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Posts Tagged ‘Why Do I Run?’

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Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

I remember receiving all kinds of text messages, phone calls, and facebook messages last year asking if I was in Boston.  Thankfully I was not.  I could not imagine being there during the bombings.  My heart went out to everyone there and continues to go out to everyone it affected, especially those who were physically or emotionally hurt.  I wasn’t there physically, but it still hit close to home.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Yankee as a person from New England.  I am most definitely a Yankee.  I grew up in Monson, Massachusetts (about an hour west of Boston) where I spent the first 22 years of my life.  We had Patriot’s Day (Marathon Monday) off from school and always watched the Boston Marathon on television.  My dream as I became a runner at age 11 was to run it one day.  I have run it five times so far in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2011, and 2014.

After last year’s bombings, I wanted to be part of the 118th running of the Boston Marathon more than ever.  Luckily I had already run a fast enough qualifying time in January 2013 to register and make the cut.  My husband and I decided to make Boston our vacation this year and spent almost a week enjoying the true history of our great nation that can only be found in New England.  Somehow the whole experience, despite it being my fifth time there, seemed more exciting and special than ever before.  Maybe it was the fight, the spirit, and the determination to show that we were one year stronger.  It was literally all around us.

We spent four hours at the expo.  We have never spent so much time at an expo before but there were so many amazing people to meet, including Dick & Rick Hoyt, Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway, Deena Kastor, Kara Goucher, and one of my favorites “Boston Billy” Bill Rodgers.

Boston Marathon Expo with Deena


At the expo with “Boston Billy” Bill Rodgers


Team Hoyt


The weather was pretty cold for this Yankee who has lived in Florida since 1995, but race day warmed up to a near perfect 60 degrees and sunny.  Everything was pretty much perfect the whole trip.  Even my first half splits were near perfect; sadly, a little too perfect on those down hills.  I did try to hold back and stay relaxed like you need to that first half.  I had a pretty strong emotional moment in the first three or four miles when we ran by a large crowd outside a bar screaming, holding signs, and blaring music.  When I reached half way, I knew my legs were toast and this would not be a good second half.  Despite how annihilated my legs were with 13 miles to go, I never even considered dropping out.  I knew I had to finish and be part of the 36,000 who were there to show that we were one year stronger.  I am a very competitive runner so it was quite the epiphany for me to stop caring about my finish time or mile splits and push through the pain for something so much bigger than myself.

Running down Boylston to the finish

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston.  Words cannot adequately describe the feeling you get when you turn left on Boylston and can see the finish line.  You cannot hear your own thoughts.  I almost had tears running that last stretch to the finish.  I am definitely not happy with my finish time, but I was incredibly happy to have finished Boston Strong.  This city, this marathon truly inspired me.

Exhausted in the Public Garden after the finish


Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Back in March The Tornado Alley 50 Miler race director emailed me back to let me know that I could run the entire distance myself and that I did not need a relay team but I would need to provide my own crew and fuel.  Okay, now how do I train for this thing?!?

Talk about uncharted territory!  26.2 miles is the longest I have ever run in a race or a training run.  So I did some research on how to train for ultras.  I took some of the ideas I found along with what I have learned over the years and created a training plan that looked great on paper.  I kept the 3 month training schedule right next to my desk so I would see it daily and stick to it.

Consistency is key.  That’s probably the most important tip I can offer.  And that does not mean the schedule is set in stone.  Definitely listen to your body, take rest days as needed, and revise the schedule to fit your life.  But be consistent.

In March and April I had quite a few races on my calendar so I used those in place of some of the tempo and speed workouts.  I started doing back to back long runs in order to teach my body to run on tired legs.  This worked great for many weeks in this pattern – rest day, long run, long run, rest day and then the remainder of the week filled in with some easy runs, tempo or speed, and maybe a race.  But as the long runs got longer and longer I found that I sometimes I needed two rest days in a row before or after my longer efforts.  Some weeks when I was putting in 4-5 hour training runs (25-31 miles) I could not handle them back to back.  So I made the schedule fit what my body could handle.  I was training in Florida which featured many hot, sunny, and humid training days.

I trained at various times of day so my body could adapt to running at the different times.  I was ready for any sun, heat, or humidity that race day might bring.  I trained using all of my drinks and fuel options so I would know how my body would react to them all.

Once I reached the start of the taper, about three weeks out from race day, I was a little concerned that my longer runs were single day runs with two rest days around them and I was not able to do as many back to back long runs as I had originally planned.  But I have found that over thinking things is pretty typical for taper weeks – too much time on my hands so I start to question everything.

But I headed into race week healthy, well trained, and rested.  I had some of my best sleep the week before the race.  I have never felt so well prepared before.

Forgetful bliss

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

I couldn’t agree more with Frank Shorter, 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist:  “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another.  Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”  I have not felt the inspiration to blog and to be honest, have not really felt it in my running since that last post about Boston either.

One thing that triggered my inspiration to write was delivered by the mail carrier this week:  2011 Boston Marathon Racers’ Record Book and certificate of completion with my official time and place.  Results on the web specifically state that they are unofficial until we receive this book and certificate in the mail.  The B.A.A. is clever.  They know that whether you had a good or bad race at Boston, the experience and the memories are the good things that we remember.  By mid July, enough time has passed since the race so we forget how much it may have hurt.  Now we have this record of wonderful memories, results, photos, and that certificate.

And to be honest, I have forgotten how painful my last 4 miles at Boston were.  I mean, I know they hurt, but it’s not a vivid memory where I can practically still feel that pain.  In May, I was still feeling it.  But now, I just think about how I can better prepare for the next one.  Yes, there will be a next one.  I guess that’s the thing about runners.  We just can’t stop trying to attain those P.R.s or reach whatever other goals we may set.

I have reviewed my training for Boston and have made notes about what to do differently when training for my next marathon in November.  The marathon is such a major life event.  Even if you are just running it for “fun” or running it with someone and helping to pace them, you still have hours, months, and many, many miles to devote to it.  Marathon training, adequate sleep, and proper nutrition are all demands that end up taking time away from family, friends, work, school, and social life.  When race day rolls around, I often think about all the time devoted to the training.  That coupled with the pain during the race make me swear off marathons!  Then enough time passes and I seem to be signing up for that next one.  When will I learn?  ;)

Running clubs and why I run

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

When I first started running I guess it was as part of a club – my Girl Scout troop was working towards a fitness badge.  The next year I joined my school’s cross country team.  I raced as part of a team in high school but also raced as an individual in road races and track since we did not have a track team.  Then off to college where I raced as part of Brown University’s team in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track, but I also raced as an individual in a few road races.  After graduating in 1995, I decided to tackle the marathon and so began my long solo journey into road racing.

For years I trained and raced alone in Florida and enjoyed it.  In 2001 I moved to the south of France to attend the International University of Monaco’s MBA program and had high hopes of joining their athletics team and training on the beautiful all weather track inside Stade Louis II.  But it just didn’t work out due to the vibe of the team, the language barrier, and my crazy MBA schedule.  So I looked for the next best thing – road races!  I went online to search for local road races to train for and only found the Monaco Marathon.  So I trained solo for that, raced it, and thoroughly enjoyed it with my future husband and MBA friends/classmates there to meet me at the finish line which was on the track inside Stade Louis II.  So I did get to run on that beautiful track!  ;)

But by November 2001 the Monaco Marathon was over and there were no other local races to do.  So when I went home for Christmas break I searched the race calendar in the good old USA.  I chose races I could do over Spring break when I would be back in the states and also looked ahead past graduation when I would be home in the summer of 2002.  This gave me something to focus my training on when I was back in Monaco, studying, going to class, and enjoying the amazing Riviera.

Flash forward past the June 2002 MBA graduation, a little travel in July with my fiancé, then back to Florida to finalize the August wedding preparations and race more!  After the wedding we were back in Chicago since that was where my hubby’s job was and I was settling into my new city, being back in the USA, and of course seeking out the local running scene.  Chicago has an amazing running scene!  So many specialty running stores, running clubs, and so many road races!!!!  I’m not sure why I never joined any of the running clubs, maybe because I had so much more success and fewer injuries when I trained by myself and could listen to my body rather than do whatever a coach told me or do whatever the rest of the team was doing.

In December 2002 I joined my first running club as an adult because they offered a discounted entry fee for club members for this race I wanted to run in when I was going to be in Florida for Christmas.  I knew we would move back home to Florida eventually, which is why I decided to get involved with this Florida running club even though I was still living in Chicago.

Once we moved back to Florida in 2003 I was very actively involved in the club for many years and became very good friends with other members.  Part of me thought, why didn’t I do this sooner?!?  As the years went by I was more invested and started to get defensive if I ever heard criticism of the club – positive or negative.  After many active years with this club I recently stepped back and dialed down my involvement to let others have a chance at leading the way and carrying the workload.

The most important thing I realize now is that running clubs can be amazing, life changing, friend finding, support systems but they can also suck the life out of you if you’re not careful with how much you give.  So I urge everyone to seek out all the running clubs in your area and join them!  Step up once in a while and do your part to support the greater mission of those clubs – promoting health, fitness, running, walking, etc.  Support your community!  Be part of the good that those clubs are doing.

Just remember as with any group or club out there, don’t let the politics and pettiness of a few members spoil things for you.  Don’t let the club take over your life and define you.  It’s easy to let it happen when you are so passionate about running.

Take that step back and remember why you run – for yourself, for your own health, fitness, well being, sanity, and family, to satisfy a competitive drive within you, to run away from disease, to rack up the hardware and PRs, to make your life more fulfilling, to spend time with friends, or whatever your reasons may be.  I run to be free.  I run to become the person I am meant to be each day.  Sometimes when fully invested in a running club it might be difficult to find our personal running identity.  When I took a step back, it was actually refreshing to find myself again and to run on my own, to run away, if you will.  I still run with the club when it fits my schedule but I no longer feel the obligation to go to all the club training runs.  I now remember why I run.

I have since joined three other local running clubs and thoroughly enjoy the camaraderie and great friends I have made in all of the clubs.  I have the opportunity to drop in at a wide variety of group training runs, run in a variety of races put on by these clubs, and enjoy reading all of their club newsletters and web sites and sharing in the experiences of so many different members.  Being a member of multiple running clubs is definitely the best of both worlds – running clubs and running alone.  You can share in the running community, training runs, races, and social events while training however you choose (solo, with a partner, or with a group).  Just don’t let the excitement of joining a running club and belonging to a group that seems as passionate as you are about running turn into obligation down the road.  Be supportive of your club but keep your personal mission and goals a priority.  Always remember why you run.  And seriously, keep it fun!!!  :)


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