Logic tells me that the fate of my marriage was sealed over billions of small, seemingly inconsequential interactions that comprised the very essence of my decade long relationship. On the other hand motion, that maniacal minx, identifies October 25, 2015 as a cataclysmic moment in my narrative. Like an atomic bomb that was detonated in late October 2015 the story of my life now exists across two distinctly separate planes: life before and life after I asked for a divorce. My previous life of an intact family with a loving mom, dad and baby girl exists only in memories that become fuzzier with each passing day while my present day self has continues to be rebuilt brick by brick.
In my previous life I was a runner who pushed herself to her limits during races, who embraced the hurt and who wasn’t afraid of failure. Time and time again I chased my goals of a sub 3:15 marathon, sub-1:30 half and a sub-20:00 5k (actually got the 5k! wooohoo). Some days I look back and my memories tell me that I was running away from my disintegrating marriage, thereby putting all of my energy into the run. While other days my memories recall moments where my family motivated me to push harder; their support at the finish line allowed me enough calm to focus and push into the unknown at a race.
The only part of the memory that remains clear was that my pre-divorced self wasn’t afraid to feel pain. She embraced it, surrounded herself with it and used as her ally on the road. She was cunning and ruthless and approached races from a burn the boats and no race tomorrow mentality. She was full of energy and charisma. Let’s be honest now- she was a little bad ass, am I right?
She was there on April 16, 2015 when she bonked at a very cold and rainy Boston Marathon thereby missing her goal of a 3:15 by eight minutes and yet still found a way to smile at the finish.
She was there on October 18th, 2015 where everything clicked and she negative split the race of her life at the Baystate Half Marathon in a 1:32:30.
She was even there on October 25th, 2015 when she looked her husband in his piercing, saddened eyes and said, I think I want a divorce.
But on October 26th she was gone.
After I muttered those six simple words I quickly began to seek out comfort on the road. Running started to serve a new purpose in my life complete with enveloping myself in peace and calm on the road. Running hard workouts only happened if and when the mood struck me. I spent most of 2016 and early 2017 neither racing nor training, but simply enjoying the act of running. It was different. It was magical. The pressure to perform was off and I could run how far or fast I wanted – or not at all. (Bahahaha- let’s be serious now- no way in hell I wasn’t going to run J)
I ran. Of course I ran. But my running became something different. I was different. My burn the boats mentality was replaced with a finish in control and with a smile approach to racing. In 2016 I ran several half marathons with this approach and I’ll be honest- it was really enjoyable! In the summer of 2016 I ran the Ironhorse half in 1:42:11, Plymouth’s steamy Run to the Rock in 1:42:10, the Hogsback Half in 1:43:48, and at Baystate 2016 I pushed a little harder with a 1:35:34 finish. That summer I learned how running means so much more to me than robotically following a plan every day in preparation for one race day months away.
After I met Chris at the willow tree (after Boston 2017) we showered, hopped in the car and drove north to a week of long brutal day hikes up mountains in the misty rain while mildly begging for mercy rest and relaxation at Acadia National Park in Maine. There we walked the carriage paths during the day, napped in the afternoon, drank some beer and played some really bad games of pool at night. Pure perfection. Somewhere in between the hiking and relaxing we started to plot our attack on the Chicago Marathon. High off of Boston Marathon finish line fumes we got all riled up egging each other on about throwing down and seeing what we were made of at Chicago. So one day on vacation we sat down next to each other (like the good little running nerds we are) and spent several hours crafting our marathon training plans, week by week, workout by workout.
The goal was to set a PR at Chicago.
The intention was to have a damn good time trying!
The plan was to focus on one workout at a time and run one mile at a time.
As Christopher and I sat next to each other crafting our plans something inside me was beginning to stir: I was actually excited for the hurt ahead. This training cycle I refused to worry about race day or actually even think about the marathon until the week of the race. I focused on attacking (and enjoying) one run at a time, one day a time. I embraced the hurt. I leaned in to the pain.
Training runs this cycle consisted of some of the following memories… breathing the fresh air on Wollaston beach during 5 am summer sunrises, sneaking in extra runs at the Jersey Shore beach trip with Chris (cause my fam thinks that running 2x a day is crazy… I swear it’s not mom!! Ok mayyyybe a little), running long from Weymouth Landing to Scituate Greenbush commuter rail during a 21 mile long run (then taking the train back) and lots of me grumbling at Chris over making our running routes too hilly. Oh well. Boys will be boys. Midweek I tackled speed work and tempo runs on my own and pushed harder to expose my limits. In late August I ran my best executed set of mile repeats at 6:40, 6:34, 6:31 and 6:21 paces. In early September I hauled ass on the road and was able to throw down a 2×20 minute tempo paces of 7:02 and 6:37 paces. I have covered over 2,021 running miles this year with over 1,250 of those miles devoted to this Sunday’s race.
After a year of reveling in the comfort of breathing easy I was mentally and emotionally ready to fail. It was time to push myself closer to cauldron knowing that I very well that I might get burned. But hey, I might not. I might just be strong enough to handle the heat, and maybe even be bolstered by it.
About a month ago I ran the Surftown Half Marathon in Rhode Island. Well organized. By the beach. Cool temperatures. Pretty flat race* (*except for that WALL you climbed over at mile 10, and the one at mile 3, mile 7-9.. ok it was little rolling on the back end). It seemed like the perfect opportunity to gun for a PR. In shape and feeling good- I went for it. I FELT AMAZING. I felt in control of my body and it flew- 7 min splits across the board with many splits under seven.
My inner monologue was abuzz as I coached myself through each step and each mile of the race.
Can’t stop. Won’t stop.
You got this. Can’t stop won’t stop.
Catch pink shirt. Catch her. Focus on her. You’re going down pink shirt.
Get to the next turn.
Get up the damn wall hill. Up. Up. Up. Now the next turn.
One mile at a time.
Catch blue shorts. I’m gonna getcha blue shorts. MuHAHAHAH
Breathe. Yes. You. Can. Yes. You. Can.
Can I do this? YES I CAN DO THIS. I AM doing this. YOU ARE DOING THIS KASS!!!
Surprise yourself. Let yourself surprise yourself.
Put it all out there.
LET YOURSELF SURPRISE YOURSELF.
Can’t stop. Won’t stop.
I gave all the mental and physical energy I had to the Surftown Half. I didn’t PR but was pretty darn close. I finished with a 1:32:36 and maintain a 1:32:02 PR from Boston’s Run to Remember back in 2014. I’ll be honest in that yes, I wanted to PR and yes, I was slightly disappointed I didn’t.
But… I did go out there and for the first time since October 25th, 2015 I raced. At Surftown I unearthed the part of myself who thirsted to race and who wouldn’t feel fulfilled until she gave every last bit out there on the road. It felt really good to really see how far I could push out there. PR or no PR, I know I gave every last drop of energy and THAT is why I love racing.
After two years a piece of me feels like it has finally returned and homeostasis is starting to take place. I still struggle with how daunting it is to face this world (and all the bills) as a single mom; I struggle a lot and often and then a little more for good measure. Now I am settled in job that will develop into a career. I feel secure and deeply loved in my relationship that I hope will develop into a future. Equally as important I remind myself that I have a supportive network of family and friends who have never left my side during the tough times. Balance is slowly being restored to my life so I can focus on the important things like running ;).
After two long years I’m ready to let myself surprise myself. I’m ready to succeed. I’m ready to fail. I’m ready to try. Really- I’m ready to race.
In three days when I cross the Chicago Marathon starting line I’m ready to step out of my comfort zone and into marathon cauldron.
BRING IT ON CHICAGO.
CAN’T STOP. WON’T STOP. NEVER STOP RUNNING.
The Lone Runner