I Have Created a Monster

I live an active lifestyle.  It would be a dream come true if my two young girls grew up to also lead active lifestyles.  I try to expose them to different sports and they enjoy watching myself and their father compete in different events.  My oldest who is almost 8, has run 3 5k’s and walked one.  Now when I say run a 5k I mean a fun run not a race.  She has also competed in two mini kid’s triathlons, two bike races and numerous short kid-only fun runs. She and I are huge fans of the Girls On The Run program and often will attend the local chapter’s 5k event because it is fun and we get to wear tutus!

Both my daughters at the Girl on the Run 5k.

As we were running the last 5k in which I was pushing my youngest daughter in a jogging stroller, I remember feeling a little frustrated with my 8-year-old as she was complaining during the run.  “I never really wanted to do this you know”, she said.  “This isn’t my idea of a good time!”  This coming from the child who was so excited prior to the run she had her entire outfit laid out the day before.  This change of heart was mid run, probably around mile 1.5 or 2.  Towards the end she decided to run a bit faster and I told her to just go, I’d keep up.  Well, she went!  Let me tell you, bobbing and weaving around 4 person families running together (blocking the whole sidewalk) with a jogger stroller holding a 36 pound kid is not easy!  After the run towards the finish line with lines of cheering people on both sides, my daughter’s smile was as big as I’ve ever seen it.  I asked her if she was proud and she said very definitely, “YES!”

My daughter is in the purple.

Based on the last run, the kids and I decided to convince all our immediate family members to walk a 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.  Only the youngest was not thrilled with this idea but given her little 4-year-old legs, I understand.  She had fun playing with grandpa while everyone else walked.  My oldest daughter stuck with her grandmother for the majority of the walk and the two of them even jogged  a good amount of the distance together.  Afterwards, my step-mother said to me that my daughter told her she only does 5k’s to get the food at the end.  I chuckled but didn’t think much about the comment until later when I was retelling the story to another runner friend.  It dawned on me, that my daughter is a true runner and has just been saying out loud all the things us “runner folk” think to ourselves during our races!  There’s a point in every race that the runner thinks to themselves, “why am I doing this again??”.  Usually, this occurs somewhere around the halfway or two-thirds mark.  “This is not my idea of a good time”, no, I suppose racing really isn’t my idea of a good time either.  I love how I feel when I’m done and that is enough to get me through.  The other comment she said regarding only running for the food afterwards is so true!  Mostly, I enjoy the beer and socialization afterwards and that’s what keeps me motivated to run at night in the dark with my running group.

Now that I have taken her comments and looked at them through the eyes of a runner and not a parent, I can clearly see her evolution. She experiences the nervousness, excitement, discomfort and final sense of accomplishment and pride that the rest of us do.  It’s why we keep doing it, not for that period in the middle where everything hurts and you just want to quit but for the sense of belonging, after-party, bragging rights and good company of friends!

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I Believe the Children Are Our Future

Recently, I was perusing some pictures from a non-competitive run that I did with my almost 8-year-old daughter L.  It was an amazing event in Portland, Maine called the Hot ChocoTrot.  The event was a fundraiser for the newly formed Girls On The Run Maine Chapter.  Located in a downtown park, the event was complete with balloon sculptors, face painters, free hot chocolate and live music.  Kids of all ages were participating with adults of all ages.  What was amazing to behold however, was the energy and enthusiasm radiating from the kids.  They were excited to be there and to run.  Girls were decked in tutus, colorful socks, hairdos with glitter and colored hairspray, face paint and neon shoelaces.  The color of the day was PINK and it was EVERYWHERE.

I am a runner.  My children’s father is a triathlete, Ironman to be exact.  We have friends that run, play sports and are generally active.  My children live the active life, attending races, watching the Olympics, doing their own sports and genuinely enjoy it.  When I got involved with a slew of other like-minded folks from all over the state of Maine to form the Girls on the Run Maine Steering Committee, I discovered that through research and testing, curriculums had been developed specifically to enhance and reinforce the importance of a strong sense of self for girls in particular.

I sat down with my daughter and asked her how running and being active made her feel and what her thoughts were when she ran her first 5k and saw all the other kids at the event.  These are her words in summary:

“[The 5k’s] were exciting and fun; it made my legs feel good after.  It made me think that I was really fast and that I was a runner.  [When we arrived at the first 5k location and L saw all the other kids] I felt a little scared at first but then I felt proud of myself for doing it.  Exercise is exciting and I want to do it [a 5k] again.  My most favorite sports are swimming and soccer.” -L, age 7 1/2 years

So many things come to mind when I think of the morals and values I want to teach my children.  I think there are particular concerns and specific skills that parents also believe should be taught to each gender as well.  I want to make sure my children (both female) are strong women who believe they can do anything they put their minds to.  They can and should dream big and believe they are good enough, smart enough and strong enough (at least emotionally) to do anything a man can do.

I don’t believe that sport, specifically running, is a miracle solution to raising self-confident, strong, smart girls.  That’s not what I am saying.  I do however, believe that running, because that is what I know, can instill a sense of accomplishment and strength in girls that may be harder to learn in other ways.

Running is a solitary sport but I fully believe the benefits of being part of a team, learning how to give and take with teammates and what it means to be coached, are all just as beneficial.  I am not necessarily recommending running over other sports.  In fact, running can be used to enhance as well as train for other group sports.  However, there are skills and positive self beliefs that are only integrated into ones’ psyche through arduous, solitary efforts.  I want to teach my children to have an inner belief about themselves that they are good people, that they have big hearts and are accepting of individual differences.  I want them to understand when times are rough, that they are loved and have the ability to return love, that they are resilient and have the strength to climb back up from the dark depths into the light.

I took to long distance running later in life but I can only imagine what I would have done in my younger years with the knowledge I have gained about myself through running.  I have told myself during the later stages of a marathon when putting one foot in front of another seems an impossible task, “you gave birth to two babies…you can do THIS!!!”  If only I had discovered that inner strength earlier, I would have used that while birthing my children, “you’ve run marathons, you can do THIS!!!”.

I dream big now, I look at challenges differently, with a sense of vigor and determination.  Is it because I’ve done the same in running?  Maybe, maybe not but I know what it means to set your sights on a goal, prepare, set a plan in motion and follow through.  I learned this through running, training and racing.  I’ve learned patience and how to relax while still putting in 100% effort.

I hope that my children are getting some of the benefit of my running just as I do.  I know the fact that my children love sports and being active is already a benefit.  I know that I was so pleasantly surprised when I first asked my oldest daughter if she was interested in running a 5k and she not only replied yes but with enthusiasm and excitement.  There are things we cannot teach our children, they must learn for themselves but we can give them the tools to be able to learn those lessons and have a positive outcome.

I leave you with a saying I find particularly heartwarming.  Hug your children, show them you love them, give them the wonderful gift of challenging them to be better people, have bigger hearts, love deeply, accept differences and be thankful for everything.  Teach them how to rely on themselves before others, to use positive self talk, to be tenacious and try until they get the result they want.  Our children will thank us with their words, their hearts and their accomplishments.

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Brain Power

I have been running long distances for about 5 years now.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a runner all my adult life but not heavy into the miles until more recently.  This past year has been the most challenging year of my life in so many ways.  Abandonment, betrayal, loss of employment, divorce, the death of my beloved dog, financial ruin… you name it, it happened.  One full year later from the beginning of the end, I find myself in a much better place in most regards.  Maybe not financially, but that’s a tale for another day.

We all have ways of coping with stress and mine was running.  I used running to escape, to avoid, to punish, to reward and to keep whatever small amount of sanity I had left.  I hit bottom and when I did running was what allowed me to claw my way back up.

During this time, I trained for and ran lots of half marathons but most noteworthy were the two full marathons… my PR/ Boston Qualifier and Boston itself.  Throughout the training and endless miles, some of which were the according-to-training-schedule kind, some of which were the late-night-by-the-light-of-a-headlamp-sobbing-my-eyes-out-no-idea-where-I’m-going-don’t-care-if-I-ever-get-back kind.  Many were somewhere in between.  Point is it was crazy amounts of miles and never was there an injury.  Never was there a twinge of an injury.  God knows I was not kind to my body during this time.  I didn’t eat right, in fact I lost a good amount of weight from not eating enough.  I definitely did not sleep well or enough.  I drank. I didn’t stretch. I never got a massage.  How is it that staying injury free was even possible?  I think my body and my brain made it possible.  I sometimes wonder if there had been twinges or injuries but my body protected me and did not allow me to feel them.  I do believe my brain was so overloaded with emotional trauma that physically, I hardly felt pain.

 The human brain and body are amazing.  Looking back it seems to me that I would not have been able to exist in that swirling cyclone of severe emotional distress without the running.  Running allowed my brain to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.  Without the ability to clear the adrenaline that was  constantly being pumped through my system, my body would have gone into overload.  I think my body did what it needed to do to ensure physical survival.  Why do I think this?  Well, time has healed many wounds and I am no longer a shell of myself.  I consider myself happy (for the most part) and on the road to emotional health as well.  I still run, quite a bit although I’ve decided the late night runs can now wait until daylight and I make sure I know where I’m going.    I decided about 12 weeks ago to run another marathon.  This time, my body decided not to cooperate.  I. Hurt. Everywhere.

Why?  I haven’t changed my form.  I eat fairly well.  I get good sleep.  I am more controlled and mindful of sticking to a training plan and not over training.  My body continues to not play nice.  It disagrees with each long run with aches, pains and sometimes a little swelling.  I have always been one to listen to my body and if I get a negative response when I try to work through some pain, then I ease up.  I have had to give up on the marathon that is now only a few weeks away, due to more aches and pains than ever.

See…I think my body knows I don’t NEED running in the same way anymore.  I am able to face challenges and remain whole instead of fracturing into a million tiny pieces as I would have before.  I am in a more positive place now and the running serves many purposes but is no longer essential for survival.  As frustrating as it is to deal with injuries and changing carefully laid plans, it is good to know that my body once again trusts that I can handle adversity and take on new challenges without wanting to drive my car off the road.  My body is free to finally tell me, “hey asshole, that HURTS!!”

Looking back, I am amazed at what I was able to do in a physical sense.  At what other point in your life would you run an 18 miler just because it was “something to do”?? Seriously!  That’s just not right!

So, I guess what I should be doing right now is saying “thank you body”, indulging in some much-needed rest and learning to be grateful that during a time of crisis and emotional turmoil, I was still able to take care of myself and find inner strength to get through to the other side…even if that act was totally subconscious.  Cherish your body and what it can do because sometimes it’s what it doesn’t do that turns out to be the blessing

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One Big Dysfunctional Running Family

Runners pride themselves on being runners.  We are quirky, we have strange rituals and routines, we use strange terms like ‘fartlek’, ‘bonk’ and ‘plyometric’.  We are a band of misfits to some but a large, empowered group of brothers and sisters to each other. 

I often think about how others see runners.  I mostly ponder this when dressed in normal clothes, freshly showered and looking like an ordinary human.  Do I seem quirky?  Do people watch me and notice the little idiosyncrasies of the endurance athlete? 

I was sitting at a local coffee shop the other day working on my computer, water bottle and smart phone on the table top.  It was Monday, which is long run day in my world, and I had done a medium long run of 12 miles earlier that morning.   Not too terribly strenuous.  I paused in my thought process to cross my legs and that’s when it hit…the muscle cramp.  Inner thigh muscle cramp to be exact, or maybe hip flexor…either way, I’m sure my face contorted into something resembling, “oh crap!” as my sharp intake of breath preceded a low moan until the cramp subsided.   Did anyone notice??  I was actually afraid to look, so I didn’t.  Such events are actually quite common and among the many situations in which non-runners get total validation for their reasons behind not running and fellow runners point while doubling over with laughter.

I also tend to have trouble sitting for long periods of time.  I’ve been known to stand in the back of the room during professional conferences in order to stretch my legs.  I mean literally stretch, the hamstrings, quads, calves…  I was on an airplane flying across the country last week and after several hours of sitting I was getting antsy.  I looked at the seat in front of me and wondered if anyone would notice if I put myself in a pike position with my legs up in the air against the seatback in front of me.  Normally, I would not care but it was a packed flight and I was wearing flip-flops.  Runners don’t have the prettiest feet.  I decided against it and suffered through the rest of the flight in solitude.

Recently, I my nose started to run and my first instinct was to blow a snot rocket.  If you don’t know what that is, check out urbandictionary.com ,you will be truly enlightened.  Then, I realized I was wearing nice clothing and driving in the car.  Gross.  I grabbed a tissue.

Yes, we runners are fanatical about all sorts of things, like our shoes.  Do you know any runner who has less than four pair of running shoes?  You better bet all four of those pairs are being used too.  The trail shoes, the new shoes, the long distance shoes, the fast shoes… then there are all the retired shoes.  This can account for up to 5 more pairs and take up any number of baskets, bins, shelves or floor space.  We have the best of intentions to donate them. Really.

Being a runner, I do not laugh or sneer at the person wearing what appear to be knee socks in the middle of summer with shorts and a t-shirt.  That’s compression baby and while not very attractive, it sure works!  Then there is all the gear.  Gear, meaning GPS and non-GPS watches, iPods, fuel belts, gel flasks, Headsweats visors, hydration backpacks, arm warmers, compression sleeves…I could go on and on.  It all serves a purpose and it is all absolutely needed!  Ok, maybe not all of it but it is sure fun to play with!  Then you have the digital applications.  Training software, sites to map and measure elevation, training logs, countless USB cords to plug in all the techie stuff so runs can be downloaded onto a computer and analyzed to death.  Yes, the runner is a master record keeper and analyst when it comes to every step of every training run, race and walk around the block with your 5-year-old on her bike (that counts as weekly mileage right?).  Recently, I traveled for a few days and realized my carry-on was so full of cables, chargers and other stuff for my running pleasure that I barely had room for my purse.  GPS can become an addiction.  Split times, an obsession.  When does this start to become unhealthy?

All of this and I haven’t even broached the subject of nutrition yet.  I think that subject matter is best left for another day.  Maybe tomorrow, when I’m not feeling so quirky.

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Shoe Me, Please!

As I laced up my sneaks this morning to get ready for a run, I started thinking about all the shoes I’ve loved before…and those I have hated.  I clearly remember my first pair of Asics.  It was high school track season and I had me some spanky new running shoes.  Nevermind that I couldn’t pronounce the name!  For reasons that I now understand, I developed horrible shin splints.  I’m not over exaggerating, I had to walk down the halls between classes in my stocking feet so I could just slide… it was bad.  I’m sure it had absolutely NOTHING to do with wearing track spikes and running on a cinder track.  Or maybe it had nothing to do with the fact that I was a sprinter and spent most workouts doing just that (I’m being sarcastic…).

Anyway, I was sent to physical therapists and podiatrists.  Did anyone look at my shoes?  Hello…anyone?  Nope.  Did anyone explain that shin splints are an overuse injury?  Negative.  It was my feet of course!  So, my father had the pleasure of paying for custom orthotics which I wore religiously just as I was told.  Did it help?  I can’t really remember.  I DO remember finally seeing a chiropractor who helped align my pelvic bone so that both of my leg lengths were equal.  That made a huge difference.  I know, it’s more complicated than that but who gives a crap, this is about shoes.

Basically, throughout my running career, I have tried a great many shoes.  Fallen in love a few times, stayed monogamous for a while and then jumped ship for the latest and greatest.  We’ve all done that.  I’ve been through most brands, stability and neutral, extra cushioned and minimalist.   I’ve learned terms like gel, foam, upper, last, heel drop, air bubbles and such.  The kicker came when I was hired to work in a speciality running store.  HEAVEN!  For a shoe lover, I had the best of everything.  I could wear a new pair of shoes each day I worked then put them back and pick out something else.  I spent one day in two different shoes because I couldn’t decide which one felt better.  I also had lots of cramping in my back and discovered that stability shoes may not be good for me to run in but are amazing to stand in all day.

The Wall O’ Shoes in the running store.

The best thing about working there though was the amazing amount of information I accumulated.  Through fitting people, studying their feet while they walk, run and stand, trying different shoes on them and myself, having access to foot bed inserts…I came away from that experience with an amazing understanding of the mechanics of the foot and how the shoe helps or hinders natural function.
Can shoes cause injuries?  I say yes.  Maybe not out-of-commission injuries but naggy, annoying, mild to moderately painful injuries.  Shoes can relieve aches and pains when it is a good match to your foot and running style, cause them when they are not.

The biggest lesson I have learned however, is my own.  Remember those orthodics I mentioned?  Well, like a good doobie, I wore them in everything for a while, eventually moving towards only wearing them in my running shoes.  It took a series of pictures during a race to make me sit up and take notice that something wasn’t right.  I could see the progression of my stride in those pictures and what I saw, was that I was rolling outwards as my foot came down to impact the ground (a foot rolling outward is supinating, a foot rolling inward is pronating).

Wallis Sands Sprint Triathlon, September 2011

Hmm.  THAT’S interesting.  I am a pronator not a supinator and I have orthotics to help with that!  It got me thinking…things that make you say hmm.  The other thing that weighed on my mind was the pair of Asics DS Trainers that I loved.  Pretty standard stability shoe.  I discovered that I could only run about 8 miles in them before the outsides of my feet started to bother me.  I wore my orthotics in those too.  At the time, I had been running solely in the Asics Gel Nimbus for probably 2 straight years.  I still have 4 pair in the closet that I need to donate!  So, the Nimbus was my go-to shoe.  It survived 2 marathons with me and the only issue I had was that the tendon on the top of my foot towards the ankle would get very tender because of the way I had to tie them to avoid heel slippage with the orthotics.

About that time, I was leading a beginner running group sponsored by New Balance.  Part of my compensation was a free pair of shoes.  The redesigned, old school throw back designs were coming back around and New Balance had a new shoe that moved away from the heavy chunky feel.  This shoes was the 890.  An ultra-light, cushioned trainer that can take you from 5k to marathon and everything in between.  Amazing.  I loved it.  I put my orthotics in and I was off!  Now, those race pictures I was referring to?  I was on my second pair of NB 890’s and loved them.  They are a neutral shoe, which is what I needed because as a pronator, the orthotic was fixing the pronation therefore allowing me to run in a neutral shoe.  Makes sense right?  I was starting to piece these things together.  I was shocked when I saw the race photos though and started to wonder if I really needed orthotics at all.  If wearing them in a neutral shoe made me roll outwards than theoretically, that would mean I didn’t need them.  Of course the wear pattern on the bottom of the shoe supported that theory.  From the heel to the toe, those shoes were much more worn on the outer edges than down the middle.

It was then that I made the decision that I was going to relearn how to run without orthotics.  I had to start easy and only go short distances once or twice a week.  My calves took the brunt of the discomfor due to using different muscles groups but my feet were virtually pain free.  I also worked very hard to change my stride from heel striking to a midfoot plant.  It has helped a great deal in reducing injuries and increasing overall speed.
I am at the point now, that I do not ever wear my orthotics.  I have run a few half marathons that way and dozens of training runs.  I am pretty much injury free (knock on wood) and continue to see improvements in my running.  I think back to that doctor who told me I needed them and wonder what he would say now.  I still see people who are told to use an orthotic or to stop running.  Hell no!  Let’s look at the shoes first.  Finding the right shoe takes time and patience.  The runner has to be honest with the fitter and if something feels off, say so.  The saying goes that if something feels just the smallest bit uncomfortable when trying them on, it will feel very uncomfortable when running.
Now that my stride is more efficient and midfoot, I have hopped on the minimalist bandwagon.  Not to the extreme but why pay big bucks for technology that I don’t use?  I dont’ need a shoe with a well cushioned heel, I don’t land on my heels.  It’s just a fact.  I have gone from New Balance to Brooks and their Pure line.  I like the way I can feel the road, I can feel my feet working the way they are supposed to.  There is such a thing as too much shoe sometimes.  I frequently encountered folks with IT band trouble that were in shoes that were not right for them.  Maybe the shoe wasn’t the cause, but I’m sure it was a contributor.  I’ve tried different types of cushioning, just due to the sheer mileage that I run, I need some cushion.  I’ve gone from the more natural foot position, or what shoe techies like to call “heel drop” (lower heel drop being closer to the natural state of the foot when standing without shoes), of a lower drop shoe back up to a more standard drop and back down again.  I have a closet full of different shoes to pick from each time I run and I switch it up depending on my mood and the weather or terrain.  Hey, there’s no running shoe fetish going on here!

The moral of the story is, if you are unsatisfied with your running, plagued by twinges, nagging issues that don’t get better or just general discomfort… start with the shoes.  Go to a specialty running store, tell them you want a full fitting and have them watch you walk without shoes, with shoes and then run with shoes.  Understand the foot mechanics while running.  Look it up.  Know that the function of the arch is to collapse somewhat upon impact with the ground and to spring back up to push you forward.  Is it possible to pronate a little while just standing but not enough to need an orthotic or stability shoe?  Yes.  That would be easy to see if someone watched you run.  I pronate ever so slightly but when I run my natural tendency is to come down just a tad bit to the outside of my foot.  Not a problem, unless you give me support I don’t need.  Then I roll out or supinate way more than I should.  Bring your old shoes to the fitting, the ones you were running in not the ones you used to mow the lawn or garden with, so the fitter can really examine the wear pattern on the sole.

Lastly, try to have an idea of your foot placement when you run.  All of this information can be used to get you into the best shoe for your foot and your running style.  Now, finding one that fits your wallet is a whole different story.  Happy running y’all!
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Looking Back on Boston…

Last April I ran my first Boston Marathon.  To a runner, especially a distance runner, Boston is the epitome of races, with its rich history and difficult qualifying times.  It has elevated to the status of things that only need one word to be identified and has spawned its own acronym, BQ for Boston Qualifier.  This either means a race that has been designated as having the proper elements to be used to qualify or it means a runner’s time which is under the cut off in order to qualify to run Boston.  I ran my BQ the previous May in Burlington, Vermont at the Key Bank Vermont City Marathon.

In order to give the event the honor it deserves I needed to write a race report.  This serves multiple purposes; not only to memorialize the run and forever cement the experience in my brain but also to educate those who wonder what was going through my head and how I could actually have control over my own body after running for that long.  This post will fill you all in on my Boston experience, the good, bad and ugly.  I am also including a link from the training software I use, TrainingPeaks which allows me to log my workouts as well as races.  It’s a great way to track progress and go back and look at race/run specifics.  http://tpks.ws/0Soh

The day itself was preceded by many days of fretting, planning and worrying about the logistics of how and when I could get myself to the start and what to do about the projected heat and many warnings put out by the BAA. Heat forces Boston Marathon runners to adjust

Once that was figured out, I could focus on the race itself.  My plan was to spend the night at a friend’s house about 20 min from Hopkinton (otherwise known as… the start).  That worked out well actually, and with the guidance of a wised runner,, we knew just where to go for an easy drop off.  The shuttle took me and a busload of other runners, over to Athlete’s Village.  What a sight!  I’ve never seen so many runners in one spot!  Music and announcements blaring, people everywhere and choppers flying overhead.  Not to mention this was the day people dream about in New England.. 80 degrees or above and sunny.  Shade was hard to find in the Village but I found some and managed to stay cool until the announcement of my wave.  Once that happened, all bets were off.  As a throng of runners made their way out of Athlete’s Village toward the buses to check our gear and then the corrals at the start, the sweating began.  It was hot.  After finding my bus and checking my gear, I palled around with some other runners from Maine as we made our way to the start.  Corrals?  Nope, whatever was going on, things must have gotten behind so as we all made our way to the corral area and start line, the announcer was telling us to just go, don’t stop, time to RUN!

Off we went. OH CRAP!  Now, an important part of Boston is knowing the first half is downhill.  It was not the easiest thing to do but I held back enough for the first half so I didn’t blow up the second half.  Some of the time I felt the downhill, sometimes I did not.  What I did know, is that due to the lack of downtime at the start (which was a major bummer for many) I did not get my final pee.  I realized as I ran that I had to pee but thought the weather was extreme enough that I wouldn’t have to pee for long.  Totally wrong there.  Since the weather was so hot, residents were outside with hoses, the fire dept opened a few hydrants and people were throwing water left and right.  Needless to say, the hoses and hydrants, in addition to the water I was dumping on my head every mile made me a wet soppy mess.  Given the amount of water being thrown at me…I decided instead of stopping to pee at a portapotty, I would pee while running!  Ahhh…seems so simple doesn’t it?  Nope wasn’t happening.  By mile 13 I figured I’d just find a porta potty and get it over with.  I wasted a whole 2 minutes waiting for that thing!!!! What the hell are people DOING in there anyway??? Hello…there’s a race going on… get the fuck out and let me have my turn!

Sweet blessed relief!  Now that I was a bit re-energized and not to mention slightly lighter, I was ready to continue.  Now mind you…I am terrible with geography and never bothered to really study a map of the course.  I knew it in general but couldn’t tell you which miles were in which towns.  I busied myself by looking at signs, trying to figure out where I was.  I knew there were famous spots on the course that I was looking forward to experiencing but couldn’t for the life of me, remember where they were!  As I ran along, I listened to others’ conversations and stuck to my race plan which was working wonderfully.  Gatorade for my mouth at each water station and 1 to 2 cups of water on my head each station.  This was working well so far, I was definitely ready for more drink at each mile but the combo of drinking and dumping was working to keep me cool enough to last until the next station.  The hoses and things were great overall, I would never complain.  I do have to point out however that as a runner, I really prefer the rain setting on the hose valve or maybe the mist setting.  Not so much the fire hose setting.  Especially when it catches you on the side of the face.  That’s a bit extreme and almost enough to blow my sunglasses off.  I appreciate the gesture really… just careful where you aim that thing.

Ok, back to the town thing because I actually have a point.  I ran past the sign “Welcome to the Town of Wellesley”.  For those of you not familiar with what that means, it’s a place runners look forward to.  A half mile of screaming female students from Wellesley College with signs that would make their mothers proud (or blush).  Every variation of “Kiss me I’m ____(insert anything you can imagine, I saw them all)”.  Some of the ones that stand out for me, “Kiss me I’m a lesbian”, “Kiss me I’ll be a virgin for you”, “Kiss me so I don’t have to kiss him (arrow pointing to some random dude)”, “Kiss me you’ll run faster”, oh and “Kiss me I’m Canadian”.  I poke fun, but running down what is affectionately known as the ‘scream tunnel’, is a whole lotta fun!  No, I didnt’ kiss anyone although the “Kiss me, guys need it too” boy was kinda cute.  Smart guy, made his own sign and got to hang out with a couple hundred women all day.  Did his mama proud.  I found it fun just to run by high-fiving as many people as possible and reading the signs.  Very entertaining, loud, but entertaining!  Totally one of my favorite moments.

After that, the miles kept ticking away peppered by sights I would recognize.  I am a Boston College alum and I recognized the tower peeking out from above the trees with relief…I was getting close!  Then came Heartbreak Hill, which just because it was Heartbreak Hill, I was determined to run and not stop.  Conquered!! It wasn’t so bad 🙂  Soon after that I hit a stretch where things got tough.  The heat finally was taking its toll.  It was only a matter of time since it’s virtually impossible to take in the amount of calories and water that you are expending.  I hit that point around mile 23 or so.  I began the inner battle with the little voice that tells you to stop, that you are stupid for doing this to yourself, that it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of life…

I did not stop but instead began looking ahead and running with the goal of making it to the next stoplight.  Luckily, I was on a stretch of road where there were stop lights every couple hundred yards.  The people were still cheering but for whatever reason, there were less hoses, spray guns and no shade!  The heat was brutal along this stretch and a lot of walking was happening (by others of course).  Around mile 24 or 25, I hit a hill that was not tiny but not huge.  Long story short, it was just enough to break me for a moment.  I walked it (sigh).  I maybe walked a total of 2 to 3 min and then rallied and began to run again.  Damn, I was not going to walk anymore!!  As I plodded along (felt like plodding, was probably a 9 min mile at that point) I looked up and joy oh joy, there was the Citgo sign!  If you dont’ know the Boston course, the Citgo sign is a huge lighted monstrosity on top of a building that is in Kenmore Square.  That is probably around mile 25 or 25.5.  Woop, woop!  Almost the end!  As I ran through and made the turn onto Hereford Street and up the short hill onto Boylston the crowds were 4 people deep and so LOUD!  It was awesome!  Boylston street is much wider than I remembered, it felt like 4 lanes totally open with just a few runners here and there.  I felt like there weren’t many runners around me at that point, that may not be true, I have no idea.

The finish…. Oh glorious finish!!! Done, done, done.  What a ride!  Can’t lie, glad it’s over 🙂  At least I’m still alive! (and I have the jacket).  Oh, and I got my name in the local paper 😉 Fosters article: A sweltering run for locals

Picking up my bib number at the Expo.
My daughter wrote inspirational words to me ❤

Post race celebration!
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