Author Archives: Kathleen

Run the mile you’re in.

My son was born at 40 weeks and 3 days. For 40 weeks and 3 days my body grew and carried this perfect little boy. It’s pretty amazing what the human body is capable of when you really stop and think about it.
Today I am officially 40 weeks and 4 days postpartum. As a naive first time mom I assumed that the time spent growing would equal to the time spent shrinking back down to pre-baby size. Imagine my shock when I woke up this morning and realized I didn’t magically slim down overnight? I’m kidding. Kind of.
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I definitely didn’t think it would be THIS difficult. At 6 weeks postpartum (when I told myself my maternity “vacation” was over) I said I’d have it together by 6 months. When he turned 6 months old I told myself by 9 months – no doubt. And well, here I am. Still very, very far away from my goal.
It’s hard. Both mentally and physically. I spent the summer buying as little “fat clothes” as possible – straying from the gym shorts, neons and loud patterns I’ve become so accustomed to over the past few summers. I’d occasionally go through my boxes in storage, seeing if anything looked like it might fit and wondering how I ever got my body into some of the clothes I had. And unfortunately it looks like I’ll be doing the same for the fall, because there’s no way I’m putting maternity clothes back on no matter how cold it is.
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Running sucks. I don’t remember it being this hard when I was still trying to lose weight the first time around but I know it was. I’ve been dealing with chronic shin splints and ITB issues which I know wouldn’t be as prominent if I wasn’t trying to run with so much weight on my body. I still haven’t progressed from a walk/run even for a 5K, and in the beginning of August I finally accepted that the fall half marathon I was determined to run wasn’t happening. I don’t know if its stupidity or perseverance at this point but I still get up every morning and try again.
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Two weeks ago I traveled down to Tennessee (again!) to spectate Ironman Chattanooga. With the way I’ve been feeling about my body I thought it would make me feel even worse about myself. Shockingly it didn’t. If anything watching hundreds of athletes, all sizes, ages and abilities, made me want to keep working even harder. I wanted that feeling of accomplishment back. One of the athletes we were there to support was competing in her first Ironman… on her 54th birthday. Is there anything better than that? I watched how proud her kids were; from the pump up playlist they played her early in the morning, the pictures they kept taking, and how they spent all day and night cheering her to that famous red carpet finish. I kept picturing Riley in their place, cheering his mom on. It pretty much brought me to tears. Throughout my day on the course I observed families of all ages and types wearing matching t-shirts, holding signs that said “My Dad is an Ironman”. I saw sleeping babies tucked into carriers while their mom anxiously refreshed the athlete tracker on her phone. Toddlers with glow sticks and far too much sugar in their bodies running laps in the dark. I watched women take those 10 extra seconds on their way to the finish line to kiss their husbands. If you’re looking to be inspired, I highly recommend you spend some time at an Ironman finish line. It’s incredible.
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Maybe it was the delirium of being up for 21 hours, but something clicked that day. I’ve always felt this need to go, go, go – to get as many things on my athletic bucket list checked off as quickly as possible. So I didn’t complete a half marathon before my son’s first birthday – is anyone keeping track? What if I can’t run 3 miles without taking a walk break? Big deal. My Garmin records them all the same.
I’ve spent the last 9 months (actually I’d argue since shortly after I found out I was pregnant) creating a list of things I haven’t done. But what about the things I HAVE accomplished?

Since giving birth I’ve been blessed with a short and relatively easy recovery from major surgery (which was my biggest fear of having a c-section). I’ve resumed all the activities I did before getting pregnant. I don’t have any more modifications when I’m strength training, and I can lift as much if not more that I could before. I’ve run 6 races, 2 of which I pushed my son to his first (of many) finish lines.

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Most importantly I’ve kept a human ALIVE for over 9 months. Not just alive, but thriving beyond belief. He’s a bubbly, energetic little guy who never stops moving. He has 4 teeth, smiles when his Mommy and Dada get home, loves the Wiggles and trying new foods. He’s starting to pull and push himself around the house and I’m pretty confident he won’t walk – he’ll immediately be running. He’s in the top percentile for all his measurements. For 40 weeks and 4 days I’ve kept this little guy fed, dressed, and happy. And I’ve done all this while working a full time job and still getting in my workouts. If that’s not a list of accomplishments, I don’t know what is.

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One of my favorite running mantras is “run the mile you’re in“. My mile right now is slower than it used to be. It involves some walking. Some days it’s pushing a Bob stroller and singing to my son. Some days it doesn’t happen until 7:30pm. Sometimes it feels great and sometimes it feels shitty. But it’s still a mile. And it’s mine.
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Mother runner.

In my quirky little mind I’ve always associated runners’ accomplishments with professional credentials. Instead of PhD, or Esq. my imaginary business card reads: Kathleen Lau. Runner, Half marathoner, Marathoner, Boston finisher. My most recent addition? Mother runner. At first I thought it was just a catchy phrase, something to slap on t-shirts and throw behind a hashtag. But then I started to live it. And although I am just a little over 4 months into this new title, I understand now that it is so much more than a trendy bumper sticker.

It’s that first postpartum run, where your legs resemble Bambi, but your body has more of a Dumbo feel. It’s trying on sports bras in sizes you thought were reserved exclusively for porn stars. Only having to make the mistake once of heading out for a run without emptying the tanks. It’s stuffing your postpartum body into the workout clothes you wore before you got pregnant, and wondering how on earth spandex can feel so restrictive. It’s standing in front of a mirror, trying to drown out those critical voices by reminding yourself over and over again that your body has done a lot of work to grow and nourish a child over the past year.

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It’s the feeling you get as you walk in from that first run. The rush of endorphins, the heavy breathing, the taste of sweat above your lip. Suddenly it all comes back to you. Makes you feel whole again, makes you feel like YOU again. In the darkness of those first  weeks and months, it’s a beacon of light in the dark ocean that is nursing, soothing, diaper changing. It keeps you from drowning.

It’s passing a screaming baby off to your husband the moment he walks in the door, because you just need 2 miles so that you can be mom again tomorrow. It’s when Friday night becomes “you time”, when you can get in a run without worrying about what you need to do for the next day. It’s pushing through those last 10 seconds because you know that as hard as it is to put one foot in front of the other, it’s one step closer to your old self. That every run will get a little easier. It’s the goosebumps you get as you crawl across your first postpartum finish line. The clock that doesn’t read a painfully slow finish time but instead blinks a subliminal message… “You’ve still got this”.

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It’s pointing out all your favorite running routes to your son in the car, when you know he can’t see more than passing images through the window. It’s that first time you head out with the running stroller, when you spend the majority of the time trying to figure out what the heck you’re supposed to do with your hands.

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It’s the new and improved Sunday morning run. When it’s just you and him. When instead of plugging in headphones, your run is narrated by the sound of the wheels hitting the pavement and your heavy breathing. When you peer into the stroller to find a sleeping baby. Relaxed and content because somehow even he understands how therapeutic running can be. It’s knowing that even though he may not remember this moment, you know that you are setting an example for the rest of his life. Mom runs, mom is strong, mom can do hard things.

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Sunday is my very first Mother’s Day. And of course, I couldn’t imagine starting it with anything other than a run. It will be Riley and I’s first race together (since he’s been on the outside anyway). Something I’ve dreamed about since the day that little line showed up on a pee stick. And for once I won’t be chasing a time clock. I won’t have a playlist in my ears heck, I probably won’t even wear a watch. On Sunday, that finish line is about me and my little guy sharing this special thing. It’s about earning that shiny new title, mother runner.

5 years of lime green love.

For the past five years April 4th has had a special place in my heart. It is the a day that I like to step back and look at my journey and accomplishments. It’s a day I celebrate PRs, smaller jean sizes, and goals that at one point in my life never seemed possible.

This year, April 4th feels heavy. Literally. For the first time in five years, when I look in the mirror, I see the same girl who walked into that first consultation. It’s hard to think back on the last five years of hard work and not feel sadness. It’s hard to ignore that pile of clothes in my closet that don’t fit anymore, or how my speediest run pace is a solid two minutes slower than what an “easy day” used to feel like. I feel even worse when I look at pictures of this little guy my body created and carried, and instead of focusing on his adorable smile, I can’t stop cringing at my own body.

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But throughout these ups and more recent downs of the last five years, one thing has remained constant. It became apparent to me one day recently as I pulled out my long sleeve, lime green shirt to go for a run. This same shirt has magically fit me when I ran my first half marathon at my lowest weight, when I went for my last pregnant run at 28 weeks, and now as I try to navigate my way to my new role as a mother runner. It doesn’t matter where I am in my journey, it always fits.

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This one (very smelly) green shirt stands for so much more. It is my foundation, it’s what got me to where I am today. It is home to me. The friendships I’ve made, the guidance, the therapy sessions, the ass kickings, they’ve been there for every step over the last five years. And no matter where I am in my journey, they’re always there to support me. They’ve seen me through my first mile I ever ran, white dress workouts, crossing the finish line on Boylston Street, and burpee modifications as my belly grew. It’s pretty incredible when you step back and think about it.

This April 4th may look a little different, but I keep telling myself it’s just another page in my book. A new chapter in my story. It’s a new starting point. Today is a reminder of where I’ve come from, what I can achieve, and the incredible supports I have behind me.

Here’s to the next five years. 🙂

Dusting off the cobwebs.

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

Oh hi there, remember me? Last time we met up here I had just crossed crawled over the Boston Marathon finish line and was living the life in runner’s Narnia. It’s hard to believe that was almost two years ago now.

So where have I been since then? Well fast forward exactly one year later and I found myself sucking air during the BAA 5K, a complete 180 from my athletic feat the year before. When I woke up the next morning and went for another sluggish six miler I started to realize how sore my boobs were. Somewhere in the middle of the day I decided to take a pregnancy test. And on the morning of Christmas Eve….

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Riley Parker entered our lives. 9 pounds, 4 ounces, hair for days, and eyes that could look right into your soul. It’s been almost three months since we met face to face and I every night as I rock him to sleep I look at every perfect little feature, amazed that he is mine.

I was blessed to have a relatively easy pregnancy physically, but mentally and emotionally it was a tough 40 weeks. After all my body had been through and achieved over the last four years the thought of undoing all of that while growing a human terrified me. And while I always knew I wanted to have kids, it took me some time to accept that I no longer had control over my own body. As a first time mom you don’t really look “pregnant” until the 6th or 7th month, but I could feel my body changing in small ways almost overnight. It constantly put me into panic mode. So at the end of my first trimester I made the executive decision that I no longer wanted to know how much weight I had gained, I only wanted to know if it was becoming a concern.
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And so I ventured on. I ran until I was 28 weeks, completing 6 road races with my little buddy inside. I continued to strength train several times a week, and I was in the pool just two days before my water broke.

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I ate, as conservatively as a pregnant girl often does; chicken became an enemy pretty early on, bagels were constantly on my mind, and my afternoon snacks consisted of peanut butter and fluff.  I’ll admit I got pretty lenient towards the end, more lenient that I have been with myself in a very long time. I can very clearly remember parking my big belly on the couch the night before my due date with a bowl of peppermint stick ice cream (which in real life I don’t even LIKE!) and some holiday Joe Joes. “Eh, what does it matter at this point – I’ll deal with it once this baby is here”. Looking back now I can be honest with myself and say that I was eating to deal with how I was feeling about being 40 weeks pregnant, becoming a first time mom, and missing my active self. Old habits die hard. I’ve never considered myself thin, but looking at old race pictures made me realize how true it is that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. FullSizeRender 4

No one prepared me enough for just how foreign my body would feel those first few days after giving birth. My feet had ballooned due to all of the fluids I was given, my hips seemed wider, my boobs had reached porn star status (medium nursing tanks? THAT was a joke) and my stomach was a numb ball of putty. And to top it all off, I had this lovely Frankenstein-esque scar across my abdomen from ending up with a c-section. I remember comparing my body to the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. It was definitely hard to swallow what I saw in the mirror.

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I gave myself the “I just had a baby” card and told myself I would deal with it after my 6 week checkup, when I was finally given the golden ticket to exercise again. To pass the time until then I spent Saturday mornings walking laps around the indoor track, cringing that I was still wearing my maternity workout pants and cursing the toned, athletic women running by. Was it just my imagination or was I once one of them? That girl who I had been just 9 months ago seemed like a very far off memory. And I continued on with my baby diet postpartum because, duh, breastfeeding.

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A few nights before my doctors appointment I decided to bite the bullet and look at the damage. I sat down at my computer, clicked into my provider’s online portal… and there it was. I had to blink a few times just to make sure I was reading the right line and then my heart sunk and I started to cry. I had gained a total of 56 pounds from my last pre-pregnancy weight. I was almost back to my starting weight from years ago. The weight I swore I would never see again. My biggest fears of getting pregnant had come true.

And so here we are again, in a place all too familiar and yet completely different from 5 years ago. I thought it was easy to come up with 100 excuses in the past, but having a newborn gives you at least 150 of them. Part of me feels insanely embarrassed that I’m here again, but as I’ve realized in the past it’s better to just face the facts and get down to work.

In order to do that it’s time to pull out the old tricks from my bag: logging (does anyone remember my My Fitness Pal password?), monthly appointments with my RD/savior Andrea, and some good old fashioned Couch to 5K. Oh and you! In trying to figure out how I got there the first time I found myself pouring through old blog posts and reading over my entire story, from day one to the end. And I realized that yes, writing here helps keep me accountable. Even if no one is reading it. So I’m back in action. It may not be weekly (hell, I already am a day off from when I said I was going to write this), but my goal is to keep this up for as long as this journey continues… and let’s be honest it’s never ending for me. Now let’s go find the Half Ass Bad Ass and get her back.

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Deep breath and here we go… again.

 

Endings & Beginnings.

My first “Blog Day” fell on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012. I sat at my desk at work, manically refreshing my web browser until suddenly, there it was. I held my breath, cringing at my name, at that god awful picture of myself in a coral sundress resembling a muumuu. I started to imagine all the ex-boyfriends, ex-best friends, family friends, co-workers who could be reading what suddenly felt far too personal to be sharing out loud. Too late.

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And before I could fire off the text saying that I changed my mind about this whole ordeal, people responded. Old friends.(Soon to be) new friends. Family members. High school classmates. Saying they were proud of me, they were inspired by me, that they too felt these things. And although it was sometimes downright embarrassing to lay it all out there, it was these encouraging words that helped me continue to share my story.

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Once my Rockstar journey wrapped up I moved my musings to this little site. My space to write, vent, share goals, fears, accomplishments. I’ve always felt like I was just talking to you, my friend, instead of posting off into the wide open interwebs. And because I love routine, I continued to write my weekly post for the next 119 Wednesdays (give or take a few schedule changes).

Last week was the first week there was no Blog Day.

I had been thinking about it for a while, going back and forth on how long I would continue this. The decision didn’t come easily. Running is my outlet. Writing is too. Together they have helped me on this long, hard, absolutely incredible journey of self discovery. I never started blogging to become famous, or because I wanted it to become my career (Sponsored posts and giveaways just aren’t my cup of tea). I wrote with two purposes.

In a world where thigh gaps are given more praise than powerful quads and wedding dresses are sized to make us feel like bridal hippopotamuses, I wanted to put it all out there. I wanted to tell the girls who are sausaged into their size 14 jeans that I’ve been there, that I know what it’s like to feel trapped in a body you don’t want. That some days you tell yourself you’re going to start skipping lunch to lose weight, only to end up eating everything in sight at 9pm. That I’ve cried in front of a mirror and a pile of clothes that just don’t fit. I wanted to tell anyone who’s ever felt these feelings that it’s okay to ask for help. To want to live a healthier life, even if it currently seems impossible. That teaching yourself to run is hands down the shittiest and most empowering experience of your life. That finding people who love, encourage, and support you can open you up to a world you never thought possible. That learning to love your body for what it can do instead of how it compares to others is a breath of fresh air you’ve just never felt before.

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Ever since I dove into this adventure (come on now- I’m a swimmer and we all know I love a good analogy) I’ve had so many supports to keep me afloat. Nutrition, personal training sessions, triathlon swim classes… my version of Swimmies and Noodles. And while I’ll never stop appreciating the support they’ve provided- I’ve known when it was time to try and swim a few strokes on my own. In a way, this blog has been another form of support. In the beginning I needed it to keep me on track, to keep me from chickening out on these big scary goals. I don’t know that I need that anymore. This little slice of the internet has become my very own virtual scrapbook. Anytime I’m in doubt, anytime I feel like I can’t do something, I have all of these experiences to go back to. I can go back to what it was like the day I lost 50 pounds. What running 3 miles without stopping felt like. The unbelievable experience of my first triathlon. The mental struggle of my first half marathon. The fact that I ran the BOSTON F’ING MARATHON. All of those accomplishments live here, along with the feelings, bad days, and hard work that went into them. And just like all the other supports I’ve had along the way, I know that in the off chance I start to panic and sink on my own, I can reach right back out for help.

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So maybe this isn’t a goodbye, maybe it’s just a see you later. Maybe after a few weeks without Wednesday morning posts I will realize that I miss my little piece of the world. And because I don’t want to say goodbye and I love a good quote- I want to end today’s post with one of my favorites.  I found it on a card at the end of my Rockstar sessions and it so appropriately fit that time in my life. It does again now.

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That is the beginning” – Louis L’Amour

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Hurts so… good?

Once I got that first shitty run out of the way it was time to get back to work. I gasped my way through a few miles that week- a combination of getting back into the swing of things, the increasing temperature and a sea of pollen everywhere I turned. The effort it was taking to run an easy three made finishing a marathon seem like something I had dreamed. I told myself that every run I pushed through was one step closer to getting back to business. All I wanted was to have something to work towards again, to be tired and sore.

And boy did I get what I wished for. During strength training the last few weeks my legs had been given a pardon for all the upcoming work they had to do. But with that job now complete it was back to squats, back to lunges, back to SORENESS. But despite the ache in my legs I had a stupid grin on my face. Sore felt like work, and work felt good. Calluses and all.

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Next up was the pool. Swimming for me is usually something between a half mile and a mile at a nice, comfortable pace. Before Boston I had made the mistake of mentioning that swimming wasn’t feeling very hard. Rookie mistake- you never tell your trainer something feels easy. Suddenly this complex swim workout appeared on my schedule. It seemed pretty advantageous for my skill level, let alone post marathon. But despite my hesitations I dove in (literally and figuratively). Each set left me gasping for air, but with a sense of accomplishment.

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And for the first time in over a year and a half, I had a tempo run on my schedule. “Speed work” (Can you call it that when your speed is slower than a turtle?) had simply become a figment of my imagination after a year of injury and building distance. To see it back is both invigorating and terrifying at the very same time. Speed work means getting uncomfortable, but it also means new bad ass accomplishments.

I’m not sure if this new found motivation is simply a burst of springtime energy, or is the result of realizing that finishing a marathon means I can handle hard things. I was afraid I would lose motivation after Boston but it’s actually been the exact opposite. So bring on the callouses, sore legs, and gasps for air… I’m ready.

 

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The Next Chapter.

As my running shoes sat collecting dust by the door (yes, cobwebs can grow in just one dramatic week) I scoured the internet, hungry for my next challenge. Something that I’ve found myself doing after every big accomplishment over the last 3 years, but there was always more to be had. Until now. With a Boston Marathon medal hanging on my wall every race I pulled up on the computer just seemed trivial. I was slightly worried that maybe I had reached my pinnacle; maybe I was done with this training business. I mean it has been one hell of a ride.

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And just as I was thinking I would spend the summer kicking back on the couch I got this thought thrown at me: “I’ve always gone bigger, but have I ever tried to get better?” I knew the answer instantly. I’ve been chasing distance after distance, barely finishing one race before I’m training for the next.  Running for me had become this challenge of how quickly I could climb to the top, how fast I could prove that I could cover these distances. But challenging myself to do them better? I’ll admit I don’t really know what that’s like. Most of my PR’s have been purely accidental.

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Suddenly my answer became clearer. My challenge this summer is not to prove to the world how high I can climb, but to prove to myself that I can give it all I’ve got. I didn’t become the Half Ass Bad Ass because it’s a cute and catchy name – it happened because I far too often half ass myself through things. And I want to know what it’s like to push myself. To get comfortable being uncomfortable. To get better. To become faster. To feel stronger.

After a week off my feet I was finally given the go ahead to head out for a run. I was giddy with excitement as I slipped on my running shoes and turned on my Garmin for the first time since April 20th. With a gorgeous spring afternoon and legs that were well rested I imagined a perfect three miles.  Instead my legs felt like they were made of brick, I couldn’t catch my breath. It may in fact have been the shittiest three miles I have ever run. But it was a start. Again. I realized that my journey with running runs parallel to my journey with weight loss: it never ends, it just changes direction. Completing a marathon doesn’t mean I’m done – it means I’m just beginning.

So let the next chapter begin.
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Where do we go from here?

Everyone told me to ride that marathon high and I certainly did. I scooted backwards down the stairs with pride, I didn’t take my jacket off for 7 days straight (Don’t worry on the 7th day I washed it -and then immediately put it back on), beaming every time someone asked me if I had run. I loved that the employee at Ben and Jerry’s gave me half off my order after seeing the medal around my neck. “So this is what finishing the Boston Marathon is like” I thought as I sipped my milkshake.

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And then my beautiful bouquets of flowers started to wilt. The temporary “Boston” tattoo on my arm began to wash off. I could walk down the stairs normally. And I was left with this incredible feeling of “What do I do now?”.

I knew that coming down from the Boston Marathon high was going to be hard. I had spent the last 6 months consumed with training for it. Imagining crossing that finish line every single day. My poor friends and family (and whoever is reading this) were breathing a sign of relief that it was finally over. But all I wanted was to go back in time and start again.

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It’s funny how the things we dread the most end up being the ones we appreciate in the end, right? Every Saturday night I had this put in my stomach about the next mornings long run and yet all I wanted to do was pack up my bag and leave it by the front door. I longed for jelly beans, the ache after a long run, the excitement of a goal ahead. There should really be a pop-up on road race websites that says “please enter the date of your last race” (kind of like how you have to put in your birthdate to enter a website about alcohol?) because I was tempted to sign up for anything and everything I could get my hands on. Luckily before I could make any rash decisions I just shut my laptop and headed to the pool.

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I kept getting the question “Do you think you’ll ever run another marathon?” and I didn’t even have to think for a second about the answer. I don’t want to be a “one and done”. And I definitely feel like I deserve another shot at Boston when it isn’t a freezing cold driving rain. Just not right now. I think my husband would divorce me. 😉

So what do I do now? I’m still not sure. I mean- where DO you go after Boston?! A part of me regrets climbing the race ladder too quickly. I wonder if I should have stuck to 5Ks and 10Ks longer, if I should have done a couple more half marathons before I decided to move onto 26.2. It’s a little disappointing to know there’s no more big distances to climb (Because don’t worry – I have NO drive to ever do anything higher than 26.2. That’s just sick).

FullSizeRenderOne thing I do know is that as exhausting as it was, finishing Boston didn’t leave me hating running. In fact I think it only made me love it more. This week of rest has been pure agony for me because all I wanted was to get back out there. I’ve just got to figure out what I’m heading out there to do.

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Twenty-six point two.

“There will be days when I don’t know if I can run a marathon.  There will be a lifetime knowing that I have.”

It still doesn’t feel real. After all of those months of running, training, and visualizing crossing that finish line I still can’t believe it actually happened. And while things didn’t end up exactly how I pictured them, I would still go back and do it again in a heartbeat.

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Initial weather reports showed a relatively cool and cloudy day. Perfect running weather. Then precipitation started creeping into the forecast. Then it came pouring in. Along with potentially strong headwinds. By Marathon weekend there was no question about it – it was gonna rain. And it was gonna be windy.

I of course was completely distraught. My first marathon, the BOSTON Marathon, the BOSTON MARATHON after training in the WORST winter ever… and this was how it was going to end? I had a few meltdowns but by Sunday I had come to peace with the fact that it was out of my hands. After a couple last minute outfit changes I went to bed praying that somehow things would change by the next morning. It had happened the day of our wedding so why couldn’t it happen again?

After a few hours of restless sleep I woke up to a gray and chilly morning. My husband drove my buddy and I to the bus and I sat in the passenger seat trying to shove an english muffin down my throat with shaky hands. After saying our goodbyes we climbed on the bus and rolled towards the Pike. I kept my eyes closed for the most of the riding, hoping that if I didn’t watch the road it wouldn’t seem as far away. I think that made it even worse. Finally we pulled into the Athlete’s Village and I felt my stomach lurch as the bus settled in the parking lot. I was officially stuck in Hopkinton.

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The next few hours went between feeling like I was watching paint dry and time flying before my eyes. On one hand I just wanted to get this thing over with but I feared the hour or so that I would be left “alone” on the bus – my speedster bestie had a qualified number, meaning she had about a 45 minute head start. I had been trying to act brave and that I didn’t realize this was going to happen but in fact I was terrified. After our hug goodbye outside of the bus I quickly turned away and hurried back before she could see me crying. I had never felt so alone and unprepared. As I slid back into my seat I unfolded a stack of paper she had handed me as she left. Slowly I unfolded page after page of letters from my friends. My hands shook as I read note after note, telling me how proud they were of me, how inspired they were by me, or just funny memories that they knew would make me laugh. My nervous tears turned into big, fat, happy ones. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone. They were all right there, all these people who love me and were cheering for me were right there beside me. As it got time to head to the start corrals I tried to memorize their sweet words for the long journey ahead of me. I stepped off the bus and took a deep breath. It was time to go get my Boston.

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As we exited the Athlete’s Village the wind began to pick up, and the rain drops fell more steadily. All around me runners lunged for abandoned ponchos and pieces of clothing on the ground. I looked up at the sky and laughed manically. 108 inches of snow, and now wind and rain  – challenge accepted.

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I kept my eyes wide open as I moved to the start line, as I took those first few steps of my journey. I looked all around me, just taking it all in. “I’m running the Boston Marathon! I’m running the Boston Marathon!” I kept repeating in my head. My watch beeped with the first mile and I grinned. Piece of cake. I gawked at the guys who leapt to the side of the road to pee, I threw up some fist pumps to the drunk spectators outside of the biker bar, I high-fived every adorable kid. I wanted to take every single ounce of this in.

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Despite the first few miles feeling relatively easy things started feeling hard early. Earlier than they should have. My grumbling stomach as I crossed the start line should have been a clue that I hadn’t had enough for breakfast. I was barely ten miles in but felt as though I had run sixteen. Not good.

The wind and rain picked up, my head felt heavy, my feet even heavier. I started to get terrible cramps in my legs that I had never experienced before, and I hadn’t even hit the worst part of the course yet. Those horrible voices started to creep in. “Maybe this isn’t going to happen today. Maybe you’re just not cut out to run a marathon.” There’s a lot I remember about this point in the race: I remember panicking as I frantically looked at the people around me, who were all far too involved in their own personal races to see that I needed a verbal boost. I remember the stretch of road where I just wanted those familiar feet running next to me, even if it meant she was yelling at me telling me that I was stronger than this. I wanted to be a volunteer, a spectator, home in my warm bed with my kitties… ANYWHERE but running the Boston Marathon. Despite the fact that I wanted to pull over to the side of the road and call my husband to come pick me up do you know what popped into my head? “I just bought all this Marathon apparel that’s non-returnable. What will I do with it?” So I kept running. Whatever works right?

Just as things seemed pretty dark and dismal I felt a hand on my shoulder. Two of the ladies from L Street had caught up to me and asked how I was doing. As I fought back tears they reminded me that I was stronger than this, that everyone was having a tough day and that we were going to get through it. Physically they only handed me a packet of salt and a few pretzels, but in reality – they were what kept me going. I pulled out my iPod (my goal was to run without it but brought it in case I got desperate) and listened to the familiar songs that had kept me going all throughout training. I pretended it was just another training run. That eventually I would catch up to the next water stop where everyone would be chatting and eating Sweedish Fish. And in my tired little brain – that worked. I kept on running.

I have to say here that my friends, cousin, husband, parents – they were my LIFESAVERS. I kept trying to remember who I was going to see next, and wanting to see them got me through whatever mile I was in. My parents were standing in the pouring rain just past the firehouse and I started crying that I couldn’t do it and I remember my mom saying “You ARE doing it”. I might be 30 years old, but a hug and a kiss from my mom still makes everything better.

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My husband was waiting at the top of Heartbreak Hill smiling at me and with another stop for a hug and a kiss he reminded me how close I was. For the first time finishing this thing actually seemed possible.  I walked when I had to, ran when I could, told myself I didn’t care what my time was but that I was going to make it across that finish line. I stopped to hug my friends who were soaked to the bone but still cheering as they frantically waved signs and screamed my name. I was pleasantly surprised to see my brother and his girlfriend waiting at Mile 22. Mile by mile, step by step, I made my way towards Boston in my squeaky wet shoes.
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I’ll never forget the moment the CITGO sign finally appeared through the now driving rain. I sloshed through Kenmore Square with huge tears rolling down my face. The few spectators left who were apparently water resistant kept telling me how great I looked, but I know they were lying. I quickly learned that “Just one mile to go” means that will be the longest mile you have ever run in your life.

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As I crawled my way under the last overpass I found myself in step with a woman named Jessica. This was her second marathon, and she was struggling just as much as I was. I remember her saying “Ok girlfriend here’s what we’re gonna do: we’re going to take this turn onto Hereford (OH HECK YES WE WERE) and then we’re gonna turn onto Boylston. And we’re not gonna stop until we hit that finish line”. With my new best friend beside me I picked up my feet and my pace.

Despite the rain pouring down my face I forced myself to keep my eyes wide open – I didn’t want to blink in fear that I would miss one second of this incredible view. A view that I had been waiting months, years to experience. A view I never in a million years thought I would get to experience first hand. Taking the left onto Boylston Street nearly took my breath away. The rain made it hard to see 10 feet in front of you, but I don’t think a blizzard could have blocked the view of that finish line. I’ll never forget how in that moment the pain I felt wasn’t in my legs anymore – it had moved to the smile on my face.

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I propelled myself forward, wimpering as I inched closer and closer. In my mind I was flying but I’m sure in reality I made a snail look like a Kenyan. I heard an airhorn and turned my head to see my friend’s parents waving and screaming. I laughed hysterically. After five hours, thirty two minutes and forty seven seconds I became a Boston Marathoner.

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Before I could even process what had just happened I saw in front of me the face I had been waiting 26.2 miles to see. Despite finishing roughly an hour and a half earlier my buddy had been there waiting patiently for me. And although my legs and my brain were disoriented the huge smile on her face told me the only thing I needed to know. I had done it. I had finished the marathon.

Although I was shivering and soaked through my clothes all I wanted was that glorious medal. I clutched her hand as I hobbled along and she asked if she could be the one to put it on me. The volunteer was not only kind enough to hand my medal over to her, but offered to take pictures of it all. I am so happy that I have these since things started to get a little blurry at this point, and in my heart this is how I had wanted it to end. It meant the world to me to have the person who has guided me along this journey be the one to place that medal around my neck.

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Unfortunately these are the only finish line pictures I have since after this I spent some quality time in the medical tent due to the fact that you know, I had just run 26.2 miles in the freezing cold rain. But once I finally got home that night I sat on the couch and just stared at the blue and yellow in my hand. I had dreamt of this for so long. And it had finally happened. I know it sounds absolutely cheesy but in that moment the words “You can do anything you set your mind to” had never rang truer. I had lost over 60 pounds. I became a runner. I trained through the worst winter Boston has ever seen. And I had just finished the Boston Marathon in the worst conditions. There’s no doubt in my mind that I can do absolutely anything now.

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People keep asking me “so what’s next?” and honestly right now I don’t know. All I know is that I want to stay in this moment a little longer, soak in this incredible accomplishment, and wear this jacket until the night flash threads wear thin. My legs are finally starting to feel better but my smile? Yeah that still hurts.

To Be Continued…

I told myself I would be ready to write this blog post and then… I ran a marathon. My body and mind are still racing from the events of the last 48 hours and I just don’t know how to find the words to describe it. So I’m gonna take one more day for my shoes to dry out, my legs to not have to take the stairs one at a time, and my brain to process this experience into a coherent post. I’ll be back tomorrow but for now – I’ll leave you with just this because my smile should say it all.

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