I Love You, Running

I've been running since my senior year of college when my roommate convinced me to try laps on the track. I started by running half a lap and walking, run a little, walk a little. By the end of the summer I was able to run 3 miles and had lost my freshman 15 and then some.

I continued running through the my twenties and through and intense amount of change. Three states, a plethora of part-time jobs, a broken love, a blossoming love, graduate school, a marriage, career, house and baby later and I'm still running. Regardless of my location or daily schedule, I've run 3 to 4 times a week from anywhere between 2 and 13 miles per trek.

I did stop running when I was pregnant. Like many first-time moms, I wanted to protect my baby as much as possible and felt her safety and health took precedent over my love of exercise. It took me over a year to even think seriously about running again and only was able to get back into it with the love and support of my mommy friend Maria. Together, in January, we started a 3 mile training plan. Slow and steady wins the race and we met our goal after 10 weeks. During that time, Maria mentioned she was going to run the Boilermaker 15K with her husband. The Boilermaker is a huge race just an hour north of my home. Over 11,000 people run each year in the heat and humidity of UpState New York in July. I've avoided the race each year until this one. My new status as a mom really motivated me and I felt a new sense of self while training for the race. I felt proud to reclaim my identity as a runner not just a mom.

Our training was moving along slowly and steadily until the end of May when a series of illnesses, injuries and travels more or less killed my physical ability to keep training and completely squashed my mental preparation. Maria and I were not able to keep training together and there was nobody telling me I had to run this race. About two weeks prior to race day I told myself, and everyone else, that this was not my year to run the Boilermaker.

I wouldn't admit it to anyone but this decision made me incredibly depressed. My spirit deflated and I felt a huge burden on my chest. Everything started going wrong and I noticed my temper flaring easily. I kept running through all of this, but not seriously or outside. The Friday before the race I completed 3 miles on the treadmill and called it a day. Until that night when I saw Maria, my friend, my champion, at a party. I had brought her a good luck gift of pasta and red sauce (her night before race dinner) and a note to tell her how proud I was of her reaching her goal. She quickly confessed that she was indeed disappointed in me not running and that was all I needed to hear. In less than 5 minutes I was back on board, running a 15K that I'd not even trained for. I called another friend and runner, Stacey, who then offered to get my race packet the day before the race and came home with a Boilermaker t-shirt in support of my decision.

That morning, I woke up to powerful rain showers and a sick stomach. I hadn't even thought
about running in the rain! Stacey picked me up at 6:15 and we only had to stop once to "use the bathroom." The rain stopped and a cool breeze picked up when we found Maria and her husband, Chris, at the race line and joined the thousands of other eager, and very prepared looking people at the start line. They all looked so athletic. I didn't bring a water bottle to guzzle before the gun nor any special gel to suck down mid-race. Did I have the right socks and sneakers? Oh god, what was I THINKING? I was going to hurt myself seriously or maybe even end up in the hospital. What if I finished last? I felt very pale.

After the gun, it took over 10 minutes for my group of runner friends to get to the actual start and that's when the FUN began. We ran slowly and steadily and smiled and laughed as we covered the distance. I've never felt so much love. There were thousands of supporters on the sidelines with Popsicles, Gatorade, water, signs, music and cheers of support. They never stopped yelling out words of support. I got a lot of "Go Red Sox" (I NEVER run without that hat). And we shared the love in return. I saw a new mommy along the way and made sure to call out to her as I passed and to thank every volunteer who handed me water. I felt like crying the whole way. Not out of pain (although my inner thighs were rubbing together badly) but of pure joy to be living my dream and making my goal.

My friend Elise caught up to us at mile 4 and I was lucky to have her as a companion, along with Chris and Maria, for the rest of the journey. Sometimes we'd chat and gossip, sometimes we were silent, lost in concentration and our breathing. A little more than half way through I started to tire and lost some the adrenaline and excitement. I looked down as a I ran and gritted my teeth. Until a man shouted to me, "You are doing great! Keep that head up!" A total stranger, cheering me on. I felt like a hero. Shortly after, I saw the mile marker for mile 7 and I screamed with sheer delight. At mile 8 I thought my legs were going to fall off but caught up to another friend, John, and his smile and encouragement helped me blast through the finish line 2 hours after the gun.

We all hugged at the line, Stacey having beat her time from last year and Chris and Maria holding hands for the last few minutes of the trek. I thank them all for being there for me in one way or another and convincing me I could do it. I felt total elation, pride and accomplishment, a feeling I've only felt one other time in my life: 9:55 pm on October 19, 2006 when I gave birth to Caroline.

And much like that fateful night in October, reality set in shortly after. My post race party was cut short by me barfing outside of Stacey's car. It's ok- I worked it out. And today, I have blood blisters on my thighs and a t-shirt as proof of my dream.

To see me finish the Boilermaker, to go wktv.com. Click on Boilermaker, finish line and L1:58. You'll see me near the end, in green with black and pink shorts and a baseball cap. I throw my hands up at the end to ask the sky, "Can I stop running now?" (By the way, John and Elise pass just after me and slap eachother five.)


Phoebe said…
I can't find L1:58! I really want to see your finish!

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