That might be the story of my training this year. Last year, it was filled with group runs with fellow runners in training for The Other Half. It was all happy and chatty, with lots of boundless enthusiasm about our first venture into 13.1 land. We were featured in the race program, and sort of got treated like rock stars as we ran the race with our foam crowns and met up with teammates at the finish.
This year, it's been a solitary road in training for my first marathon, now two weeks away with the real training complete at this point. Several of those girls are pregnant, one moved, one took a break and just started running again so it's really just been ME out there with my thoughts. I am not using the word "lonely," though-it's actually been a great thing for me this year. I don't really get alone time otherwise so it's been invigorating to get those few hours uninterrupted, free to think about anything I want, or nothing at all. I love my kids, but with four of them it's just a very welcome and energizing break to have that time.
I've done lots of thinking out there at times, and other times just zoned out to music that allows me to just get deep in my head and run, hence the title of this blog entry, a lyric from Widespread Panic's "Driving Song" that just feels like it was written for a long run around the Connected Lakes here on the river trail. I was never an iPod listener this time a year ago, and am sort of surprised that I've got a few artists and podcasters to thank for adding to my runs. Allison Krauss + Union Station's double live album has been one that just meshes well with early morning running, along with Widespread Panic's Space Wrangler as a tried and true staple. I found myself actually looking forward to that point in the second half of summer long runs when I'd crank up "Coconuts" and "Contentment Blues" (That Chicken Tastes Good!" Then there was the perfect tempo run album of all time...Phish's A Live One, Disc One, building up to that crescendo on You Enjoy Myself with the indecipherable lyrics (gosh this feeling mighty differente? wash uffizi drive me to Firenze?). Definitely, there are certain songs and albums that have been the soundtrack of this training cycle. And it's not all my hippie jam band music....throwing in some Von Bondies telling me to C'Mon, C'mon, a little bit of 311, or Soul Coughing singing to Move Aside and Let the (wo)Man Go Through have helped too.
I also discovered Steve Runner's podcasts during this time, so I've enjoyed and appreciated the way he can make me laugh hard at times (the steroid-infused Barry Bonds helium voice saying "I Like Money" is now a common saying by the kids around the house), and really move me with serious commentary at other times. It's been cool to really learn more about my chosen sport and some of the folks who have turned it into what it is today, and just appreciate the fact that this is your average Joe Runner, husband and father, who like me used to be overweight and didn't believe himself to be capable of much of anything in the runing department. So I have to send a big cyber thank you to Steve. Even my non-running husband has started listening to his archived podcasts when he uses the bike trainer here at the house.
I think it's no coincidence, as well, that I happened upon the podcast of a guy from right outside of Boston who says you've just GOT to run the marathon I'm trying to qualify for...because "Hey, it's Boston!" It's kept me hungry to pursue this BQ goal after actually HEARING him live on the course.
There have also been the RWOL BQ women. What a tremendous and diverse group of women who will give you straight and honest feedback without ever talking down to one another, and really pump up and support each other through thick and thin. I owe them a huge thank you-I've learned SO much from everyone and have been sitting here with baited breath each of the past few weekends, watching and waiting for results to come in. More than once I've cursed the computer when marathon websites weren't properly working, or splits were slow to update.
I've been lucky to have some of THE best female runners in the region for coaches through Team Tiara, the ones who really helped get the ball rolling on the point I've come to today. I got an email from Girls on the Run after doing their spring 5K in '07 (my first race) regarding them looking for women who wanted to run and fundraise. I really did NOT think a half marathon to be within the realm of what I was capable of, and sent an email asking about the program to our regional director, really expecting her to say "nah, it's too soon. You need to run more before you can do this." Instead, what I got back was a VERY encouraging email telling me that while yeah, you have to train for it, YES, absolutely, I COULD go from 5K to half marathon in four months' time.
Had she not been as encouraging, or the coaches and teammates so friendly and approachable, I could've gone screaming the other way. You hear so much about women being unsupportive and not nice to one another in general. I have to say that running women are SO supportive of one another and carry each other through thick and thin. How cool is that? I'm trying to do that now for friends who are getting out there for the first time with C25K, or just finishing it up and wondering "what now?" Or help with those little random questions that I know the answers to now, but are NOT at all obvious when you're first getting out there. I do remember being scared, uncertain and nervous and kind of feel like it's my duty now that the shoe is on the other foot to let these women know that their bodies CAN do it....it's just a matter of getting the mind to understand and believe it.
There have also been the many supportive family and friends, some with running background and experience, and others with none whatsoever who have taken the time to talk and ask me about my training. We runners joke a little bit about the folks who ask "So how long is this marathon?" but in reality I am always surprised and totally appreciative when someone asks about it, how training is going, or whatever.
Then there's my husband and kids. I KNOW it's not the most convenient thing in the world when I have to vanish for a few hours to run every weekend, or hole up in the bedroom on the treadmill, but they've been awesome. Not every mom with kids gets this kind of support during such time consuming training and they've been my main crew from day one. My better half has been the voice of reason when I've had some injuries that could have become major ones that could force me to cancel the big event. He seems to know instinctively whether he needs to gently soft sell me on something I should be doing, or just flat out say "Hey, you'd be a total moron to run today." Okay, I'll be fair, he'd never call me a moron. He has his very effective way of conveying that message, though.
And the kids...I'm not kidding when I say I LOVE knowing at the end of races and long runs that I'm going to see them. :) I was SO excited to see them at the finish of Imogene Pass and run over to hug them all before crossing the finish. I love that my two-year-old shouts "GO MAMA! RUN MAMA!" or that my four-year-old son likes to play Mister Massage Therapist and give me a back or foot rub. My six-year-old, who used to scream bloody murder when she was three or four about going for family walks has suddenly transformed into this kid who WANTS to be a runner and WANTS to do races! If you knew temperamentally how she is-it's mind blowing to my husband and I. Even more mind blowing that she's this zen runner now-just smiling, kicking her legs, swinging her arms. So if she wants to do this now because I'm doing it, it just pumps me up more.
My nine-year-old is amazing too. Now that she's becoming quite an experienced 5K-er, and has this innate first-kid seriousness and competitive drive, she seems to really understand what I'm doing in training, and gets into all kinds of specific questions about my distance, my pace, and other aspects of the daily runs. I don't ever want to force running upon them, so it's really a thrill that they are not only interested but actively participate in it, both in their own running, and supporting me. It has been the coolest thing ever to have my family crewing for me on weekend long runs, whether it's them refilling and switching out my handhelds at my car parked at the trailhead, or my husband doing like he did yesterday, being in charge of getting the kids out the door to some activities in the morning and leaving me a note that he'd left me a breakfast burrito in the microwave. Training has been hard but thanks to them, I don't have any added stress that comes from lack of support or outright negativity.
I know nobody reads these boring rambles but I was thinking about this on my run yesterday-all the ups and downs and people and influences I needed to acknowledge and thank in what has NOT been a lonely training journey, even though I've been out there alone on many of my runs. I might be the one moving my arms and legs, but I have been far from alone on this journey to my first marathon, and just wanted to acknowledge all the positives and support I've been lucky enough to experience throughout.