I have heard some runners mutter that once they have successfully completed the challenge of running their first marathon they want and need a new challenge to focus their energy upon, perhaps a longer race distance or a different sport entirely. This, my friends, is not me in the least. I’m five marathons deep now and I can honestly tell you that I feel like I’m just starting to find my groove with the marathon distance.
It’s not just the race distance itself that keeps me enchanted with the marathon. Like chapters in a book each marathon I have completed represents a different phase of my life, different challenges that I have faced and unique experiences I have overcome. My marathon memories are not limited to the wedding day itself, but to the months of training that lead up to the event.
*The 2013 NYC Marathon (3:25:52) training cycle was complete with first after first. First time covering 14 miles, 16 miles, 18, 20… First time fueling on a run… First time going #2 in the woods (just being honest). Training for NY forced me to break down any previous beliefs of “how strong” my body really was. I was forced to believe in myself. Running the NYC marathon represents a fundamental shift in my life when I moved from being a person full of “I can’t…” and “I’ll never…” to a person who often says, “Let’s give it a shot. You’ll never know if you don’t try, right?”
*The 2014 Chicago Marathon (3:16:23) represents being coached by the Run Formula and taking training to next level (focusing on nutrition, fueling, hitting splits, increasing my mileage to hit high 80 miles/week). I’ll admit that I became mildly obsessive with my running, and the pendulum swung in the favor of running over family time far too frequently. While Chicago may have been my fastest marathon to date, I don’t believe it truly represents the life of a healthy, balanced marathon mama.
*The 2015 Boston Marathon (3:23:08) brought forth not only training through winter but training through the snowiest, coldest winter Boston has seen in 100 years!! That February I ran all 28 days, but only 3 days were outside on the roads (and may God have mercy on my soul). That’s 25 treadmill runs- GROSS!
The race itself was chock full of unique, traumatizing marathon experiences: running in 35 degrees with downpour, feeling the bonk at milk 16 and doing the walk/run shuffle of pain for the final 3 miles. Boston Marathon 2015 may have been my fastest Boston to date and yet it was by far my poorest execution.
*The 2016 Boston Marathon (3:29:15) training cycle began immediately after I separated from my husband of 7 years. I decided to train for Boston during this challenging phase of my life to force myself to see that life can go on after a divorce. Most of my mental energy was focused on learning how to do something I had never done: live on my own. How do you balance your checkbook? How much money do I really need to make to survive? How do I explain all of these changes to my five year old? How do I make a small apartment feel as welcoming and loving as the large house that she grew up in?
I spent many long runs crying over the loss of my previous life, and the loss of the future memories that I had envisioned for my family. Running was purely therapeutic. Not only did running give me time to reflect on my new life, training gave me a goal- something positive to work towards while everything else felt like it was falling to pieces. I didn’t train to PR at Boston; I trained to finish with a smile. Sure, my time was 6 minutes slower than the previous year, but I wasn’t going for time. I ran purely for the love of running and what an amazing experience it was!
*Not only did the 2017 Boston Marathon (3:25:59) training cycle parallel my return to my career as a full-time mental health therapist, but I also started dating a special someone. Training represented a true balancing act of coaching 15 athletes, working a full-time job, commuting to CT most weekends to spend time with my guy and of course making special memories with my Lilly-pad.
A true member of the rat-race, my daily winter runs gave me something tangible to work towards. Right now I may not be adding to my Roth IRA or putting money away to pay for Lillian’s college. Heck, I’m barely keeping my head above water financially month to month- but I’m doing ok. I really am. Slowly but surely I’m figuring it out all on my own. Even though I have a wonderful boyfriend who is financially secure he has not once tried to swoop in and rescue me; for this I am immensely grateful. He waits, he watches, he listens. He supports me in every way he can without trying to just fix it because he can. He knows that I need to see that I can survive on my own in order to believe it. It’s very hard to be on your own without feeling alone. Please reread that last sentence and let it sink in for a moment. Why? Because it is the epitome of my Boston 2017 training experience.
Aside from the memories I made with Chris and Lillian I was starting to alone this training cycle. Why? Because I think when you’re an adult you are alone. Maybe it’s a single mom thing or a divorcee thing- I’m not really sure. Even though I consult with Chris about nearly every decision I make at the end of the day it’s my decision rather than our decision- something I haven’t experienced in over a decade. I’m sure that being completely in charge of your decisions and destiny is a very empowering experience and I’ll get there eventually, but many moments of the past 5 months of training felt absolutely terrifying.
Then I ran Boston and my eyes were forced to open wide and take in something amazing: I’m not alone, I never was and I never will be. From start to finish the 2017 Boston Marathon brought forth many the absolutely amazing people I have in my life. From taking the yellow school busses into the starting line with Chris (something he has been talking about for a year) to meeting a complete stranger at the starting line who reads the blog to my neighbor Trish spotting me from the sidelines, hopping into the marathon and running with me for a mile up the first hill over 95 and MANY, MANY more amazing experiences- mile after mile I was reminded of how full my life truly is and how far from being alone I really am. In a sea of 30,000 runners and tens of thousands of spectators the big city of Boston felt so intimate, loving and supportive on race day.
I’ll give you my full story and marathon experience soon- but first I have to say THANK YOU. You may not realize it, but your support via tracking me on an app, having the courage to say hi to a stranger at the starting line (Abby Coers!) and/or making a poster to cheer on the runners on race day- that means something to me. It matters. YOU MATTER. Your comments, your support, your love– made my marathon. THANK YOU.
Two parts training + one part solid hydration and pacing plan + one part pure miracle = I floated to the finish line at the 2017 Boston Marathon in 3:25:59 (7:52 splits). I may have ran 3 min slower than 2015, but this was by far my best executed marathon to date. I NEGATIVE SPLIT a marathon!! Actually, I NEGATIVE SPLIT THE BOSTON MARATHON on a hot day!! Holy wow, what an experience!!!
To be continued…
Kass/The Lone Runner