how it feels to have someone believe in you, to watch your self confidence grow from the ground up. I know what it’s like to take those itty bitty steps forward; afraid to fall but curious if you’ll fly. And to do it without judgement; or fear of rejection.
My job certainly isn’t easy. My days start early and sometimes are incredibly long. Sometimes I spend an entire afternoon sifting through boxes of running shoes, some days I sit quietly listening to the pain of someone who is struggling to stay sober in a world of temptation. Often my job is heartbreaking. But it can also be incredibly inspiring. I’ve witnessed team members who swear they’ll never run go a mile without stopping. I’ve paced guys through their first 5K; which somehow is more exciting than crossing your own first finish line. I’ve heard the pride in someone’s voice as they tell me they haven’t had a cigarette in 2 weeks, that they got the job they wanted, that today marks their first anniversary of being clean. It’s an amazing feeling to get to be a part of moments like that, to know my program has had an impact on their lives.
And so on April 20th I will be running for these individuals. Particularly for 26 individuals who have inspired me, who have challenged me in my job for the better, who have shown me how they push forward despite the challenges they face. On marathon day I will think of each of them, mile by mile, as I push myself towards Boylston Street. If they can do it, so can I.
*housekeeping note – I am headed off on my honeymoon so there will be no blog post for the next two weeks. Catch you all up before Thanksgiving 🙂
I’m still giddy over last week’s post.
While this has been in the works for a while it’s finally now starting to feel real- this is really happening.
I’m going to run a marathon.
I’m going to run THE BOSTON MARATHON!
Sometimes I catch myself saying it out loud to absolutely no one, simply because hearing the words come out of my mouth gives me goosebumps.
I am incredibly honored to be running Boston for my organization, Back on My Feet (more on that coming soon!). I know that some people frown upon charity bibs and feel that you don’t deserve to run unless you qualify. But for someone like me who knows they will never be fast enough – this is the opportunity of a lifetime and I am so appreciative of it.
I know that over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about taking a break. Obviously this break was two fold: yes I’m tired and a bit burnt out from constantly training, but this is also a break to get my body ready for this crazy adventure I’m about to embark on. I know (or I should say I’ve been told a million times by now) that marathon training is going to be like nothing I’ve experienced before. So the next few months are going to be spent getting myself ready both physically and mentally. More time swimming, strength training, rolling, stretching, yoga-ing. I keep reminding myself that everything I do in the next few months is going to make me stronger for training. Make me stronger as a marathoner (Gah! That word!).
Of course I’m still running, but minimal miles and just when I feel like it. The kicker? I’ve been Garmin free for TWO WHOLE WEEKS. (“Father please forgive me, it has been two weeks since my last Garmin paced run”). At first I thought I was going to hate it, but I’m kind of liking running according to how my body feels (I still tap my wrist at every intersection sadly).
I like that I’m going for a run because it’s nice out, because I had a bad day, because I know that I will feel better after those thirty minutes. I like that I can chose my route based on what view I want to see, not how far I have to go. I like that I’m running simply because I want to – not because it’s written on my plan somewhere. Without any goals I’m focusing on how my body feels, my kick ass new playlist, the leaves crunching under my feet. I can’t remember the last time I ran this way, but I like it. I feel stronger.
I know that marathon training is going to get tough, and it’s going to hurt, and it’s going to make me cry (a lot, if I know myself by now). I’ve heard it enough times that I get i – it’s going to suck. But I also know that I want to appreciate every second of this journey, even the sucky parts. I want to take it all in, I want to do it right. This may be my one opportunity to run Boston and I don’t want to look back with any regrets. I’m thankful that I have this blog to help me capture all of the moments of this journey, because I want to remember it all. And I hope that you’re not already sick of hearing “the M word” and that you’ll buckle up and join me for this crazy, crazy ride… errr run. 🙂
“Take Back Boylston” became the theme of 2014, and boy did my friends do just that. Now fully submerged in a community of runners I developed quite a crew of friends and colleagues who trained throughout a miserable New England winter. I listened to their stories of frigid 20 mile runs, I helped them reach their fundraising goals. I went with them to pick up their bibs at the expo. I assisted in the coordinating of race day outfits, envious of every step of their journey. I told myself that someday it would be my turn.
At what point do you figure you’ve learned everything there is to know about running? Is there a certain amount of time that passes – or a specific milestone? In the last two and a half years I feel like I’ve learned a lot, even enough at times. At first it was the basics: put on a pair of shoes, head out the door, left, right, left. Then I started learned about paces, types of shoes, fueling, distance. You’re all set to go.
Ah except for this thing called mental toughness. Which it turns out- is not as simple as left, right, left. Mental toughness takes time to develop, mental toughness takes technique, practice, strength. I’ve seen a glimmer of it from time to time- when I finished Timberman completely on my own or just last week in that shit show of a triathlon.
But more often that not lack of mental toughness gets the best of me. I actually really suck at it. It gets lost in my brain, overpowered by this nagging voice that says I can’t do it.
It reared it’s ugly head this weekend – somewhere between miles 8 and 13. That’s usually where the wall hits for me. There’s nothing worse than cruising along on a beautiful fall day, visions of a PR on the time clock in your head when suddenly – there it is. It has the effect of a migraine, coming on fast and furious and you pray that if you try not to think about it it will just go away. These miles get blurry, your legs get heavy, and it’s hard to remember much except the feeling of wanting to stop. Of reaching out to the person closest to you begging them to make IT stop.
But the feeling that comes after that? It’s even worse, and it remains clear in your memory long after your feet stop moving. It’s the feeling of knowing you gave in, of disappointment, of regret. The feeling that you let the voice win again.
Despite the mental battles I crossed the finish with just :34 seconds to spare. A PR by the skin of my teeth, but a PR nonetheless. I’m proud of that, I know that I put in some decent work out there. I just can’t help but wish I could go back in time and change those seconds and minutes I wasted. It could have been so much more than :34 seconds.
And so I’ve answered my own question – there is so much more to learn. Mental toughness remains a mystery to me. I can’t grasp my brain around it. I’m hoping this break will help me figure out some motivations and methods to tackle it so that at some point I can jump far over that wall – and never look back.
It’s been a few days and I’ve been retelling the story by cracking jokes, because it’s a lot less awkward to laugh than it is to spill warm tears. But that doesn’t mean I’m not upset, not embarrassed, not disappointed in myself. I’m scared that the memory of my panic in the water will affect me in the future, will surface again the next time I face the open water. It’s my first real black mark.
I know I’ve got to pull myself together, got to tuck away my lessons learned, got to get back out there. And I will at some point. I’m just not done sulking yet.