Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ready or Not

As you may (or may not know), I'm a runner. Yes, really. I didn't used to think I was runner. I ran, but I didn't run fast. If you were a real runner, you ran really fast. And you won races. I'm not fast and there's a snowball's chance in August that I'd win a race. But I am a runner.

I ran my first marathon in 2002. It was Marine Corps, and I crossed the finish line. It took over five hours, and I had several black toenails for my effort, but I finished. The next year I ran Richmond Marathon and finished in 4:45. That was fun. And it was also my husband's first marathon. In 2003, we ran Marine Corps again and I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I didn't train enough, somewhere around mile 13, I started feeling pain in my knee and hip, and the sports drink didn't agree with my digestive system. And it was hot and humid. It was miserable. All I wanted to do when I finished was cry. I tried to run a bit after that, but my knee was still barking at me. So I stopped running for about four years.

I started running again in 2008 and my husband challenged me to run a 50-miler in 2009, after I turned 50. He had my age wrong, but I accepted his challenge, but for 2008 (when I actually would be 50). I trained and trained and trained and actually ran 50 miles. It took over 12 hours and my legs felt like they were going to fall off, but I did it. And I still didn't think I was a runner.

By that time, my husband had graduated to running 100-mile races and I toyed with the idea of running 100 miles, briefly. However, a couple of people remarked how fast I had become and planted the seed that I could qualify for the Boston Marathon. I'd need to run a qualifying marathon in 4:05:59. So in 2009, I started to train for speed. I chose Steamtown as my qualifying race (it's a fast, downhill course) and that October, ran what's called a BQ (Boston qualifier). Hmmm…maybe I'm a runner after all. But in the process of training, I developed plantar fasciitis and couldn't walk without pain, much less run.

I ran the Boston Marathon, using my patented six-week marathon training program. I knew I couldn't run fast without re-injuring my foot, so ran to have fun, "low fiving" the kids all along the marathon route. I had a blast! But something changed. I lost my motivation after Boston and I haven't run a marathon or an ultra marathon since. I manage to eke out one half marathon a year, remembering about a month before the race that I probably should start to train.

And so it goes. I ran the Diva Half in September with my niece-in-law. It was fun. I ran slow, taking the time to enjoy deep metaphysical conversations with my running partner. One and done! Until some friends I haven't seen in, oh about 30 years, persuaded me to run the Richmond Half Marathon. I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was already trained and would simply have to run a couple of long runs.

Richmond is next weekend, people! I'm lucky (due to the lack of motivation mentioned earlier) if I can run 12 miles in a week. However, I do know that I can run a half marathon cold. It won't be pretty, it most likely will be painful, and I'll run slow and spend the time catching up with my friend. And that time will be priceless.

I thought about my running philosophy on today's run. It's not about the speed anymore, or the distance. It's about the connection. When I start a run, I settle into a pace that is conducive to those deep, metaphysical talks. I'm always scanning my surroundings for birds and other wildlife. The sunrises can be stunning. And there are the surprises: of running down the road and seeing a yearling calf coming towards us and trying to persuade it to turn around to go home (yearling calves are big and strong and determined; that was a calf on a mission!). Of running and seeing a horse and rider crest the hill in front of us and finding ourselves in the middle of swirl of horses and hounds, all looking for the fox ("If you see the fox" they said, "Let us know." Yeah, right…). The conversation ebbs and flows, darting off in one direction, then circling back around and joining back with the original conversation. Sometimes there's no conversation, just the sound of our breathing and footfalls.

So yes,I am a runner. I am a social runner.

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