Monday, April 29, 2013

Scared Doesn’t Mean Stop-Gettysburg Marathon

“Mom, qualify for Boston, you NEED to run next year”.  This was not a request; it was a demand made by my sixteen-year-old son.

“Noah, I’ve got a pretty full race schedule already this year, so I don’t think I can work it in. But, I’ve already planned on volunteering.”

“Mom, there is no way you are volunteering without me.  Sign me up; lie about my age if you have to.  I’m going to Boston next year”.

“Noah, why so adamant?”

“You always taught me that scared doesn’t mean stop.  I need to be in Boston next year.  THEY don’t win.”

In the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings, I have certainly had my comfort zone rocked.  The night of the bombings, I kissed my daughter good night, grabbed my shoes and went running…. hard.  I cooled down, and ran hard again.  I ran because I could, for those who couldn’t, and because the world was different that evening than it had been that morning.  It’s true that running is cheaper than therapy, and for me, much more effective. 

In the days that followed, I was asked multiple times if I was there; thanked because I wasn’t; told I was thought of; hugged.  People wanted a personal connection to this tragedy, and for many, I guess I was that face in the crowd…even though I was miles away.  My one friend said it best when he said “this bombing was such a blow to people, because everyone knows someone associated with the marathon, the city, or what it is like to watch people you love strive to reach their goals.”

It motivated me.  I couldn’t get to a marathon start quickly enough.

We were asked to wear red to honor the Bostonians.  It has been my experience that these requests usually result in about 50% compliance.  It was heartwarming to see that the only runners not wearing red were wearing Boston Marathon shirts.  Many with personal tributes scrawled on the back.  It was a sign of solidarity.  Two evil brothers would not break our spirits.  You are right again Noah, THEY don’t win.

The race itself was quite enjoyable.  I spent about 12 miles with my new friend Tom who is a CNN reporter.  My second new friend Jerry joined us for a few miles.  (So, yes, I ran with Tom and Jerry, but unlike their cartoon namesakes, these two gentlemen got along quite nicely).   We had a fascinating discussion about news coverage and how the media has multiple venues to present information.  I was sad when we eventually found different paces. 

The day was beautiful in the low seventies with a light breeze.  We ran through rows and rows of cherry trees and the smell was delightful.  There were many hills breaking up the 26.2 and the scenery was constantly changing.  I ran slow and steady and worked on skills that I will need in an upcoming ultra vs. racing the marathon.  It was a training run…with benefits.  I loved it!

Similar to Boston, the finish line is hidden past a turn and you have a long straight away before you reach it.  I ran that section with Boston heavy on my mind.  I picked up my pace and sprinted towards the finish line, because scared does not mean stop.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Running In My Sleep...

This family handles stress in drastically different ways.  Mark micromanages and cleans.  Natalie snarks and cries.  Noah gets mean.  My stress hits me in my sleep.

I know as soon as my head hits the pillow, if it is going to be a restless night.

There is a point in an ultra-marathon, where you totally lose it.  It is usually in the middle of the night, but can and does happen in broad daylight (i.e. the last four miles of the Beast).    You are sleep-deprived, physically exhausted, cold, hungry, and incoherent.  You are more than likely hallucinating.  Roger tells me this is when you should just let go---cry, swear, yell, sing, punch a snow bank--do what ever it takes to get through it.  It will pass, even if you can’t see how.   It is a very dark and lonely place, where for me, my thoughts turn inward, and I give myself a good emotional beating for all of my shortcomings.  I do NOT like to be running with anyone when it hits me, but I have both been with and watched others go through this.  It is not pretty, but it does solidify a friendship and actually makes for some great stories the next day!

This is the dark place I go to when I run in my sleep.

It normally starts as an innocent trail run.  The sun is shining; my spirits are high; I am happy to be alive.   Then something changes.  I stub a toe---stumble---fall.  I have to fight to get back up, to get going again, and when I do, I face my demons head on.  Mark tells me that my legs are really moving at this point.  I’m in full sprint mode.

I usually wake from such encounters breathless, restless, and alone, as Mark has long since retreated to the guest room.   The best thing for me to do is grab my Brooks and head out the door for an actual run.  It is then that I can really process what is bothering me.  It helps. 

Once my feet hit the pavement, my mood is light again.  The world is empty and is mine to explore.   I run hard, fast, strong.  I don’t try to think about what is bothering me, but rather let the thoughts pass at will.   This way, I am able to process my concerns and put them in perspective, rather than trying to control them.  I let my demons come to me, rather than trying to chase them down.  They are easier to slay that way.

When I return home, sometimes I’m lucky enough to return to a blissful sleep.  Other times, I am forced to jump back into my silly little life.   Regardless, I always feel better equipped to tackle the concerns placed at my feet.   I am stronger---focused---centered.  I know my problems will pass, even if I don't see how.  

Running makes me feel powerful.  Running in my sleep forces me to run towards what is perplexing me vs. running away.

It’s how I run through it.