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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Love, Life, Surf...Run?

Sunrise over the Hudson River - the start of the NYC Triathlon

Seven years ago, I swore to myself that I would not run another long-distance race. In four years, I had completed three marathons (Chicago, Marine Corps and NYC) and one Olympic distance triathlon (NYC). My body was worn out and run down. Shortly after I finished the triathlon, my knee started hurting more than usual and I came down with weird breathing/asthma symptoms. Literally, I could not breathe. It was so frustrating. I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I trained hard for the triathlon and performed better than I expected. For that, I was rewarded with a forced hiatus of several months.

But shortly after the New Year this year, I found myself really wanting to run regularly again. While I could just incorporate running into my weekly workouts, I knew I needed a goal. That's how I ended up I registering for the More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Half Marathon. It's the largest women's half marathon in the country and it takes place in New York City in April.

I never really considered myself a runner or an athlete. Yes, I played a lot of different sports growing up - field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, swimming, water polo - but I took up running as a fluke. In my Senior year of high school, I could satisfy my PE requirement by participating in community service and running for half an hour. I thought it was an easy out but I ended up really enjoying it. I remember running from school and along the winding roads of our small New England town and down to Pomp's Pond. I kept running in college, heading out for 3-6 mile runs in Central Park or Riverside Park. It was a way for me to clear my head and relieve all the stress of school. When Ed and I started dating, we started running together and we got to explore different parts of the city on foot.

Happy to have finished the Chicago Marathon

Running a marathon was never something that I imagined I would do. I had never run more than 6 miles so how could I possibly run 26.2 once? At some point, Ed and I decided that we wanted to run a marathon together. I liked the idea of having something to train for and a structured plan to help me get there. I was also curious to see what my body was capable of doing. We began training for the 2001 Chicago Marathon over the summer and continued training as I started graduate school in Boston. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to run in Boston and Cambridge along the Charles River. It's one of my favorite places to run, especially in the fall. It's kind of perfect for marathon training as the various bridges along the way create natural loops that I could piece together for my runs. I loved feeling my body get stronger and my endurance grow. I could run 8 miles, then 10, then 12, and finally 20 miles. It was crazy and exhilarating and tiring all at the same time.

We arrived in Chicago a few days before the marathon. It was only about a month after the 9/11 attacks and on marathon day the War in Afganistan began. It was a little surreal. There was a tremendous patriotic feel in the air. I don't know quite how to describe it. It was somber as everyone made their way to the starting area, as if we all had something to prove or a duty to fulfill by running this race. I had lost a good friend on 9/11 who was also a runner. In my heart, I ran that race for her. But once the race got started, the mood lightened. There were several runners wearing "I want to beat Oprah!" shirts, listing her time of 4:29:15. Seeing that lit a bit of a fire under my ass - I wanted to beat Oprah. There was no way that I was going to be slower than Oprah and I wasn't.

Finished at the Marine Corps Marathon

The first marathon led to our second marathon with the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. and then our third and last marathon in New York City - our adopted city. We even trained for that race during our honeymoon! I know, what were we thinking??

New York Marathon finisher!

After taking a year off, I decided to train for a triathlon. I already had a strong running base and I was a strong swimmer. I just needed to work on my cycling. The triathlon also felt more manageable since it was broken into three discrete segments - 1.5K swim, 25K bike and 10K run. I was part of Team in Training and raced in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was an incredible experience to train with a group of such passionate and motivated people and with amazing coaches who knew how to coax the last ounce of effort you had out of you. 

Ready to start the race! I'm trying to ignore the fact that in a few minutes I will be swimming in the Hudson River.

So here I am today, coming full circle, building up my running base and strength and beginning to train for my first half marathon in many years. I have to admit, I'm excited. I have a goal time in mind that I'm hoping to make but really, I just want to train smart and run strong. Plus, by the time that the race is over, it should be almost time to get back in the water and surf, right??

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