Monthly Archives: March 2015
“Are you ready?” That’s the question I’ve been getting more and more frequently as the days tick down. I stare back with a somewhat blank look on my face, because I don’t really know how to answer that. Ready for what? Ready for a nap? Absolutely. A snack? Always!
Ready to run a marathon? I’m not so sure about that. Does anyone ever feel ready? Supposedly scientifically speaking my legs and my lungs are – but the rest of me?
There’s a few things I’m ready for. I’m ready for this to be over because to be honest, I’m exhausted. I’m ready to not go to bed Saturday night fearing my long run the next morning. Ready to not wake up with random aches and pains. Ready to look down at my feet crossing that finish line. Ready to feel the weight of that medal around my neck. Ready to prove that I can do this.
But I’m also ready to go back to the beginning and start all over again- because you only get to experience your first marathon once. I’m ready for more time, more long runs, more practice fueling. Ready for more tips, more advice, more time to get this right. Ready for the countdown to stop moving so damn fast suddenly.
I’m ready for my last 20 miler out on the course this weekend because it means I get one more chance to practice. But I’m also scared shitless because I know this is it – I don’t get another chance to get it down. The next time I’m out there it will be the real deal. I’ll be alone. And I will have 6.2 more miles further to go until my feet cross that finish line. Until that medal hangs around my neck. I’m not ready for that yet.
The high from my 20 miler spilled over into the next day or so. I wore the sore hamstrings like a badge of honor. That is until I realized it was time to run again. And then the cloud I was floating in quickly dissolved. “No thanks, I’m not ready”.
My legs still hurt, my mind was still tired and the LAST thing I wanted to do was put on my shoes. And unfortunately, that feeling stuck the rest of the week. Before every single run I found myself whining and literally having to push myself out the door. What the hell? Is this normal? What happened to that bad ass girl from Sunday?
Our long run fell on a Saturday this week meaning I had one less day to pull myself together than normal, which couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. Add that to a cold, rainy morning and I was one miserable human being. Fifteen miles should have felt like a breeze compared to the week before but like every other run that week I moaned, groaned, and dragged my feet. I was mad at everything: that it was raining, cold, that I was slower than the rest of the group, that I had forgotten to shake the rock out of my shoe from the week before. Mad that the nagging pain I had been feeling in my ankle lately was still there. Mad that I had forgotten my lip balm.
Eventually all I could focus on was the pain in my ankle, and then an all too familiar ache in my hip – just before I hit Mile 12 I decided to call it quits and get a ride back at the last water stop. Clicking “save” on my Garmin made my decision official, but it sure didn’t make me feel any better about it.
Once I dragged my sorry ass home I climbed in the hot shower, and of course regretted my decision. 5 weeks to go and I’m cutting runs short? Not okay!
I’ve spent the last three months training for the marathon. I’ve been preparing my body for it since early fall. And I’ve been talking about it (at least with my coach) since the middle of the summer. When I wake up I immediately cross off another day and my last thoughts before I fall asleep are usually about crossing the finish line. If you are a friend, family member, or co-worker this is all you hear about – all day long (I’m sorry, I really am!). Right now I live and breathe the Boston Marathon. I can’t help it. Aside from getting married and eventually having children, this is one of the biggest things I’ll ever do in my life. I can’t help but try to absorb every second of it- to the point where I’m getting absorbed by it.
So I’m trying to take a step back. Take a deep breath. Take care of my aches and pains so I can get to Hopkinton healthy. Find things to do to take my mind off of it. Stop stressing myself out over every little step. It just not so easy to do with just over a month to go. Deep breaths.
It seemed years away when I first got my training schedule. “Plenty of time before I even have to think about that” I told myself. Then again I was pretty preoccupied with worrying about all of those numbers in the middle-, 12, 14, 16, 18. But as we all know- the more you try to push something to the back of your mind the faster it seems to comes up. So before I knew it it was March, and suddenly I found myself watching the hours close in on my first 20 miler.
For some reason 20 miles just sounded like this absurd number to me. I mean to a normal person it IS absurd, right?! TWENTY MILES. That’s freaking far. Almost mythical. But if you’re training for a marathon, it’s what you do.
After a fitful night of sleep my alarm finally went off at the crack of dawn- quite literally since as luck would have it it was also Daylight Savings. “OH SHIT” was the first thought that popped into my head. I arrived at B.C. just as the sun was coming up. As I stood in the group waiting for the bus I hoped that people would just assume I was shivering from the cold, not from fear.
As soon as the bus door shut and we began to roll out of campus I felt my stomach drop. All I could do was stare out the window and force myself to take deep breaths. With every intersection that we drove through it wasn’t an “Are we there yet?” but a “WE’RE SERIOUSLY STILL NOT THERE YET?!” Twenty miles felt far even DRIVING (Which reminds me- someone slip me a sedative before the bus ride on April 20th?)
Somewhere between wanting the agony of the ride to end and wanting to stall for more time the bus pulled over to the side of the road. It reminded me of a scene in one of those movies where suddenly you see the main character emerging from a cloud of exhaust next to a corn field as a bus pulls away. Except that we were in Ashland Massachusetts, and the only way to get home was to run there.
Despite the fact that I was an absolute shit show of nerves somehow my feet still knew what to do. And I noticed that with the more steps I took the more my breathing fell into a pattern, my hands got less clammy, my nervous chatter slowed down to my every day babble. The more the miles passed the more my nerves disappeared. My confidence grew.
And then this magical thing happened- Mile 10 hit (the halfway point) and I barely felt it. 10 miles is far too often my crashing point but for once, I felt strong. I started to get giddy. “Holy shit, I’m ACTUALLY doing this!”
Naturally as the miles increased I became more tired, but I also kept getting more and more excited. Every mile down was another mile closer to this mythical number, this unreal goal. At 17 I squealed in delight that there was “Only a 5K left!” and when I heard Mile 19 chime on my Garmin, goosebumps flushed over my body. Good lord I’ve never been so exhausted, elated, and in shock in the very same moment. As I rounded the last few corners back to the gym it might have been my delusional state, but every person stopped and smiled at me as if they knew, they knew I was about to finish this incredible thing. Once I made it back inside I collapsed in a stiff, sweaty pile of happy tears. I just couldn’t believe I had done it.
I know there’s a lot of technical details behind the concept of a long run. But more important than the time on my feet or fueling properly that day, somewhere in those twenty miles I learned how to push myself a little further. I learned how to be a little stronger, how to believe in myself a little more. I took that big scary goal and I did it. Less than a month and a half till Marathon Day and while I’m still scared shitless, there’s just a little more pep in my step (errr waddle, I’m still feeling those 20 miles).
It takes only a second after my alarm goes off for my brain to register what day it is. Sunday, long run day. Lying in bed I quickly calculate how many miles I have to run, a job which feels absolutely impossible when you’re still under the protection of warm covers. Before my brain goes to a bad place I’m up, changing into the clothes I laid out the night before. I usually panic that I’m going to be too cold or too warm and make a last minute change in wardrobe.You think by now I’d learn to stop second guessing my wardrobe decisions.
Downstairs I shove half an English Muffin in my mouth, the nerves in my stomach making it hard to swallow. I’m tempted to throw the second half out but then I remember what it’s like to be starving mid run. I compulsively check my bag, because God forbid I only have one pair of running gloves to choose from 5 minutes before we head out.
Once inside the Rec Center people are chatty as they adjust their laces and turn on their watches. I’m usually pretty quiet, thinking about what the next few hours will be like, praying to the running gods that I don’t %&$! this one up. This morning is gray and cold (colder than it was supposed to be, which of course makes me worry that I didn’t dress appropriately). Despite the typical winter air – something feels different today.
We pour into the street and in a flash, everyone passes me. I turn my head around to realize I’ve quickly become the last runner. Before I can throw myself into a fit and ruin the morning I push my earbuds in. “My race, my pace” I remind myself.
I run through streets that are still relatively quiet. Past the spots where our teams meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. I’m reminded of who I’m running for. After a while I find a rhythm. I make a pact with myself that I won’t think about how much further I have to run until I reach the halfway point. And for once, it actually works.
I make my way down the Cambridge side of the Charles River, then back up on the Boston side, the white tundra keeping my mind off the miles. I pass other runners and we give each other a friendly smile. I wonder if they’re training for Boston too. I wonder if they know I am.
I hit mile 10 and smile, remembering how once double digits were so daunting. Now I barely blink. Just past my 10 mile mark I reach a water stop and see the familiar faces I’ve been waiting for. They put a little energy back in my step. In my happiness I miss a turn and somewhere around 11.5 realize I’m off course. My instinct is of course to panic but I spot a State Police sign, and a friendly officer puts me back on track. A situation that normally would bring me to tears didn’t even phase me. I’m on a mission.
My watch beeps at mile 13 and I laugh manically. Half marathons are old news now too. My legs are heavy. I’m cold and tired, but I am so determined. 14, 15, 16.. bring it.
Eventually the Rec Center comes into my line of vision, and I feel the sting of tears, from the cold wind and from pride. I tell myself I’ll be done before this song (which I’ve now heard 3 times) is over. I can’t believe I made it.
I hobble inside to find a janitor waiting to close up the room. My duffle bag now sits alone on a table next to a bunch of bananas, my consolation prize. One would think my face would be red with embarrassment that I am the last person back but in fact I’m beaming.
There have been a lot of tough runs, days where I’ve thought “Why am I doing this?” and “What if I can’t?” But as I make the long trek back to my car carrying my bunch of bananas a little voice inside of me says“What if I can?”