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.
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.
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. 🙂
Dear Half Ass,
The last of the gray snow piles are melting. The days are getting longer, the birds are once again becoming a familiar background noise. Around you everyone’s minds are turning to baseball season, flip flop weather, garden planning. And while these things are on your mind too there’s something else that these chilly spring evenings remind you of. Something even better.
It’s now been three years. Three years since that night you sucked in your breath (and your gut), wiped your sweaty palms, and walked through that door. Three years since you finally admitted that you wanted help, to change, a different lifestyle. In some way the memories of those days seem blurry- it’s hard to imagine life without sweat, burpees, long runs and sore muscles. But sometimes you remember every single detail of how truly hard those days were.
It’s been an incredible journey to watch – highs and lows, weight losses and gains. Training cycles, My Fitness Pal, bedtime stories, egg muffins. I sat back and winced as you struggled through your first mile, watched your face beam as you ran a 5K without stopping, saw you cross the finish line of your first half marathon. I saw you learn how to swim, become a triathlete. Watched your strength and confidence change as your body did. I saw the satisfaction in your face when your jeans slid down your waist, caught you discovering muscles in places you never knew existed. I cheered at the finish line as you cruised into PRs, and comforted you as you learned that not every race goes as planned. I watched you form the most incredible bonds with people you never expected to have anything in common with. At first you were nervous to trust them but you quickly learned how much they cared about you, how much they just want to see you succeed.
It’s hard to believe that three years ago you stood in Kenmore Square, in your tight fitting size 14 shorts, wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever run 26.2 miles … FOR FUN. It’s even harder to believe that in just 16 days you will join thousands of other athletes (which by the way, you are now too!) at the start line in Hopkinton. You will stand there knowing that you have trained just as long and just as hard as everyone else to run the greatest race in the world. You have changed your body, your lifestyle, your mind, all for this. You will make that epic trek from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. And when you cross that finish line you will have proved that you truly can do anything if you set your mind to it.
People like to joke about how you continue to celebrate this day, but you and I both know how important it is to you. Important that you celebrate, that you remember the journey it took to get to this place, and that it doesn’t stop here. I know I’m quick to judge you – to nag you that you run too slow or that your thighs are too big – but the truth is that I couldn’t be more proud of you. I don’t tell you that nearly enough.
The sky is the limit girlfriend. Happy Anniversary.
Like so many other Americans my Thanksgiving morning began with freezing my ass off at a turkey trot. The same race that I can now say I’ve run three consecutive years. And the same race where two years ago, I ran 3.1 miles without stopping for the first time .Which in my short little running career, is still my proudest moment. Although the Feaster 5 is absurdly crowded and an hour away, it’s now a tradition I simply can’t break.
Last year I decided to run the 5 Mile option with a friend, which to this day stands as my 5 Mile PR. I registered for the 5 Miler again this year with the direction to add on an extra mile to make it my “long run” for the week. (Is it lame that I always feel a little bad ass when I’m out there doing extra miles before the race even begins?). This year I wasn’t going for speed, but simply to enjoy myself and get in a good, solid run (which clearly hasn’t been happening too often lately).
As usual it was a freezing cold day, and this year had the bonus of being my first run in the snow. The first mile is chaotically crowded, and then the 5 Miler splits off for a bit and there’s finally space to breathe and think. It was a perfect time to look back at what I’ve accomplished since I was here two years ago, about what this race means to me now.
For the last mile the two distances sync back up and share the road to the finish. I don’t think that last mile will ever get old for me. It gives me goosebumps as I remember the feeling of pushing myself, knowing I wasn’t going to let those legs stop for once until I crossed the finish line. Or the feeling of my lungs bursting and my legs aching, but looking at my watch and knowing I wanted to finish faster than I ever had before. And even though this year didn’t bring any of those exciting firsts with it, it still put an extra pep in my step.
It’s clear that the lack of “exciting firsts” directly correlates to my lack of enthusiasm lately. And while Thursday didn’t produce any shiny new PRs or challenges, in reality I ran 6 solid miles in preparation for training for a MARATHON. The BOSTON marathon. On that same road two years ago I could barely run 3 miles and yet, here we are today, about to dig into this crazy new challenge. And that’s something I’m incredibly, incredibly proud of.
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.
In just three days I will put on the white dress I knew was mine from the minute I saw it. In three days I will walk down the grassy aisle, stand in front of my closest friends and family and declare my love for the boy I met eleven years ago this month. It still doesn’t feel real to me.
One would think it should have sunk in by now, since we’ve literally had the longest engagement in history (Ok maybe not the longest – but over two and a half years is a pretty long time). There were many factors in our endless engagement, some of which didn’t surface until after our decision, confirming my belief once again that everything happens for a reason. But the biggest factor was the girl I was on that bitterly cold February night.
I can make the joke now that he didn’t “slip the ring on” – because it was incredibly tight on my pudgy little finger. In the days after we got engaged I would take my ring off and assess the imprint it had left on my skin, the same way my jeans did. And I think that’s when the panic really set in. I couldn’t imagine myself in a white gown. I couldn’t think about standing in front of my closest friends and family, looking the way I did at that moment. The road from Point A to Point B was impossible.
We all know well by now that I did make it from Point A to Point B. And I couldn’t have made it there without this incredible guy by my side the entire journey. When I came home and told him that I had found a local studio that I thought would be the answer to all my problems his response was “Call them up!”. When I cried the first week because I was hungry and too sore to move he carefully portioned out my dinner for me, brought it to the table, and told me he was proud of me. He would leave water bottles in the freezer for when I got home from bootcamp that first summer. He celebrated every pound lost with me, and he reminded me of how far I had come whenever I got frustrated. He came to cheer me on at my first race, and has rarely missed one since. When I finished my first double digit run I crawled into the house to a card and a box of Lush bath supplies because he was so proud of me for sticking with it. I smile when I catch him talking about me to someone because even though he doesn’t know a thing about running, I can hear in his voice just how proud he is.
Sometimes I feel incredibly selfish for the amount of time I absorb in working out, training, running, racing. I feel guilty that I go to bed early on Friday nights because I have a long run on Saturday. I feel bad that sometimes I’m too tired and sore to do anything besides lay on the couch. But I know that at the end of the day I’m not just doing this for me. I’m doing this for us, for our future. Someday I want to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. I’m doing this because someday I want to be that mom whose kids are used to Saturday mornings in their jammies in the running stroller. I’m doing this because I want to show my children what it means to be strong, to face challenges, and to take care of your body. I want to grow old with the love of my life in the best way possible.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to put on that gorgeous white gown on Saturday. I know how much sweat, how many tears, how many miles and inches and pounds I have fought through to get to that dress. But the truth is- I’m more excited for what comes after that white dress. Excited for this new adventure together, excited to see what comes next. Andy has never seen me for anything other than the person he loves, even my worst times. But a relationship is that much stronger when you learn how to love yourself just as much.
And so in just three days I will begin both the shortest- and longest race of my life. A race that isn’t about how fast I get to the finish line, but enjoying it for as long as I possibly can. But just like everything else these days, it’s just right, left, right. 🙂
We all know I’m a sucker for anniversaries. I’m even more of a sucker for anniversaries where I can attach sappy symbolisms to them and with just 10 days to go to my wedding – I’m a sucker for anything soft and sappy lately.
Two years ago this weekend I ran my very first race, the Diva Dash (no judging). Fast forward two years and this weekend I will be running a 5K alongside the beginner running group I coached over the summer. How’s that for sappy symbolism?
You can’t help but stop here and ask “How the hell did this happen?”. At least I can’t. As I quickly flip through the images and events of the last two years it still comes as a shock to me. Road races, triathlons, half marathons… if you held a crystal ball two years ago I probably would have thrown it back in your face.
There’s so much about that first race that I never want to forget. I never want all that naïve goodness to disappear. It will always remind me where I came from. I knew practically nothing about running- I didn’t know about paces, or where a bib goes on your shirt. I had just gotten my first pair of “real” running shoes (which I didn’t wear for the race because I didn’t want to get them dirty) and I will admit now that I showered and did my hair before it because “I wanted to look cute”. I thought I needed to carb load the night before (truth be told- the fat kid in me just wanted an excuse to have pasta again). and I didn’t have a goal except that I wanted to finish. I was scared shitless.
And while I’m sitting here being all mushy and reminiscent there’s no way I couldn’t write about the person who got me across that first finish line. The one who two years later continues to push me across them- both physically and mentally. She is always a step ahead of me (more like 10 actually), and somehow always sees my potential miles before I can. I know I mention her all the time but she is every reason I’m here writing this today. It may not have taken a village to raise this runner – but it certainly took one hell of an individual.
Sometimes I catch myself saying something I’ve heard her say a million times and I smile. The thing about being a runner is you’ve got to pass on the tips and tricks that you learn along the way. I can only hope that someday I’ll be that person to someone else.
My birthday is always a bittersweet day because I consider it the last hurrah of summer. I know that right behind it are cool mornings, earlier sunsets and pumpkin everything. This year my birthday symbolizes even more changes: the last few days as a “single” woman, a brand new age group for races, a whole new decade in my life. That’s right – today I turn 30.
I know that a lot of people freak out over the jump from your twenties to your thirties but I actually feel ready for it. I look back at who I was when I turned 20 versus who I am today and all that happened in between – and I am astounded. In my twenties I graduated from college, I went through the growing pains of independence and becoming an adult. I got a little too drunk with my friends, I spent a little too much money on cover charges and bar tabs. I bought my own car. I moved through jobs and career ladders, eventually stumbling into an organization I wake up excited to start my day at. I fell in love, and eventually realized it was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I watched as my friends fell in love, watched as our circle moved from dance floors to kitchen tables in new homes. I discovered fitness, health, happiness, confidence. I became a runner. I ran my first 5K, dozens more road races, my first triathlon, THREE half marathons. Despite the ups and downs of the last ten years I will never look back at my twenties with regret.
So bring on the thirties. Bring on married life and all the love, happiness, and hard shit that comes with a new last name and a wedding band. Bring on real adulthood – mortgage payments, home improvement, and children (that statement is officially petrifying). Bring on more kitchen table parties, for that means our circle of friends is growing older together. Bring on even crazier fitness goals – the ones that make your eyes glisten because you never imagined that they would ever happen to you. Bring on proving that I can get even faster, even stronger, even more confident as I get older.
30, I’m ready for you.
This little old journey of mine has been made up of hundreds of moments. Some of them good, some of them bad, all of them teaching me invaluable lessons along the way. Timberman this past weekend was no exception. I think it’s safe to say I felt almost every emotion possible in a 12 hour span.
Race day started far beyond bright and early, with a wake up of 4am. I put on the clothes I had laid out the night before, checked my backpack one last time, and we headed out into the dark. Because I knew there was practically half a day before I would have to run I was nervous, but more nervous for my buddy (who was doing the full 70.3) than I was for myself. I was preoccupied for the first few hours as I watched people set up their transition areas, adjusted wetsuits, and hugged my friends goodbye as they made their way to the start. Every time I heard the air horn send a wave into the water my stomach did a flip. That sound meant the day had officially begun.
I cheered as the swimmers crawled back to shore and made their way to transition. The cyclist in our relay team headed out and I said goodbye to my friend as she took off on her bike. That’s when I realized how many hours I had to kill. And that I was alone. And that’s when the panic set in.
I wrapped my legs up in a sweatshirt (Wish I had thought to put comfy sweats over my running shorts) and curled into a ball at a picnic table. I glanced at my watch and couldn’t believe how slow time was moving. I felt my breathing get more and more panicked as I tried to envision 13.1 miles. And then in true half ass fashion, I put my head down and started to cry. I wanted it to be over, I wanted my fiancee there, I wanted my comfort beside me telling me I could do it. I wanted anything but to be sitting alone at that table staring at a war-zone transition area.
Luckily before I became an all out disaster our relay swimmer found me and snapped me out of it. We spent some time watching the elite athletes and then found a shady spot near the relay corral to wait for the bike to come in. Bless her soul for allowing me to ramble on about stupid things to calm my nerves. With no exact way of knowing how soon I could start running I paced in the corral until it was time. We exchanged the chip, high- fived each other, and I took a deep breath as I headed out. Show time.
Originally I thought that the “double loop, out and back” course would mess with my head, but I ended up appreciating it. In my mind breaking the race up into 4 5Ks seemed manageable so I forced myself to only think about one leg at a time. I took in the scenery (the spectators and signs were awesome!), kept my pace steady, and even made a friend for a while. Towards the end of the first leg I heard someone yell my name and looked up to see my buddy on her bike across the street. I smiled and felt a little piece of the alone-ness melt away.
I proudly stomped on the timing mat as I ran around the first loop. 1 down, 3 to go. On the way back I timed my water/beans perfectly, and was even able to take them down without having to stop running for the first time in my life. I’m sure the water stop volunteer appreciated my jig as I ran by. Shortly before the halfway point I heard my name again and looked up to see my buddy smiling as she ran towards me. As always, she yelled exactly what I needed to hear and I made myself run a little taller. If she could swim 1.2 miles, bike 56, be in the middle of a half marathon and STILL have the energy to yell at me – I could do this. She is my all star, always.
The turn around was the worst. All of the runners made their way down the same grassy path, with crowds on either side and the music blasting. A woman stood in the middle directing traffic: finishers to the left, 2nd lap runners to the right. I growled at her as I ran by, but tried to remind myself that the faster I ran the faster I would be there too.
5K #3 was tough. Limbs started to get heavy and tired and the realization that I was only half way done set in. The mind games rolled around my head until I crossed the timing mat again. One lap to go and I would be done. Time to dig in. Time to prove myself.
I was slow but determined those last few miles. No matter how much I wanted to stop I reminded myself how close I was, I visualized the finish line. I started going through the list of things in my head that I said I’d never be able to do- and have done. I passed my buddy one last time and as we slapped hands she yelled “GO GET THAT MEDAL!”. I smiled as I felt the tears come on again. But this time, they were warm and happy.
As I rounded the last few bends I started to hear the music again, noticed the crowd getting thicker. My smile grew bigger and bigger and as I passed the woman directing traffic I yelled “STAYING TO THE LEFT!”. She just laughed. I heard people cheering. I heard my name being yelled by my friends parents. I passed by the other two members of my relay team who were jumping up and down and cheering. I don’t think my smile could have gotten any bigger. My face actually hurt more than my legs as I crossed the finish line.
With my medal around my neck and a bottle of water in my hand I stopped, despite the crowd still around me. I only noticed two people in that park: the girl I used to be and the girl who had just finished a half marathon of a Half Ironman. The thing that seemed impossible was over. And I had done it. All on my own. I smiled, I laughed, I cried big, fat, happy tears. I was just so proud.
Despite my “speedy” long runs the last few weeks sadly I didn’t pull off an impressive PR on Sunday. I am still a very slow half marathoner. But I am starting to understand distance running. I am starting to learn what it means to dig deep and push yourself to the finish line. Starting to learn that your legs can out run your mind. Starting to believe in myself. And you know what? All of those things are worth far more than any PR.