Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Seeing things differently

This past weekend I was supposed to do the Freedom Trail Run with my friend Denise Saturday morning in Boston.  We were both really looking forward to it and excited to see some of the historic sites in the city that are all too easy to take for granted since we live here.  Then the Red Sox had to go and win the World Series in typical Red Sox fashion, going from worst to first and winning at home bringing the most amazing positive energy and joy to the Fenway Faithful and the entire city of Boston in a year when we needed it most.  And of course they had to have Duck boat parade and it had to be on the day when we had planned to go into Boston for a little sight seeing.  At first we didn't let this ruin our plans because the parade wasn't going to start until 10am and our run would be done by then.  Then we saw the road closures and parking bans and started to worry. 

Saturday morning I got up and got dressed and watched the news.  The forecast was perfect for running and for a parade.  No one cared about our silly run though.  It was Duck boat parade day in Boston.  The reporters in Copley Square were already surrounded by Red Sox fans at 5am!  They showed the commuter trains packed full and I started to wonder how crazy the crowds would be.  I got an email and then a text from Denise.  We were both feeling really anxious about attempting to fight the crowds to do a run that we could do any other weekend.  Was it really worth it?  Plus, the thought did cross both of our minds, when they predicted millions of people flooding the streets of the city and special significance and respect to be paid at the finish line of the marathon - that's a lot of people and another potential target for an attack.  While it is an incredible thing and the energy and emotion of the entire city coming together to celebrate is awesome, it is also anxiety inducing and even a little unsettling to think about approaching that street in a large crowd.

I know we will both need to do it in April 2014, but we were not ready yet and decided to save the run for another day.  I did my shorter long training run (8 miles) for the weekend and finished before the parade even left Fenway.  I watched some of the coverage on TV as I ate breakfast and got dressed.  It was a great day for Boston.  The interviews and the boats stopping on Boylston to pay tribute to the victims of the bombings and then the crowd spontaneously singing "God Bless America" together was overwhelming to see on TV I can only imagine how it must have been in person.  Just seeing the images of the Marathon Sports staff getting choked up as the players put the trophy and a special '617 BOSTON STRONG' jersey on the finish line gave me chills.

Anyway, I finished out the weekend of training with a 14 mile run on Sunday.  The weather was not nearly as nice as Saturday.  It was sort of snow/sleeting for most of the run.  Now quite cold enough for the white fluffy stuff, but not quite warm enough for rain.  Just right to be annoying and uncomfortable.  I ran a really solid and consistant pace for the whole run.  I even negative split it.  Which is pretty impressive considering the second half of the run is mostly uphill.  Here's the elevation profile:
Those hills between mile 7 and 11 are Tewksbury's version of the Newton Hills and they will get me ready for Boston over the next 6 months.  I repeat these hills in the last miles of all my long runs.  It pretty perfectly mimics the last few miles of the Boston Marathon.  I actually think the last mile of the climb in Tewksbury is a lot worse than Heartbreak hill.  It's longer and steeper and it just never ends.  I get a nice downhill for a mile before I have to climb again for the last 2 miles.  It's gradual and levels out at some points but it is still climbing all the way back to my house.

So, that's one aspect of my training.  Another part that I think will become increasingly important with THIS race in particular and this year more than ever is the mental training.  I usually practice visualizing the course and especially a strong finish and the feeling of glory as I make those last two turns onto Hereford and then Boylston.  The crowds and the other runners fade away and it's just me and the finish line and the amazing high that comes with crossing the most prestigious finish line in the World.  That vision has changed forever now and it is blurred by horror and unknown and smoke and fear.  I wasn't there, but I heard it and I saw the look on people's faces as they came from there.  I know next year it will be the safest street in the entire world, but I still struggle to see myself running down it.
I have been re-reading the book "26 Miles to Boston" to prepare.  It is a great book written from multiple perspectives and it paints the perfect picture of the marathon mile by mile.  From history, runners, spectators, and the race organizers in each of the 8 towns the course passes through.  Last week, when I ran the Ashland Half marathon I was just getting to the chapters in Ashland.  Last night before I fell asleep I progressed to Natick and closed the book at Wellesley.  There was a section of the book that really struck me and has a completely different meaning to me now.  The author quotes a poem talking about how spiritual running can be.  The poem, 'Forgive me when I whine' is nice and I probably skimmed over it in previous readings of the book, but this time it brought me to tears:

Today upon a bus I saw a lovely maiden with golden hair;
I envied her, she seemed so happy and , Oh, I wished I was so fair
When, suddenly, she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle;
She had one foot and wore a crutch, but as she passed a smile.

Oh, Go forgive me when I whine;
I have two feet, the world is mine...

With feet to take me where I'd go,
With eyes to see the sunset's glow,
With ears to hear what I should know,
I'm blessed indeed, the world is mine
Oh, God forgive me when I whine!

The next few months will be challenging.  Training for the marathon through the harsh New England winter, fundraising during a really tough economy in a newish job for a smaller company that does not have a matching gift program, and mentally preparing to run across the finish line a year after bombs exploded and stopped time in the city of Boston.  I accept the challenge and look forward to conquering it, but it will be tough.  Tonight is my first DFMC team meeting.  I can't wait to meet some of the other team members and reconnect with former teammates.  My fundraising is off to a great start - $1625 only about two weeks into it.  Help me keep going and visit my personal fundraising page to make a donation:

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