Sunday, March 28, 2010

The real deal

The piercing sound of my ringing phone breaks me from my peaceful sleep. Crawling out of my cave of blankets and pillows I reach to shut off my alarm only to realize it is my mother calling. I muster up all the energy I have to say "Hello" and when she asked If I am ok, I don't sound that good I respond with "You just woke me up, I am tired". She let's me go, and at first I plan on going back to sleep but then I realize the sun is streaming through my windows. I'm awake, I might as well do this running thing and get it over with right?

But my body begs to differ. It feels like I am hungover, my whole body, even my head, aches and my throat feels dry. But I didn't drink last night, so what gives. Well instead I awoke at 5am on Saturday to take the train into Manhattan and spent the day with my mom and sisters directing them every which way, to shopping, eating, more shopping, and finally a show before they we were both on our way back home. I stretch my legs out, roll over onto my back, and try to convince by body to get out of bed. Clearly I need to work on being a little stronger at convincing myself because the next think I know it I am waking up again, and it is an hour and a half later. The sun is gone, and once I can keep my eyes open for more than a minute at a time I call my mother back. I tell her how tired I am and how cold it is outside.

Her response is "so wear gloves" and this is why I love my mother. She knows everything I've been through and then some. She knows there are no excuses. But she also knows when you can make compromises. When I tell her about my dilemma with all the plans I am trying to fit into one day she tells me to run with whatever time I have, and then move onto the next thing. And she's right. I may not be able to fit 13 miles into a 35 degree Sunday after spending Saturday walking around Manhattan and then be ready to go to Boyfriend's Parents house for Palm Sunday by 2pm. Just too many things. But does that mean I should skip my run all together? Certainly not. So I roll my sore body out of bed and get it some water, Ibuprofen, and a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter. All the basic necessities for recovery. I pick out all the essential cold weather gear, running tights, sports bra, technical tee, Nike running jacket (aka the speed skater jacket), gloves, and for today my white and navy Boston Red Sox hat. Just to be clear I am a Phillies fan, but I grew up in Massachusetts so I own a white had with a navy blue B on the front. And I wear it when I need a little kick in the butt to remind me one day I want to run Boston. And I wear it when it rains.

Once out the door, I am pleasantly surprised that I am not greeted by bitter cold air and happily start down the street at a decent pace. This is the part of the run where I feel the best. All the doubt and excuse pushed aside, when I finally get out that door and before my body has realized what has happened, I am happy. It only takes a few moments before I realize how grey and dreary it is outside and how empty the streets are. I pass a man running in the opposite direction and we nod and say a quick good morning to each other. It's as if we both acknowledge that it's a crappy day but yet we are both out running, so we must be serious hard core runners. Joggers don't come out on days like this.

Twelve minutes into my run I realize once again I forgot to take my inhaler before leaving my apartment. I am at least a mile out, only have one hour to run, and refuse to go back home. Smart people would probably turn around and go home, but smart people probably wouldn't be out here in the first place. So I keep on going, and I don't even slow down. I just decide to push myself at a moderate pace and see how far I can get. I had decided to run along the Lincoln Drive Trail because it always seems to feel shorter than two miles and the hills break up the run really well. I say 'Hi' or 'Good morning' to every runner that passes me, not because I am feeling particularly cheery, but because I have a respect for them being out here on a day like today. If I had been feeling down on myself earlier for not being able to run the distance I had wanted, I had pretty much let that feeling go.

Sometimes it's not about the distance you cover, or the speed at which you run, but the difficulties which you overcome to get out and run. I don't know many other people that would choose to leave a warm comfy bed and cozy pj's for a cold rainy early afternoon run. In fact had it not been for my mother, I probably would have made up enough excuses to convince myself it was ok to spend the morning in bed. By the time my watch has hit 20 minutes I have passed a handful of real hardcore runners and the secluded path by the creek is ending.

It opens up to Main Street and I have to cross traffic to continue my run. Ahead of me I see the light flash to walk and I don't know if I can muster enough energy to get to the crosswalk before the light turns back to red. But then the caution hand appears and a countdown from 12. I think "this is it, I have to make it. I am being challenged by the hand, can I make it in twelve seconds" My legs whirl underneath me as I come out of the trees, the sign taunts me, 9, 8, 7. My lungs burn as I watch the orange numbers flash before my eyes, 5, 4 and then I am across. Panting for air, people gathered at the bus stop must be looking at me like I am some sort of alien, running in the rain, racing against traffic lights, but I continue on. I am not going to let anything slow me down. I reach the top of a hill just as my watch hits 28 minutes and decide this will be the turn around mark. The wind immediately whips at my face and I realize I have been running with it and the second half of this journey is going to be more painful than I thought. Although by this point it is raining, and sunny, and cloudy all at once. I am halfway done and should be feeling great but fatigue is building in my legs and lungs as I charge back down hill into the wind.

I will myself to keep going and start breaking my run into little bitty pieces so they don't seem so scary. Just have to make it past the CVS, and then just have to make it past the movie theater, just have to make it to the top of the hill, and then the next hill. And when I get to those hills I make my legs really work. There will be no easy jog up these hills, I make my quads and hamstrings burn in pain as they climb me to the top. Nothing like a lot of pain to help convince me the slower I run the longer I have to stay out here. Every hill I tackle I remind myself that I am out here when no one else is, so just keep going at a steady pace and finish. I climb the last hill, and make may way out of the woods again, pushing myself as far as I can go until I am stopped by a red light. I am a mere 1/8th of a mile away from the finish and I jog in place stretching my arms out away from my sides. I realize to the cars passing by I must look like some crazy person trying to take flight, but they do not understand, so I do not care. The light is green, and I take off.

The end of a run has never felt as good as that last two minutes running back to my front door. The pain I had experienced that morning has all but left me. My feet, cushioned by my wonderful sneakers are no longer throbbing in pain, my legs no longer feel like lead. I feel energized, and alive, so glad, and proud that I managed to fit in a run. I ran with out my inhaler and didn't need to stop along the way gasping for breath. I managed to keep around a 10 mm pace. It is not always the goals you think most important that give you the most glory. Sometimes just getting out and running in the rain, convincing myself to keep going despite any doubt and discomfort I may have been feeling, is the thing that makes you the strongest. Anyone can have a good run, but a real runner finishes a bad one no matter what.

xx Sara


Trish said...

Sara, this is beautifully written!! I am really impressed with your's inspiring!

Sara Elizabeth said...

Thank you! I am always touched when someone enjoys reading my words as much as I enjoy writing them!

Black Labs and Lilly said...

Another amazing post!!! I felt like you were chronicling my run last Thursday morning. Cold, Rainy, Speed Skater jacket and a case of cement legs. I love that you challenged the big red hand and dominated it!!!

Denise said...

i don't know why it takes me so long to figure out there's a local blogger right next door to me!!! sorry!!

this was such a great post! great job getting the run're tougher because of it.

we need to set up a blogger meet up w/ all these local runners!

Denise said...

oh...and do you know coach jack and dana?