Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Don't attack the hill from the bottom. It's bigger than you are.

It's 5pm on a Tuesday afternoon and I'm ten minutes away from campus.
The sun is shinning. Its a perfect 59 degrees outside in the city of Philadelphia (or at least so says the billboard towering above rt 76). And I am meeting Larry for our regular tuesday six mile run, that turned into a seven mile run, that for the past four weeks has been an eight mile run.
This week will prove to be a peice of cake after last weeks 5x800's. But I had a hankering for putting myself through pain. I grab my gear and hurry to Larry's to change so we can be on our way. I must not have been thinking when I packed that morning becuase I had thrown in shorts and a long sleeve tech tee. I was not about to wear long sleeves on a day like today so it looks like it would be another shirtless tuesday run. I am in high spirits as we take off through campus running by students as we discuss the upcoming Boston Marathon. I mention how I would really like to see it.
For the first time in my life I actually want to be there, I want to feel the rush and the excitement, I just want to absorb it all. I want to be at that finish line, I want to feel the rush of the leaders. I havn't been in so long I can barely remember what it feels like. I want to see it from the side lines. I want to be in the presence of greatness.
But there is no way I could bring myself to miss yet another day at work after my upcoming vacation to Tennessee.
Larry mentions It would be better if i were to go up for the trials. And for a while we discuss why the trials have to be run on a six times loop course.
"Ok well here is my theory at least, Do you have any idea how much work it takes to close down a city for a race . I mean granted It is the olympic trials, its kind of a big deal and its not like it takes them forever to finish, but as a huge city already practically closing down for a an entire day for the actual marathon, don't you think its a lot easier for them to just close of a sixth of the distance and have them run around in circles?"
"makes sense I guess" he answers
"Oh I don't know" I say breathlessly "I just made that up off the top of my head" I say as we attempt to cross traffic and get behind the zoo.
Mid converstaion an amtrack passenger train goes by and we run in almost silence for about a minute.
We do the usual zoo loop, behind the zoo, up lansdowne through the war memoiral, onto belmont and up to belmont plateau. We make a slight detur at the top of the hill to get in about a mile/mile and a half of trail running which I have to admit i was starting to like.
"So i go into the work kitchen today" I start to say "And there is this mountain of chocolate cake just sitting there on a plate" I only mention this becuase I know of Larry's love for chocolate cake
"And did you have any of it?"
"We'll here's the thing, I didn't. I dont want to say im on a diet, I hate saying that. I'm just trying to be careful is all. I mean I want to get in the best shape I can be in"
"be careful you know, it can help you but it can also hurt you"
"I'm not stupid, i know i have to be eating enough, I've put a lot of thought into it"
We make our way back out of the woods and onto the dreaded grassy hill. I recall a downright awful day of training last summer when I just flat our refused to put an effort in on thoes hills. It was a pretty low day, larry happend to run into one of his old highschool teamates both of them looking spectacularly athletic and here I was some lolly gagging along girl with an Ipod a pracitcal joke in comparison.
So this time, as Larry recounted what it was like in his days of cross country to run a race up that hill, I pushed the whole way up. Right over the edge and was thrilled at the eased feeling of the decent.
The rest of the run was a blurr of rapid and chatty downhills and serious silent uphills.
As we coasted to the bottom of the 34th street bridge I ask him to tell me about his run at Boston. And for the the last mile I coast along picturing what it might feel like to one day run the epic course.
Just listening to it is enough to make the fatigue in my quads dissapear and I have one of my best finishes on this eight mile loop that I have had in a long time.
I embrace the pain and stretch my hands over my head as I soak in the fact that I am Finally getting back into shape.

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