Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rolling hills

Rolling hills provide some of the best terrain for training. Runners gain strength as their legs work to climb up, only to trash their quads on the descent back down. One can really get into a nice groove with the undulating hills. While flat is always equated with fast, the hills prevent muscles from stiffening up, from repeating the same action time and time again. One of my favorite DC races, the Pike's Peek 10k has these rolling hills, and that's where my 10k PR came from. Even if you are running on the same road, the rolling hills change things up, and provides an interesting view along the way.
Running, writing, and the dissertation all overlap in so many ways. So often, many people have made running analogies when talking about the dissertation, including the over-used "It's a marathon, not a sprint." I know what they are getting at: the arduous work, the moments of doubt, the joy at the end. However, I have finished six marathons: all under four hours. I started regularly running September 2008 and completed my first marathon six months later. This Ph.D. is taking a whole lot longer. I even got an e-mail the other day with the following headline: http://writetodone.com/runners-guide-better-writing/ The two do share a lot in common.
Both running and writing take a similar emotional toll: a veritable roller coaster ride of emotions.The excitement and anticipation in the beginning, the fear in the middle, the triumph in the end.
I'm rolling along in my dissertation, but with that comes the roller coaster of feelings. Last week, I was on a footnote scavenger hunt (a book referenced another book that I thought would be useful). As I read the author's analysis of one of the sources integral to my dissertation, some of the comments that author made started to sound too familiar - was part of my argument already made by someone? I kept reading, closely, waiting to see where her winding road of an argument went. Whoosh! It just just a slight turn, focusing on a different area, and I was saved! Phew! Plus, I could factor her points into my argument, and show how there was a clear distinction. Now that my stomach's knots could unravel, I went back and started reading the chapter from the beginning. I was hooked now, taking notes and the synapses and neurons were firing away. My muscles relaxed and I moved on.  
That up and down, all around emotion has now become a regular part of my dissertation life. The highs are great, the lows are what wake up my brain in the middle of the night. But the promise of the finish line is what keeps me moving. I have two friends who, all three of us could potentially finish and graduate at the same time. The thought of the three of us, in full academic regalia, standing in front of the National Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (that is where commencement is held for us), smiling and relieved from crossing this finish line, is often what gets me to return to the keyboard and the book again and again. 

Off to make another climb...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

When it really is a fun run: Our Lady of Good Counsel 5k 2014

This is just short and sweet, as all as my running late has been:
In continuing my fun fall, I've picked up where I last left off: about 5 days of running per week, 40 miles for the past 3 weeks. This week, I cut it down to 35 miles, figuring take 3 steps forward, 1 step back. That's what I've always done: 3 harder weeks, and then a cutdown week. 
I did cutdown this week, but I also signed up for my church's fun run. I figured I would treat it as a race, again, without doing any real speed work, but just building back consistent running and a base. My church is only 3 miles from where I live, so in keeping green, I ran over to the race on Saturday. It's funny: I've done so many road races of all shapes and sizes. Local races that gather a few hundred people, regional races of a couple thousand, and the international-size Boston Marathon. Each bring their own character, and that even changes year to year. This was as home-grown as you can get. No bibs, no chip-timers, no mile markers. There was also a fun 1 mile run/walk for the kids, and they were all so excited getting ready for it. As I was warming up, I could hear a few of them chattering. One of them said "My mom does marathons..." and then proceeded to explain to the others how far that was, and it was so cute hearing them so impressed. These were also kids who would later cheer for their teachers who ran in the race: looks like they had some good role models. Something to keep in mind for the future. I lined up next to some high school girls and their mom (who asked what cross-country team I was on...she was shocked to learn I was 28) in the front of the oh, say, 50-60 people who were there for the race. With this being a church-sponsored race, it began with a prayer - always a nice way to start the day. And with the ringing of the school bell, we were off.
I had a feeling going into this race that I would do very well, as this race wasn't really publicized beyond our church. And within about 100 meters of starting, I was the third person, not third woman, but third person. Guy #1 was way in the distance, but I spent the first mile or so chasing after guy #2, then passing him strongly with a 6:14 first mile. This turned into more of a solo run that happened to be accompanied by the occasional police officer blocking off traffic or signaling which way to turn. It was a beautiful fall morning: high 50s, sun was shining, and I was running on the streets and trails of my new home in Vienna. Again, I still feel like it's a lot of work, and the second mile (according to my watch) was 6:45, so clearly even pacing wasn't a factor. I finished as the second person in 19:05, but my watch said 2.9 miles...so not quite a full 5k. That's 6:34 pace, and the equivalent of a 20:23 5k. I got a $30 gift certificate to Chili's, and then ran home, stretching out the run to make the day's work add up to 9 miles for the day. 
It was what it was, a fun run. Good to remember to support all races: big and small.
And speaking of big: amazing to hear that there is a new world record in the marathon - 2:02:57! I was in Boston in 2011 when the world best was set (2:03:02) and I remember being so stunned by that. Similarly, I was shocked to wake up this morning and read about the first ever sub 2:03 marathon at Berlin - the human body can do amazing things!
I was sad to hear that Shalane Flanagan did not break the American Record at Berlin, despite setting a new PR and coming in 3rd. She put it all out there: telling the press that that was her primary goal, and running gutsy (like she always does) in her best effort. Her post-race remark provides good food for thought for all of us: “This will aid me in future marathons,” she said. “Progress is always good, and this year I’ve dropped four minutes off my marathon time. I’ll look at my training and maybe work on being a little bit tougher in those last few miles. I'll take another shot at some point. Sometimes, it takes a couple of swings.” 
Keep on swinging!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Getting back in the saddle: Navy Federal 5k 2014

The last time I raced was April 27th, and the last speed work session I did was Easter Vigil (April 19th). That was the last time I was on a regular schedule for training, and I've said enough times already that there were enough valid reasons this summer to fall off the wagon. But, in seeing people post on Facebook their progress, and seeing great success from friends, it has been pulling me back into the desire to consistently get runs in. I do have to acknowledge and recognize that it may be the first year that I don't nab any PRs (unless I sign up for some obscure distance that I've never done before) since I started running. I'm making as much peace with that, as much as my type A tendencies will allow. That being said, I decided to sign up for a 5k, certain of completing the distance, uncertain where I stood in terms of time. I figured that while I was absent of speed for 5 months, something still had to be preserved. After all, some of the great pregnant athletes back and were able to regain their speed after months of running slow. I don't know scientifically how much fitness you lose and at what rate, but I figured I couldn't have lost it all. And yes, it probably would make more sense to get some solid speed workouts in (at least some 90 second fartleks thrown in), but I just wanted to race, get a sense truly where my fitness was at, and then go from there.

So, on Saturday I ran the Navy Federal 5k. I ran it last year in 19:59 and came in second. I knew it was a slow course, because that time came after a 19:10 PR and I was in really good shape. I figured since I came under 20 by the skin of my teeth last year, sub 21 was a good A goal, with sub 22 as a reasonable B goal. I threw in a few sprints in my shake-out run yesterday, hoping the legs would remember what a sub 7:00/mile feels like. I was happy that we live close enough that I could run there for my warmup. I positioned myself near the front of the start, saw two women who looked comparable in terms of general appearance, stood near them, and hoped that I wouldn't embarrass myself too much.

Boom! And we were off - in the first minute, as people are swarming around, sprinting like it's a 200 meter dash, and I'm realizing that I am just hoping to hang on. The two women go way out in front of me, one about 200 meters ahead, another about 100. In the first mile, I ran alongside one woman and passed her, and then felt very comfortable in third place. It was a welcome change of temperature - low 60s and cloudy - summer is finally ending! I went through the first mile in 6:29 - whoa! Not setting records by any means, but haven't seen a 6 in months and months. I've run some races where I've been somewhat uncertain of my ability to hold a pace, but there was a big question mark floating above me as I ran - wondering if this was too ambitious and fearing an impending blow-up. Things were relatively spread out at this point, so it was my goal to just pick off guys one by and just maintain this pace. Mile 2: 12:59 - nearly dead on, and looking like I'm squarely in third and able to hit my A-goal. This part of the course has a lot of turns and some hills, so while my pace slowed down, I was making good progress and passing a few guys. The last part of the course (last half mile or so) is part of one of my regular running routes, so I jumped in full-speed, passing 2 more guys in the final stretch and was pretty pleased with my finish:
20:52
6:42 pace
3rd woman and 19th overall (out of 808)

Wahoo! While it is the slowest 5k I've run in 3 years, it was less than a minute slower than I ran it last year. I broke even financially, as I got $25 for third place in a big check, a trophy, and had a great morning. I did look ridiculous with all of this in a drawstring bag as I ran home, check in one hand, bag bouncing behind me, but it almost must've been pretty funny to see. It's Wednesday when I'm finishing this, and my legs are still a bit sore - proof it's been a while since they've pushed that hard.
I need to start doing regular workouts again, in addition to just easy runs, but this was overall a great way to ease back into racing. Looking forward to more races this fall!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A decade ago...

On August 28, 2004, I moved into Hanselman 340 at the College of the Holy Cross for my freshmen year of college. I was a bundle of nervous, excitement, every emotion possible. I was excited to meet my roommate and set up my room (we're sitting on my bed), I was nervous about going somewhere where I didn't know anyone or my way around, I had mixed feelings about leaving my family behind, the friends I had known and loved for years. But this was the college I had dreamed of going to and I finally arrived. I knew I wanted to study history, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, and beyond that, I didn't know much.
First day of college a decade ago
Those first few days were a blur of orientation mixers, ice breakers, hall meetings, first classes, and a thousand feelings. And this place became my home for four years:
View of campus from my room
It was at Holy Cross where I became a better writer, it was where I turned into a medievalist, I became an RA and interested in student affairs, I sang in three choirs and made a lot of great friends. I took classes with professors whose books and assignments still resonate with me today. It's because of them that I dropped the idea of law school (what a relief) and decided to become a professor.
Our school gave us journals on the first day of school, with check-in prompts that we could answer a few times per semester. I always did those prompts, and wrote in-between those as well, reflecting on who I was becoming, my fears and concerns (grades and my future were the big winners - some things don't change), and it's all bound up in a purple journal at my parents house. I've looked at it from time to time, and all of the emotions come crashing right back. I wrote about wanting to find love, and meeting the great guy. That didn't happen in college, but nearly a decade later.
I had concerns and interests about staying in shape: trying to go to the gym a few times a week, but without any sense of purpose or real enjoyment. 
As I was reflecting back about the past ten years, and also reading about the class of 2018 preparing for their arrival to Holy Cross, it came to my attention that I wasn't the only one reflecting on the passing of a decade.
It was also the tenth anniversary of when Meb Keflezghi earned the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon and brought home a medal for the first time in nearly three decades. He blogged about his decade as well: https://www.facebook.com/MarathonMeb and while the whole article was excellent, it was his conclusion that really stuck with me:
Some things take longer than we want to achieve or accomplish, but just because they don’t happen in your time, doesn’t mean they will never happen. Never give up on your dreams, but also never give up working to make your dream become a reality.
And if that's something I can remember for the next decade, and also advise the newly-arrived class of 2018, it's that accomplishments and progress take time: the dream doesn't become a reality overnight. Grad school has been a slow process: yes with peaks along the way, but it's been years in the making, and the end isn't quite in sight. I did not meet my husband in college, and there were years of wondering when that would happen too. I did not graduate college thinking that within a year, I would run a marathon, let alone qualify for Boston in eighteen months. 
There are bumps along the way, and there are days when the dream seems out of reach, and on those days, it's hard to see whatever medal of victory, be it a marathon medal, a degree, a family, dangles ahead of us. I know I've had those days of doubt and uncertainty. But on a weekend like this, when I've just come home from my honeymoon (Bahama cruise - it was wonderful!) and begun my third year of teaching, it's also important to remember the joy of hitting those milestones as well. And hopefully in a decade, I can dig this up and smile, laughing at what's happened from 2014-2024!
Bahama cruise!
A decade later, still can fit in this shirt, new roommate!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Relief in the Run

Today I ran for the first time since Friday morning. Nothing to write home about, except that the four miles ran this evening were the first four miles I've run in Virginia since June 20th. I had many great runs in Easton, PA. I ran up and down the Lehigh Valley, winding around campus, seeking escape, peace, and quiet, albeit briefly. But always tethered to me was my phone, and not just for safety reasons or to listen to something. In my job as site director, I was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and was the end of the line on site in terms of the final say in a key decision. Yes, there were fantastic deans, a counselor, health staff, residential staff, instructional staff, office staff, campus safety, all involved as well. But this was my site to lead and to run, and I took that responsibility very seriously. 280 families each session trusted us to take care of their children, and while I don't have children myself, I know that they are the most precious cargo. And knowing that made me extra sensitive to the ding of a text, the ringing of the phone. So in going to sleep, the phone was always next to my ear, and in running, the headset was in so I could take a call while running and turnaround if need be.

All in all, we had a good, fun, and most importantly safe summer. There were some bumps along the way, but all in all, both the staff and students grew and developed through this process. Some may have went home with bumps and bruises, but everyone went home in one piece. When I woke up on Saturday, the day after the kids were gone, I was still on site, and my staff was too, and there was a sigh of relief. We did it, the kids are alright. And then we packed everything up, and I headed home that night. What a happy reunion I had with my husband and my dog - such a wonderful reception! And I went to bed that night with another sense of relief and weight off my shoulders -- we all made it.
Since I've been home, I've worked on catching up on sleep, as it's mainly been 6 hours (or less) per night for seven weeks. There have been some naps of sweet surrender, finally just letting my body relax again, after tense shoulders and nights sleeping lightly.

And today, I laced up for the first time since getting home. Just four miles right around eight minute pace in the light rain. While I still brought the phone with me, there wasn't that concern of the ringing or wondering, worrying what was going on while I was on the road. My head was clear, my feet felt light, and the open road lay before me. There was only relief in this run, relief to be done, relief to think about the road ahead of me.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How many wagons can you be on? Falling off and down, and getting back on and up

It's been almost two months since my last blog, and since I started blogging back in 2008, I have never missed a month of blogging. So, with July almost gone, the quick and dirty of the last seven or so weeks:

  • I spent the first 5 weeks of married life teaching my "Middle Ages at the Movies" history class, which was a good first experience teaching a new course. I got to develop some new lectures and come up with some new writing assignments. We also enjoyed catching up with some friends a bit, once we were done with all of the wedding stuff. 
  • On June 22, I packed up and headed off to Easton, PA to return to my summer job in a program for gifted children at Lafayette College. While it was my ninth summer with the program, I was headed to a new site as the director of the program. In layman's terms, I am the equivalent of a principal or headmaster of a program for almost 300 students, working with 80 staff members. Needless to say, there were many butterflies about such an undertaking. Yes, I had lots of experience with the program, but the promotion brought on new levels of responsibility. 
  • Because of this, I've had to be honest with myself and put running on the back burner. I did manage to get in two weeks of 40 miles per week, but really, I've been floating around the 30 mpw mark. It's the least amount of training I've put in since I got into this whole running thing nearly six years ago. I'm trying to remind myself that something has to give in order for me to find some sort of balance. And it's not that the running has fallen completely by the wayside, but there has been no speedwork or true consistency since early May. I wouldn't say I'm out of shape, but I'm not at the level I have grown accustomed to. I also am trying to reassure myself that I haven't completely blown off 2014 as a running year. I do hope to do some races in the fall, but it is very possible that this is the first year that I don't set any PRs - I just need to get back in the groove and then things will eventually fall back into place.  I may just need to wait until 2015 to really hammer out some races.
  • With all of this, I arrived in Easton, PA in June and set up shop. We have already completed one session so far, with nearly 300 children completing the program, and are halfway through our second session, with another group of 280 students. It's been a lot of work, but very rewarding too. I definitely am behind on sleep and schoolwork, but just throwing myself entirely into work here. I've never had a job I've loved as much as this one, and I hope that after I complete my Ph.D. I can find a job like this that I can do year round.
  • So with this job, I haven't had as much time to get in regular running, which has been fine. I set out Tuesday morning for an easy 6 mile run, and 5 miles in, SPLAT. Totally wiped out: banged my both my knees, my hand, my head and nose - lots of blood. Boo to the car that drove by around me and didn't stop to check to see if I was okay. I had a mile walk back to campus, which was just very uncomfortable, and the blood was going down my legs. Shuffling back like a zombie at 7AM, head hung in embarrassment. I have no idea what happened - I was fine one second, then on the ground the next. Thankfully, we have a nurse on site 24 hours a day, so she got me all cleaned up. I was really sore for the rest of the day, shuffling around campus like I ran a marathon, but with a lot more wincing. I'm feeling a lot better, and hope to do a small run tomorrow.
  • All of this is to say, sometimes you fall off the (running/writing) wagon, and sometimes you just fall down. But, regardless of the scars, blood, bruises, and bumps, you just get back up and on the wagon again. Looking forward to riding the wagon to the end of a successful summer!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Life as Mrs. Medievalist

Status update: Newlywed bliss is awesome. Thank you for all of the well-wishes in my previous post. A few of you wondered if I was blogging on my honeymoon. Nope! I was offered to teach a new class this summer.  A few days after the wedding, I started teaching "The Middle Ages at the Movies" - a new course that I designed. I'm lecturing on the historical background that inspired movies such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Lion in Winter, Braveheart, and Kingdom of Heaven, and my students are reading the primary sources affiliated with the time period of each film.
It's been a great experience so far (3 weeks in), and I'm very grateful both to my department for offering me the opportunity to design my own class, and for my husband (love saying that!) to patiently delay our honeymoon. After the course is over (it's a five-week course), I'll be returning to my program for gifted children. The past three years, I've been in beautiful Santa Cruz, CA as Academic Dean. This year, I was very pleased to be promoted to Site Director at a different site in Easton, PA. It is a great opportunity career-wise, and I look forward to getting to experience a new state to live in (for seven weeks).
Needless to say, the first twelve weeks of marriage are quite jam-packed. After that, we are looking forward to taking our honeymoon - a week-long cruise to the Bahamas! Neither of us have been on a cruise, so it is going to be a lot of fun.
On the running-front, there isn't much to report. I haven't had a lot of time/interest to train specifically for anything. I've run 40 miles per week for the first two weeks of married life, and I'm hoping to consistently hover around that number until later in the summer, when I'll pick things up again. I have no idea of goal races for the fall - there's too many (exciting) things happening this summer!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The best day yet

Regardless if you run, dance, sing, play sports, whatever you do for fun - there's a moment of anticipation before "the big dance." The curtain is about to go up, the starting gun is about to go off, and there's that final moment to catch your breath, look around, take in the moment, and realize the magnitude of what's about to happen. You know things will be different thereafter, that this is a game changer.
That's what it felt like before my first marathon, and before I walked into my oral exams for my doctoral program. And that's what it felt like when I stood in front of my childhood home on the morning of my wedding. Everything was planned out - I could visualize a lot: the church, the dancing, the dress, my friends and family there, seeing the man who will be my husband, but the anticipation was tremendous.
Seventy of our dearest family and friends were going to be there for the big day, and I knew in order to have a clear head, I would need to go for a short run. Running has seen me through some of my other big days and put me on the right foot (pun intended), so why wouldn't it kick off my big day? It was one of the best runs of my life. 4 miles just under eight minute pace on a beautiful sunny morning. All of my favorite songs were playing, my heart was racing as I ran through the streets of my childhood. I felt like I should've been clanging a bell and shouting "It's my wedding day!" I had a big smile on my face and was bopping around as I was running, I may have looked ridiculous - or just in love! (Cue either "aww" or Liz Lemon eye roll). 
Me with my family
It's hard to sum up my wedding day - even the pictures and video won't do justice. But things I'll never forget:

  • That first rush of butterflies when I woke up on my wedding morning.
  • Quiet time with my mom before the day really began.
  • Getting my hair done with my fabulous bridesmaids.
  • Listening to music and sitting on my childhood bed with my bridesmaids as we got ready
  • Finally getting into the dress and having it fit perfectly
  • That second rush of adrenaline when the limo pulled up to the house and it was time to go to the church
  • The moment of the doors opening and seeing my soon-to-be husband for the first time
  • The joy of walking down the aisle with my dad and seeing all of my family and friends there
  • Greeting Pat at the front of the altar in the company of a friend of mine (our celebrant was a friend of mine from grad school)
  • The joy of standing on the altar and facing everyone, and all of the other special moments in mass
  • My brother beautifully doing one of the readings
  • Stepping down for the sign of peace with our families
  • Being introduced as Mr. and Mrs. for the first time
  • Taking pictures around my hometown, even stopping traffic for a dip in the middle of our main street
  • Greeting everyone at the reception, including family and friends I hadn't seen in years
  • Our first dance (song: You are the Best Thing - Ray Lamontagne)
  • Dancing with my dad
  • Really, all of the dances - my grandma even danced to the Cupid Shuffle!
  • The beautiful toasts from our families
  • Our delicious gluten free cake
Me and my best friend and maid of honor
Dipping in the streets of Spencerport
  • The joy of having nearly all of our favorite people in the same room
    You may kiss the bride!
    Delicious cake!
It really can't be articulated. All of those marathons and PRs had given me a sense of joy and satisfaction, but it was nothing like this. My marathons were all solo adventures. Yes, I had the support of family and friends, but this was the starting line at the newest race - our marathon life together. And for part of the day, I was thinking this was the best day ever, which I told my husband. But he said "Do you really want this to be it? We still have a lot of living to do. How about 'best day yet'?" And I liked that so much more. 
I'm just over a week into life as a Mrs., and it's pretty sweet. Marital bliss in the early miles of our marriage - looking forward to all of the other mile markers ahead.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thrice run: Pike's Peek 10k 2014

Since I started running here in DC in 2008, I've been able to sample many of the great races that this area has to offer. One of my favorite races is the Pike's Peek 10k in Rockville, MD, which is run on the Rockville Pike. You make one turn out of a parking lot, and then it's six miles of straight rolling hills. I ran it 2012 (40:55) and 2013 (39:28), both netted PRs. Last year's race was particularly meaningful because it was right after the Boston Marathon bombing, and so there were a lot of tributes at it. It's now one of my favorites - it's a sign of spring, it's a fast course, and the festival after is a lot of fun.This spring my training has been pretty good. I've missed some workouts, but I've also had a lot of good ones as well, and when I've been able to get all of my miles in, hitting about 45 miles per week. I told Sarah a month ago that my A goal was to get close to my April of 39:28, and my B goal was to go sub 40, which she thought was attainable. After all, I wasn't prioritizing running this spring, so my expectations weren't too high. I had also caught a cold last week (only made better by these beautiful tulips...and rest too), so there wasn't really a chance for a race week workout to put some spring in my step.Easy 5, 4, and 3 miles were it. Strangely, I woke up on Saturday with the tightest calves ever, and no explanation as to why? Any thoughts? It definitely freaked me out.I had a good warm up this morning along the course, and even though my legs felt tight, they felt better than when I first woke up. I saw my friend Ken for a minute, but I was rushing around, so we didn't really have a chance to chat. I got into the first corral (this is one of the greatest things about the race, is that they do wave starts, so it doesn't get that congested). Ths year, they even had pacemakers, even one for 40:00. I figured I would keep an eye on this guy, and just try to stay a few paces ahead of him. We were off and I was going fast - too fast - through the first mile in 6:15. It didn't freak me out though, it just meant I could ease off the gas, and averaged the second mile at 6:25 pace. Things had spread out a bit, and then I was falling into step with the pacer. This gave me a push to pick it up a little, and try to get ahead. I went through the 5k mark in 19:52, which had me right on track for today's goal. Sometimes it felt like it was getting hot, but a few times we hit a great breeze that felt heavenly. I like to pick up the pace at mile 4, and I feel like it is the 10k that I have the best handle on pacing. I was running between 6:20 and 6:24 pace pretty consistently and feeling strong. I was holding off on the bigger pushes until mile 5, when I finally started to get closer to some of the people I was chasing. This is a rolling course, so once you finish climbing a hill, you go back down. I knew that towards the end, it's all downhill, but I couldn't remember exactly when. I just kept waiting for that point where someone is yelling "It's all downhill from here!" That would be the time for the all out kick. And finally, I created the last hill, and was using gravity to propel myself for the finish. I told myself I wouldn't check my watch anymore, just run hard until the finish. I was happy as I saw the clock ticking, because I knew I had made this race a good one.39:336:22 paceOnly 5 seconds off of my PR121/2370 overall16/1241 women7/127 in age groupWhat's crazy is that I got beat by 2 50 year olds!It was a great race - not perfect, but pretty close. It means I've retained my fitness, and with more work, will be able to nab a PR, whenever that happens. Yes, I haven't set any PRs since last October, but Sarah says at this point, it's more about consistency. I'm not at a plateau - it just means PRs don't come as easily. I was happy to have more time to catch up with my buddy Ken afterwards (who scored a great PR), and I found out later from facebook that there some other friends of mine there - this wasn't one to miss! Although the Nike Women's DC Half Marathon was that day too, which meant 15,000 women were at that. I compared my results from PP last year, and I had placed 32 among women, and having run nearly the same time this year leads me to believe that a lot of the competition was running downtown that day. Regardless, it was a great race - my last race as a Taylor before I come a married lady - 18 days to go! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rejoice, we have conquered! Boston 2014

I generally don't reference my age, but I was born in 1986. Since I have been alive, no American, male or female, has won the historic, beloved Boston Marathon. The last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983. The last American woman to win was in 1985. I haven't followed Boston my entire life, but since I got into running and marathoning, I have (along with many) been hoping for an American to pull out the big win. There have been some close ones - Desi Davila even came in second when I ran in 2011. But if there was ever a day where an American needed to win, it was today. It was to show the bomber, and the world that what American do is overcome and conquer, even in the face of adversity.
I watched the first hour of the race at home in Rochester, then headed to the airport to fly back to DC. I was checking the 5k splits, anxiously watching Shalane hold onto her lead, hitting the half marathon point at course record, and whoopnng with surprise when Meb took the lead in the men's race. But really? A 38 (soon to be 39 in 2 weeks) year-old man, who was ranked 15th going into the race, leading? Could he win?
I was wearing my 2011 yellow Boston Marathon shirt while I was at the airport, and at security, a man with a 2013 Boston Marathon jacket came up to me and said "Boston Strong." His name was Mark, and we ended up on the same flight, which was delayed. Mark and I sat and chatted, as if old friends swapping stories, instead of perfect strangers. Because when you've run over the hallowed ground of Boston, you know the 26.2 mile course and the beauty of this magical event, which made us kindred spirits. And while we can't watch it live, we were tracking Facebook (I'm glad my friends were posting so much) and tracking the splits, we let out a woop when we heard that Meb won the race.
This was a big deal for so many reasons. Increasingly, there has been frustration - the Americans keep coming close, nabbing 4th, 3rd, even 2nd place, but still no win. So Meb's victory ended the drought. But his own story is one of persistence and dedication. He had a silver medal from Athens almost 10 years ago. He won the NYC Marathon in 2009 - when I hadn't heard of him yet. Meb could have been com placement - he went to the Olympics 3 times, was one of the fastest American marathoners, has a wife and three girls, and could have rested on his laurels. But his story is also one of overcoming - an immigrant from war-torn Eritreaa, suffered a devastating stress fracture and lost one of his friends due to cardiac arrest at the 2008 Marathon Trials, and a number of other injuries and challenges. He finished 23rd at NYC last yaer - his worst performance of his career, but he finished to show that NYC could overcome after Superstorm Sandy. Likewise, he signed up for Boston again to show that Boston Strong is real, and that the city and marathon would overcome last year's tragedy. Meb even had the names of last year's victims on his bib - he took this personal and wanted to honor the victims.
This wasn't just a superficial act - he took this personally, and ran with huge heart, and tremendous tenacity.
I was very weepy watching the recap video and Meb listening to the Star Spangled Banner - it was just a perfect moment. And the joy in the air was palpable - online, everyone is abuzz with it - this was a big deal and offered hope and joy. You don't need to be a marathon runner to appreciate it - the event is generally-recognized as one of the greatest physical tasks one can do.. To think that it's been three decades since an American was the first to complete the 26.2 mile journey. Meb changed the game and wiped the slate clean.
Look at this picture - his excitement and joy was electric.
The first man who ran a marathon, Pheidippides, may have died when he completed his journey from Athens to Marathon, but his words are immortal, "Rejoice, we have conquered!" They still ring true today.