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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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Ready … or Not.

“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?

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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.

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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.

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But what if I can?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

Life is messy. So is marathon training.

Anyone who’s run a marathon, or who maybe hasn’t run a mile in their life, has given me their advice, wisdom, and two-cents since I announced that I was going to be training for Boston. Some of it has stuck. Some of it hasn’t. But there’s one nugget of wisdom in particular that has been keeping me (somewhat) sane during these last few weeks: “Life is like marathon training, it rarely goes according to plan”.

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I like planning. I like for things to go according to said plan. I absolutely hate when things are out of my control. I’m only human.

Most of us start things with the best of intentions. At the beginning of a new semester we declare that we will do every reading assignment. At the start of a new relationship we tell ourselves that we’ll never nag our significant other. On New Years Day we make a vow to go to the gym 5 days a week, to eat more veggies and drink more water. A few days or weeks in, and those plans have shifted. We get sick. We get busy. We fall behind. Life happens.

When I copied that first week into my training log I envisioned every week looking as neat as my handwriting on the page. And then injury happened. Deep freezes and nearly 8 feet of snow. Long runs cancelled. Swims instead of runs. Routes changed. Treadmill miles. There’s been a lot more crossing out in my training log than I anticipated. And that’s the stuff that tends to throw me into panic mode. There have been quite a few times where I’ve thrown my hands up and cried “This isn’t what I signed up for! This isn’t how I expected it to go.”

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Clear, safe roads in the cemetery means this is my new running view.

And then I realize what a princess I sound like, and I try to bring it back to reality. Life doesn’t always go according to Plan A or B. Sometimes it’s not until Plan G rolls around that things work out. All you can really do is hope for the best, work with what you’ve got, and appreciate the little things. A room of friends, family, and even strangers who are gathered simply to support you. Running buddies who will delay their pancake eating just to wait for you to finish your slowpoke miles. The way a hot shower and pjs feel after a run when its -2 degrees. The feeling of pushing yourself that last half mile when all you wanted to do was quit. Having someone in your life who will stay up way past their bedtime just to calm your doubts and fears. Random conversations that say “Hey, I believe in you. You can really do this”. These are the little things, the things I need to remember when training gets tough.

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My first fundraising event last Sunday.

Life is messy. Life is complicated. Life is challenging, beautiful, and tear inducing for all of those reasons.
So is marathon training.
And that’s what makes it all worth it.

This is exhausting.

Remember just a week ago when I was all hopped up on motivation, marathon jackets and munchkins? Yeah, that’s gone now. Buried under feet and feet of snow to be more accurate. This (to quote my favorite singer and all-time girl crush) – this is exhausting.

It’s been almost a month of snow storm after snow storm. In between storms there’s deep freezes. Cross training has become shoveling snow to banks that loom far over my head. There are barely street to drive on, let alone sidewalks to run on. And in between the shoveling, pushing my little Corolla out of snow ditches, and commutes that have nearly tripled in time, I still have to figure out how to train for a marathon.

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Can you find the street sign?

I want to quickly throw in a disclaimer that I know there that there are problems MUCH bigger problems in the city of Boston than not being able to run right now. People can’t get to work, roofs are caving in every hour, and businesses are losing money. But this is my little space to vent, and this is my challenge right now. Training for Boston isn’t just something that can wait until the snow melts.

My “F this S” moment came late Saturday afternoon, in the middle of a snowy cemetery. This was now my second long run that had become a chaotic “just try and get the miles in before the blizzard hits”. I had spent the last 11 miles trudging through snow banks, out of breath from running up Heartbreak Hill and from the wind blowing another storm in. I was cold and achy and – OVER IT. I absolutely love running – until I want to stop. And then I absolutely hate it.

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I got to meet Johnny. He’s thinking warm thoughts.

I’m now three weeks “behind” in mileage. I wake up in the middle of the night frantically checking the weather to see if there’s been any updates to the weekend forecast. I haven’t run in my neighborhood in almost a month. I’ve spent more hours on the treadmill than I ever thought I would in my life. I knew training for a marathon was going to be hard. I knew that training for a marathon in the winter was going to be hard. I knew that training for the Boston Marathon was going to be hard. But sometimes this all just feels damn near impossible.

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So thankful for running buddies.

It was standing there in that cemetery that every fear I’ve been holding in came oozing out of my brain, and then out of my mouth. “What if my body just isn’t made to handle 26 miles? What if – what if I just can’t do this?” The fears have been circling in my brain long before training began but I don’t dare say them out loud. I’m the one that wanted this, I’m the one who declared “I WILL do this!” I shouldn’t be allowed to be standing among snow covered graves questioning my ability in the middle of February. I signed up for this shit, all on my own free will. But yet there I stood, wanting to be anywhere but there.

I keep telling myself that eventually the snow will eventually stop, my mental game will turn around, things will get better. But as I say this I’m stalking the weather for another storm this weekend, hoping that I get my long run in and that my fundraiser isn’t cancelled for a second time. “Spring” is just a month away, and the Marathon just a month after that. Ain’t nobody got time for this.

The things in my back pocket for a snowy day.

In case you are reading this and don’t live in the Boston area (or have been hibernating under a rock) – we’ve gotten a lot of snow over the last two weeks. A lot doesn’t even begin to describe it actually. A SHIT TON OF SNOW.

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I don’t know whether I want to cry or laugh hysterically at the fact that the year I decide I’m going to try and run a marathon Boston gets HISTORIC snowfall amounts. If this isn’t Mother Nature’s hint that I should go back to being a fat kid- I don’t know what is.

But as much as I’d like to throw in the towel, or better yet, curl up in it and take a nap until I can see grass again – that just isn’t an option. Cus’ this thing is really happening – as confirmed every time I open the fridge.

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So I’ve put together this little list of things that are helping to keep me motivated and excited during these dark, cold, snow covered weeks. My back pocket toolkit if you will.

… Searching “Boston Marathon” videos on Youtube. There’s nothing like Go Pro footage of someone breathing heavily as they make their way down Boylston to help me imagine what it’s going to feel like.

… If I wasn’t training for Boston I probably would have missed the gorgeousness of this run. I might despise winter but sometimes it can be beautiful – and a reminder of all you’d be missing if you just stayed in bed.

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… The growing “Do not wear until April 20th” section of my closet. I have the best people in my life.
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… The people I’m running for. Like this amazing woman who I think of every time I curl up with this quilt.

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… My new collection of Mantrabands. I’m obsessed.
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… This music video on repeat.

… Post long run splurges. Truth: they taste even better when shared with a best friend.

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…And of course the goosebumps I get every time I walk by this.

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…And think about one of these around my neck.

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COME ON SPRING!

Into the unknown.

It took a week longer than I planned but it finally happened….I broke past 13.1! After a few days of rest (which was strongly enforced by Mother Nature in the form of 3 feet of snow), I was finally able to do some test runs on the treadmill. And when the pain didn’t return I got the much anticipated green light for my long run. Wohoo!

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As I laid out my clothes and packed my bag Saturday night the usual nervous butterflies started to creep in. The fact that I was finally going to run beyond the half marathon distance was pretty daunting. I kept thinking about how miserable I’ve gotten towards the end of every single half marathon. I thought about how I had to run further than that. And then I remembered how I felt just a week prior, devastated that I wasn’t spending my night preparing for my long run the next morning. That shut the butterflies right up.

Sunday morning was a balmy 14 degrees, with a real feel around zero. I was pretty nervous as we headed out, especially since it had been over a week since I’d run outside. Magically my feet still knew exactly what to do. The miles ticked by painlessly. Once we hit the water stop that was my cue to turn around and head back (I was cutting off a mile since I had missed the week before). I kept reminding myself that I was already halfway done and still feeling good. And just as my legs started getting tired I hit the stretch of Comm Ave where the CITGO sign looms above you. Instantly I felt goosebumps flow through my body. Suddenly my legs weren’t so tired anymore. If there was ever a “Holy shit, I’m training to run the BOSTON *%&!-ing MARATHON!”, it was this one. I’m glad the snow banks were high enough that people couldn’t see me cackling up the sidewalk. I finished the run tired and sore, but still alive.

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Clearly not my picture as there is not a flake of snow to be seen.

 

I have a feeling that time is going to fly by from here on out. For months it felt like the Marathon was a stove pilot- there, but not much was happening. Suddenly it feels like everything is picking up. The miles are just going to get higher and higher. In just over a month I’ll attempt my longest training run. My first fundraising event is happening this weekend. I just keep telling myself to take a deep breath and take it all one day at a time, one mile at a time, one step at a time.

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75 days to go!