Group getting ready to head out!
I’m not usually one to pat myself on the back. But after my run on Saturday, I’m doing it.
Saturday was the longest run I’ve done to date, 14 miles. Next to the actual Marathon, this is the day that I had circled on my training calendar as being a really big deal. My mileage will max out at 20 miles, so I’m still going to be adding 6 more miles on top of what I did on Saturday before the big day. It wasn’t really about the miles so much as getting past that 13.1 number. 14 isn’t that far from 13.1, but it put me into unchartered territory for the first time. In my last post, I wrote about how surprised I’ve been by some of the mental aspects of training, and entering into unknown mileage for the first time in a year and a half is another one of those mental hurdles that I needed to clear, and I’m happy to say I did that — and then some.
For Saturday’s miles, my team’s coaches had put together a group run with the different charity teams they are working with. There was a great turnout, and I was especially happy that my Title IX Girls teammate, Mallory, was able to make it up from NYC and join us for the run. Stacy, the Executive Director of Title IX Girls, joined us for 8 miles. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to join them for breakfast after the run, but hope to be able to get together soon.
Group runs can be a little intimidating for me. I’m not a fast runner, but I’m competitive. So going into something, knowing you’re going to be one of, if not THE last person, is an uncomfortable feeling. That said, it’s so great for me from a growth perspective. Doing things that are uncomfortable is hard, but so rewarding (hence this entire marathon experience!). I’ve accepted it, and it doesn’t bother me NEARLY as much as it used to.
Well, the run couldn’t have started off worse.
I ended up leaving my house 5 minutes later than I had planned, and legitimately hit every red light between Malden and Newton so I was already feeling frazzled because I was running late. When I arrived, we took a quick group photo (above!), and because it was cold, started running right away to get moving and try to stay warm. I needed to get my headphones in, sync them up, get my gloves on, start my Garmin, etc. So while everyone else started running, I was still trying to get myself together and already started off behind. I started out my run too fast in an attempt to at least keep the rest of the group within my sights. I forgot to start my Garmin, so was more than 1/4 mile into my run before I realized it; that might not seem like a lot, but when you’re into high mileage, running an extra 1/4 + mile is NOT want you want to be doing. My legs were TIGHT, and I had to stop a few times to do some stretches to try and get them to loosen up. On long runs, it usually takes me a few miles to get into a groove and settle in, but it was cold and the tightness was painful.
Heartbreak Bill and I Doing Our Job supporting the Pats around mile 12.5
I thought about packing it in and doing my run at another time, but I didn’t. A) I wasn’t convinced I would get it done and I was already out there, and 2) you guys. More on that later.
Around mile 4ish I ran into my teammates Mallory and Stacy and stopped to chat for a few minutes. My legs had started to loosen and I was feeling good, so I popped a Gatorade chew and kept going. Up the biggest hill in the world, Washington St in Newton/Wellesley. Seriously. That sucker is FOR REAL, and it’s no less than 115 miles long (or at least feels like it); once I got to the top (and ran the whole thing), I had really found my groove and was cruising along.
Then, the unthinkable happened. MY HEADPHONES STOPPED WORKING. I was just before mile 6.
If you know me, you know I love music. I honestly don’t even take a walk to the corner store, or to get a cup of coffee without throwing my headphones in. I was using my new Bose Bluetooth headphones, and there was something wrong with the Bluetooth and it wasn’t holding a connection. I panicked. Again, I thought about packing it in, but I didn’t. After fiddling with the headphones for about 20 minutes, including a few false starts where the music came back then stopped again, I gingerly took off with the headphones in my pocket. I was staring down EIGHT MILES of running with no music. At first, listening to my breath and the slosh of water in my Camelbak was driving me insane, but then I settled in and started listening to the traffic whizzing by, and the other runners who were out there talking to each other. Having so much time with just my thoughts made me turn inward and think a lot about my journey to this point. Honestly, it was an emotional experience that is apparently yielding an INCREDIBLY long blog post.
Some of the thoughts that kept me going:
There were two times on the run that I wanted to give up. And by give up I mean get an Uber back to my car and call it a day. You know why I didn’t? You guys. Yes, I know my incessant posting on Facebook about running and miles and long runs and spin classes and yoga might be tiresome to some folks. But, you know what? I don’t really care. Posting holds me accountable in an activity that is usually 100% self-driven. For every person that may roll their eyes and think “WE GET IT YOU’RE RUNNING THE MARATHON SHUT UP ALREADY”, there are 3 more that are cheering me on from afar. Interacting with people keeps me going, and I can’t thank those of you that play my reindeer games enough.
I was really glad I bought a new box of French toast sticks. Those sure were going to taste great when I was done.
So after I’m done with these 14 miles, I go home, shower, eat, nap, go to Tina’s fundraiser, go to Sullys, go to the Bruins game, go back to Sully’s, pass out, then wake up and run a 5k. Seems reasonable.
I don’t have any cash on me. I wonder if that CVS over there accepts ApplePay so I can buy a new pair of headphones.
Runners really are the freaking best. Few stories about that that came up during this run specifically:
- Early on in my run, I saw a girl with a sign pinned to her back. I noticed it when she blew by me, but luckily she was in my sight long enough for me to see what the sign said. It said “when your legs won’t work anymore, run with your heart”. How cool is it that someone took the time to make a sign and pin it to the back of her shirt, as a way to encourage others without even saying a word?
- Somewhere around mile 9, I was starting the series of infamous Newton hills leading up to Heartbreak Hill. This part of the course suuuuuuuuucks. I make it a point to include it in all of my long runs so I can familiarize myself with the rolling hills so I have an advantage on race day. I was wearing my bright yellow “suck it up, buttercup” socks, and a group of girls ran by me. One turned back and yelled “I love your socks!”. I wanted to hug her.
- In the same section of hills, there’s a hill just before Heartbreak that I actually think is worse. It’s much steeper, and really isn’t much shorter. I was struggling up the hill, and a guy turned to me when he matched my stride and said “keep going, you got this”. I think I managed to return a grunt and a half wave, but in my mind, I was much more eloquent. How amazing is it that someone sees a total stranger struggling and offers a word of encouragement? He didn’t know what I was training for; I could have been out there on Day 1 of the Couch to 5k program for all he knew. He didn’t know if I was at mile 1 or mile 10 or mile 100. It didn’t matter. And that is what has made really love the running community.
Will I run without music again? Eh, who knows. Maybe. But I know I can do it, and that’s a huge mental hurdle to clear. It has definitely made me even more excited for race day, though, to shut the music off at different points and to take it all in — the crowd noise, the grunts of my fellow runners, and to be with my own thoughts. Saturday’s run was an emotional experience, and one I wasn’t expecting. I teared up at certain points, and it actually felt really good.
One thing is confirmed — I am going to be a blubbering DISASTER on race day, and I can’t freaking wait.
Pace wasn’t what I wanted, I’m shooting more for 12:15 – 12:30, but given all the variables I’ll take it!
One final plug — the party of the year, aka my fundraising party is a week from today! Friday, Feb 17 at the Irish American Club in Malden. I’d love to see you there! You can buy tickets at the door for a suggested donation of $26.20 and enjoy some food, cash bar, and raffles.