Monday, November 18, 2013

In the beginning...

I am going to run the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Had you told me that two years ago I would have laughed and said no way. Back then I couldn't run a mile, seriously.

My endurance sport endeavors began in 2009 when I met a woman in the woods who convinced me anyone could do a triathlon. (My job has me in the woods daily so I meet a lot of people this way and it is not entirely as strange as it sounds).  I asked my friend San, a long time runner, if she would do it with me. We signed up for the Salem Witch City Tri which we completed but it wasn't exactly pretty. During training I really struggled with the run. I worked up to running a mile on the treadmill and tried to take it to the streets. It was horrible and my knee became very painful. I met with my doctor who advised ibuprofen 3x a day until the tri but suggested afterwards I should maybe look for another activity as running just isn't for everyone. So after the race I gave it up, but I didn't forget the experience.

Jump forward to 2012.  I was living in Cambridge, uninspired by the health clubs I'd tried, and looking for something to get me going. I kept thinking about that triathlon and wanted to give it another try.  Yes I'd been told I may not be made to run but I've always believed I could do anything I put my mind to so why should this be different?

I teamed up with my wonderful neighbor Emily and in March of 2012 we began running together a few times a week. It was awful at first, one minute in and my heart would be pounding and my lungs would be burning. We stuck with walk/run intervals and pushed a little farther each week. Yes I had sore knees and got shin splints but learned how to fix it and move on.  Slowly it started feeling better and I was thrilled when I was finally able to run a continuous mile. I signed up for the Appleman Sprint Triathlon that July and thought my running would be strong enough. But come race day it was hot and humid and a lot of things went wrong. I wore a wetsuit on my swim for the first time ever and it quickly became stifling and uncomfortable and I was overwhelmed with the thrashing crowd of swimmers. I emerged from the water already hot and tired and then headed out for a hilly bike course for which I was equally unprepared. By the run I was exhausted and the hills and hot sun didn't help! I was disappointed to once again need to walk/run to finish. I made it to the finish though and instantly signed up for my next race to prove I could do it better.

Looking for a little help, I found the Event Horizon Endurance Sport group on Meetup and went to a social they were having at the Brighton Beer Garden. I was so nervous going to meet this group of athletes when I certainly didn't feel like one yet. It was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. There I met the founder of the group, the wonderful Tony Rich who is an amazing athlete and certified coach in all three sports. I talked with him about my difficulties with running and how hard it was for me so far. He recommended reading Born to Run by Chris McDougal (this book alone was enough to inspire me to stick with running) and also encouraged me to come to one of the Tuesday night track runs with T.M.I.R.C.E (the most informal running club ever). It took me a few weeks to get up the nerve to actually go to the track. It was one thing to sit and have a beer and talk about running, it was another thing entirely to actually go where I'd have to run with a group of actual runners who would all get to see just how slow, splotchy red faced, and sweaty I am when I run. To my surprise everyone was so incredibly nice!  I was welcomed immediately and no one cared how "good" I was at running. It was enough that I was there. They encouraged and supported me through the workout without any feeling of judgement. Tony was there as well and even took video of me running to break down and show me where I can improve my form.

I followed my tri training plan to the letter and by September I was ready for my next race, the Vineyard Warrior Sprint Triathlon.  I had a proper fitting wetsuit this time and wore my heart rate monitor to help me pace myself throughout the race. The weather was comfortable and I was certainly in better shape than just two months before. The bike had some rolling hills but nothing extreme and I felt strong going into the run. It was a four mile course which is a little longer than most sprints but I started slow and steady and before I knew it I was rounding the bend and sprinting across the finish line. I ended up coming in 3rd in my division, ok so there were only 4 of us in my division,  but still I won a medal and accomplished my goal of completing the run without needing to walk.

I felt so great after that race and wished the tri season wasn't over. I had come so far with my running and was now actually enjoying it!  I decided I would take the winter to see just how much better it could get. I needed a race to keep motivated and have a goal. I decided to go big and signed up for the Hyannis Half Marathon at the end of February 2013. I followed the Hal Higdon half marathon training plan and did all my workouts outside. This meant I spent the winter waking up early and layering up to get out and run in the cold, through the rain and the snow and the wind. I loved being out there though, finding that meditative calmness that comes during a long run. Plus the healthier and more fit I became, the better I felt.

Race day was a cold and rainy 38 degrees but I had fully expected lousy weather when I chose to do a winter race on the cape. I stepped in a deep slush puddle within the first 5 minutes of the race and was soaked through entirely by mile 8. I paced myself well and by mile 10 felt strong enough to pick up the pace for the last 3 miles. Crossing the finish line I was frozen through and through but elated to have actually run a half-marathon!  One year to go from struggling to run a minute to completing 13.1 miles without stopping?! I never would have though it possible.

I began to think, how much further could I go?  Watching the Boston Marathon on tv last April, I was feeling inspired and began to seriously consider trying for a marathon. When the bombs went off, it felt so personal. The running community here in Boston had been so wonderful and welcoming and helped me reach goals I had never thought possible. For terrorists to attack something so positive that had become such a great part of my life was just baffling. I decided then and there that I wanted to run the next year to show support for my city and the amazing community that had embraced me.

I knew I would need to find a charity to run for and when I found out Dana-Farber had a team they immediately became my first choice. I'll get into why Dana-Farber is a particularly personal cause in my post next week. They began accepting applications in September and the wait to hear back was excruciating. So many runners feel the way I do about running next year and spots are hard to come by. I was over the moon when I got the email that I had made the team!

So here I am, looking forward to this journey...

22 weeks to race day

This week's run summary: Time Running: 02:00:28 Total Distance: 9.02miles Average Pace 13:35 min/mile

Support me and my fundraising efforts for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Barr research program by donating at :

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