Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Faith Of A Runner: Boston To Big Sur And Beyond

 “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." ~ Søren Kierkegaard
Boston 2 Big Sur: The Beginning, middle...But not the end.

Faced with the blank screen staring back at me, imploringly, impatiently, begging me to write something 'inspired' and 'inspiring' I found myself wondering. What do I really have to say?

Yes, I could write another 'race report' type post, but the fact is that I really don't feel like doing that. I don't want to write the blow-by-blow. The trip to Boston, which begins with a huge fight and blow-up with my husband caused by a misunderstanding, and me driving off to the airport in tears, not wanting to start things this way...turning around, going back to give my daughter and husband a hug, and a kiss, but still driving off in tears...

The trip itself: the beautiful day before...

...and the forecast of horrible rain and headwinds waiting to accompany us all the way from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.

And then the beginning...

And we're off...and the rains pour down from the heavens in wind driven sheets of water, soaking us to the bone, streaming down the roads, but somehow we make it...and round that turn...down Commonwealth. Right on Hereford...

Left on Boylston...

...down Boylston...To the finish. 3:46:42

Not the race I wanted, not the race I know I could have run, but the race I have on the day we are given.

The faith of a runner...

I could write about that long, cold walk toward the Common. The painful, shivering hobble down the stairs at Arlington to catch the T out to Somerville...collect my things, change into dry clothes...see Jeni and Family off...

Back on the T, on to North Station waiting for the Blue line to Logan. The T comes to a shutdown standstill - workers running down the tracks trying to find out what's happening...I collect some fellow Logan bound runners and we're back up onto the rainy streets. I hail a cab...and finally I'm at the airport, finding smiling friends and a very welcomed and savored beer. Cheers!

I could write about Big Sur, 6 days later. Flying into San Jose, expo, meeting two new friends who are crashing at the sub-sub-par Motel 6 with me, 3 am wake up, the long and winding bus ride in the dark to the start...

And off again...

Through the forest out to the sea.  The views are, as promised, more amazing than anyone can really know unless they have been here. Pictures do not do justice. But the headwinds. Oh the bloody, blasted headwinds! Those I can do without. I decide to back off my 8:30 pace and just enjoy the ride from here...

The faith of a runner...

4:03:25, marathon/ultra #21 and not my best, of course, but I don't care and I feel strong the whole way (even with a tweaky ankle issue) ...and I place 6th in my age group for the Boston2BigSur event.

I make my way to the B2B tent, collect my B2B medal and jacket hop on the bus from Carmel to Monterey back to the car, off to the Motel 6 for a quick shower, and off I go, heading back to the airport with just enough time before boarding to enjoy, yes, a large IPA.

So, I could write about all of that, but that's all so played ;) So I have other things to say about all of this. 

I want to talk about the faith that is required for all runners who have dreams and goals and wishes and aspirations. For runners who take the risk to aim for something. Maybe it's something new or big or emotionally necessary. But whatever it is, we take risks investing in those dreams.

Since returning from this trips and continuing my training for my next big race, Kettle Moraine 100, I keep hearing the same (encouraging and supportive) comment: "You must be so happy about Boston. You did great!"

Well, thank you, but not really. I mean, I'm happy with it and I'm also disappointed. We all know that training is tricky, trying business. Training for spring races means toughing it out through winter ice, snow, sub-zero temps, insanity-making winds, darkness, etc. We invest a lot in our goals. This investment is the result of FAITH. Believing that it matters. Believing that it will make a difference, even when there are no guarantees. Even when the whole plan can go to shit due to weather, illness, injury. We still go out there and fecking try. We give it our all and hope for the best. 

So when I headed off to Boston, having done the work, having my A, B, and C goals clear, I knew what I knew I was capable of and what I might be capable of (though I still had a hacking cough from a 2 week old cold), what months of training had prepared me for. But of course that's only part of the story for marathons. 

You also need to: Have a good day. What that means varies, but arguably temps in the 40s, with pouring rain (and please note: Only those in Waves 3 and 4 had rain for the WHOLE race. I was in wave 3), with a steady headwind and gusts up to 38 mph, does NOT qualify, by most standard definitions, as a 'good' day. So I adjusted my goals, and did what I could do. I am satisfied with the job I did. But that does not mean that I'm happy with it. Based on my training, my goal was 7-10 minutes faster than what I ran. On the plus side, I ran strong the whole way, but still...And so I did wonder, just a little, if I could do it in Big Sur, and truth be told, the first 5 miles I tested this. But the hard truth was that neither my body nor the conditions that day were conducive for that goal. I accepted that and, once again, did what I could do.

The faith of a runner...

What else can we do? We can't control the uncontrollable. We can't really function thinking: "Well, maybe I'll bail on this tempo run because the day of the race might suck anyway, so why even try?" Runners don't think that way. Runners are by our very nature optimistic and hopeful, even when we don't sound like it. We would never go out, day in and day out, working hard when we'd rather not, pushing on through it all if we didn't have faith that it will matter. But the fact remains that often we get a totally crap day. But you know what we do? The next day we wake up and start concocting plans for the next one. 
“The future depends on what you do today.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi 
SO when someone comes to me, worried about some uncontrollable something for an upcoming race, or bemoans their bad luck in being dealt a bad day, all I can say is: "Look. This is the nature of the beast. It's what we do. A lot of times it sucks. A lot of times it may not suck, but it's not great either. And sometimes, and it doesn't happen often, but sometimes, it all comes together at just the right time." And THAT's what we have faith in.

All runners who pursue aims must share this faith in the future, while finding the present satisfying in its own right. The faith we have makes the present worth it. It makes us more alive everyday and keeps us moving forward even when we are pushed down by fickle luck, by injury, by illness, and by aging. Our actions show what we really believe, not our words. And when we continue on, in pursuit of the things that matter to us, those actions show that we believe in what's possible. We have faith that it will happen, even when we have no assurance, no guarantee. Even when the odds are against us and the fates slap us down. We get right back up on that horse and point ourselves in the direction of that next big thing. The faith of a runner...
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt


  1. Thanks for writing this!

    It was my first Boston this year, after dreaming of qualifying and running it for over 10 years. However, for many reasons, including overtraining/racing last year and under recovering, the death of my father in Feb and other stresses (including a groin pull the W before, I went into it with severely readjusted goals. The first was to finish, the second was to give it my best, and then I had time goals. I finished and believe I gave it my best on the day - which was complicated by surprise female and GI issues. It was also my first marathon in the rain (I ran a 5k in the rain once many years ago and train on my treadmill, so I had NO rain experience) and my first with significant hills. Yet the rain and the hills were things I handled far better than I would have expected, thanks to continuing to try hard - no matter what - in training, and to trying to keep my mind positive and focused. To quote Shalane "I don't wish it was easier, I just wish I was better". And I'm working to be. The weekend and the race itself was just as amazing and magical as I'd always heard, maybe even more so (I met some of my role models) and the only "negative" is that I didn't run a time I was happy with - though it may have reflected my ability on the day. It's been an interesting experience trying to get to being okay with it. I mostly am. I think. Sometimes. :) And fortunately, last year I qualified for 2016, so I have the opportunity to do it better, and I intend to! I'm also focused on a big PR and BQ in my October marathon.

    Thanks for letting me share.

    1. Funny that I JUST saw this! Yes, when it comes to Boston the stakes can feel higher. This is something we've been working towards and now we're here. My first Boston, 2012, was 90+ degrees and I had been dealing with my Mom's very serious battle with cancer and I felt rather ripped off. But that actually inspired me to come back. So, one never knows what life will throw at them. But we can choose how to respond, and sometimes our response to an undesirable situation leads us to places we never would have gone without it! See you in Boston next this April!! :)


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