I’m not the only one who is having a hard time. I know this in absolute terms. I can see it on the faces of all my running buddies. This winter has been a true test of one’s abilities to keep trudging forward. I mean, there are just so many set backs, all the time. The cold, seems to magnify things in extreme circumstances. Even when I’ve had a good run, I just want to lay on the couch all day, completely wiped out from my time outdoors. When I’ve had a crappy, soul sucking run, I just want to lay on the couch and eat the world. If the world was available to stick in my face, I would just be like: “Yup, this is happening right now.” My run on Saturday was only thirteen miles (saying “only” in such a way, makes me want to smack myself upside the head) but it was pretty much, terrible. In my initial jaunt to the bathroom, the pain just came shooting up my leg, all I could think was: 13 miles sounds terrible. And then the words Johnston Road came out of my mouth in utter protest, which I could see fueled Allison’s ambitions to take me on the most dreaded loop of my LIFE. She lives for this stuff. At one point, I did too, but that was in the fall, when I was really great at hills and I could just zoom up those shits like no one’s business. Now, these days, in this weather, I look like a dilapidated bird that someone just hit with their car, moving at a glacial pace that might as well be walking. I thought about taking the day off. I thought about licking my wounds like a dumb cat. I thought about getting back in my car and driving away. But any of those things won’t get me to Boston. And at this point, that race day, that finish line, is taunting me like a piece of my grandmother’s chocolate cake. I just need to get there.
The group started off as a bunch until everyone broke off into their own loops. It ended up being Allison, Meg, Terry, Dave and myself. Not a bad bunch if you ask me. The beginning pain seemed to magnify with the initial descent followed by immediate uphill but I threw myself into the conversation and tried to focus on the great part of the morning. It was a beautiful day with moderate weather and I was having a grand party that night. So, I thought to myself, get over it and just do it. Before I knew it, I looked down at my watch and we were past 5 miles, which was pretty incredible. However, with mile 6 comes the infamous Johnston Road, in which, upon approach, I may have threatened Allison with some sort of violence. (SORRY!) Dave sprinted up this gigantic hill which made me immediately threaten him with violence. (SORRY!) And I just put my head down and shuffled up it, completely embarrassed by the image I had of myself in my head. (crippled bird) But here’s the thing about Johnston Road, when you’re at the top, you’re at the top and no one can take that from you. From there, the route is actually quite nice. You’ve put in the work, you’ve made it up the hill, now it’s time to enjoy and take a nice long breath: aaahhhhhhhhhhh. Exhale.
I hurt the rest of the way. I did. Dave and I talked about cutting it short at 11. But, I was already dressed, I was already cold, I was already out there and as one of the best once said: “Anyone can run two miles.” So I went for the total distance. With Terry by my side, we picked up the speed and just got it done. I needed it to be over. In the end, I’m smitten that I didn’t quit. I have to teach myself to overcome these obstacles, as there will be many, this is just the beginning. Training only gets harder from here. This week is 17 miles and then next week is 18 miles. I’m petrified of these distances. Scared shitless. I need to program my brain to embrace the difficulty and use it to make me stronger. Both physically and mentally. I need to accept that I won’t be fast and that’s ok. I need to allow myself the room for imperfection, as finishing is the only end goal. Truly, my loss of speed over this winter, has been a little demoralizing. But what am I gonna do? My legs can’t physically move any faster, my heart is beating twice as fast, my body is not really equipped for this. I’m asking it to do a lot with a busted engine. I can’t fight the obvious: my heart can only do what my heart can do in this moment. I can’t ask it for any more. Because it might actually break.
Inside the Roasters, I have a group that I run with a lot. And right now, I feel as though there is some unspoken bond that is happening, where these people are surrounding me with their love and support, just to get me to that starting line. The whole group supports me unconditionally, with words of advice and kindness often, but I’m not ashamed to admit, most of them are outside of my running comfort zone. So there are a lot of moments shared, on the road, covering these miles, with the same people, in which case, I’m aware, most of them don’t really need to be running. And every mile with me counts, every mile for me is a victory, every mile I’m not alone, is richer to me than all the gold in the world. Everyone keeps commenting on Allison running these outrageous distances with me when she’s not training for anything and yes, there’s no way around it, it’s CRAZY….but it’s also love, sweet love. I know what she’s doing, she’s keeping me safe. And then there are the tokens, like Jan showing up Saturday and giving me the heart Alex & Ani bracelet in which she declared: “Because you’re all heart.” That sweeping statement, which could have brought me to my knees in tears, just touched my soul so deep. In truth, I’ve been given that bracelet before, but for different reasons and they both mean something immensely important to me. Both of those bracelets, are like pinnacle touching stones. Jan & Alan (who happen to be married) have become something of a magical force in my life and as Alan was thanking my husband on Saturday for everything he does to support, Josh had to turn around and thank him. Alan has inspired me. Engaged me. He and Jan both have lit a fire where there was once only cold. And Meg, who came out for my first post broken toe long run weeks ago, the run that gave me the confidence to actually run those races in Florida. Who shared my 13 with me on Saturday when I’m pretty sure she would have been cool with 10, who laughs with us the whole way and entertains us with stories about her beautiful children. Her life is like a road map: how to do it right. Anecdotes of her family amaze me and keep me looking towards the future with my own. I could write forever but I’m limited to words and time.
This journey is a test for everyone. This is my first marathon but I imagine, every marathon, every training cycle, is difficult for every runner, for very individual reasons. We all share the hard path. If it was easy, everyone would do it. I’m not sure at this point that I physically could ever do this again but these people leave me with hope. They continue to leave me believing that my body can endure. And if everything else falls to shit and I want to collapse on the ground, I just have to remember one thing because Jan said it and she believes it: “I’m all heart.”
Which means I can keep going. Until I can’t.