Don’t Mess with People Who Run 26.2 Miles For Fun

DSCN1670 DSCN1654 DSCN1652 image_6

Above: When I earned my BAA medal in 2010. Out of my 14 medals, my BAA means the most to me.

Friday was One Boston Day, the third anniversary of the heartbreaking bombing of OUR marathon by domestic terrorists. The Boston Marathon is the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world; it is a race that belongs to everyone. Whether you qualify or not, Boston is the race that shows the truth of the human spirit and the unfailing love that is part of the running community.

While my work schedule is often hectic and beyond my control, I did manage to observe a moment of silence close to the time when the first bomb went off on Friday. I remember that day three years ago, when I felt like someone literally took a sword and pierced my very soul. It was one of the deepest emotional pains I have ever felt in my life. I would have to say that it was one of the three worst moments I have experienced. Even though I was in NYC in 2001, I would have to say that for me, Boston felt more personal.

As horrific as that moment was, every single minute that has come after has shown the strength, resilience, and perseverance of the community of runners. It has been amazing to see how everyone, even people who are not runners, rally around us to help and heal.

The Boston Marathon is OUR marathon. The finish line belongs to everyone. The marathon represents hope to everyone. It represents the challenges and adversity people overcome to be able to toe the start line. It represents sacrifice. Mornings when we got up at 4 am to run when we would much rather push snooze and roll over. Afternoons spent running in the rain just to get the miles in the tank. Most importantly, the Boston Marathon represents LOVE. And it belongs to everyone. You just don’t mess with people who run 26.2 miles for fun.

Today is Marathon Monday. Happy Patriot’s Day, Massachusetts! This is the day when the crowds line the streets to cheer the accomplishments of everyone in the race. It is a day to come together and celebrate and be kind to one another. We have overcome the atrocity of 4.15.13 by showing each other tenderness and mercy in a time of need. As my hero Kathrine Switzer has said, “If you ever doubt the strength of the human spirit, watch a marathon.”

Speaking of heroes, today also marks 50 years of women being allowed to run the marathon. I am thankful for the opportunity to run every single day. At one time, women were not allowed to run more than a mile because it was thought that running more than that would make us unable to bear children. Of course, we all know this is a misconception. Many women have both ran marathons and bore children. However, it should be noted that part of the confusion came from the fact that when we run a marathon, it works the muscle groups directly below those used in natural childbirth. So yes, they are equivocally the same. Running a marathon pretty much does the same thing to our bodies as natural childbirth. However, marathoning does nothing to interfere with our ability to bear children. This was a huge hurdle that had to be overcome in order for women to be able to run marathons.

While Kathrine Switzer is well known for running Boston using only her first initial for registration and surviving an attempt by the race director to throw her off the course screaming “Give me those numbers,” we must remember that, in fact, the first woman to run Boston was Bobbi Gibb. Bobbi is one of the pioneers of women’s running that helped pave the way for the rest of us. 50 years ago women were not allowed to run marathons. Today, we make up about half the field in almost every race.

In 1980, American Joannie Samuelson won gold in the inaugural women’s marathon in the Olympics. Just a short 36 years ago, we showed the world that not only can women run marathons, but also that we can do so on a competitive international level. The three women: Bobbi, Kathrine, and Joan are the pioneers of women’s running. Today’s Boston Marathon is a celebration of the barriers we have overcome to be able to run this great race.

I am so proud and so blessed to have the ability to run. It is the greatest gift that I have in life. While considered a solitary sport, it is amazing to see what we can do once you get a group of runners together. We run to raise money for charity. We run to bring awareness to causes. We continue to run even when we are hungry and tired. We run through joy, we run through tears. We just keep going, because to stop would be one of the greatest pains to experience.

There is a meme that has gone around the Internet in running circle with a Matrix-like scenario. If you take the red pill, you can continue running at your current level for the rest of your life. If you take the blue pill, you will see significant improvement in your ability to be competitive, but your super running ability will only last for 5 years and then you will not be able to run anymore. I choose the red pill. Every time. I choose the red pill. I cannot imagine my life without running in it.

I will be doing a trail run today in solidarity with Boston. The day I earned my Boston medal in 2010 was one of the best days of my life. Let us never forget 4.15.13. We must honor those that we lost by continuing to run. We must run for those who cannot because we know they would do the same for us. We must show all terrorists everywhere that even if you bomb our race, it will not stop us from toeing the start line and from crossing finish lines again and again. Each step that we take is a step full of love.

You don’t mess with people who run 26.2 miles for fun because we have the ability to be, show, and bring out the best in humanity. Today we celebrate not only women’s running but also the hope and love that the marathon symbolizes. #BostonStrong

IMG_5008 IMG_5384

The Insanity of Taper Mode

IMG_9734

The last three weeks of every marathoners training plan are not only challenging, but also crucial. Taper mode is that point at which your body is fully trained and prepared to go the distance of 26.2 miles long on race day, but your brain does not agree. To complicate this process, your training plan now says that you are supposed to decrease your mileage, rest, eat, and hydrate well in preparation for race day.

This seems to make total sense until you actually reach the point in the training plan where you enter Taper Mode and your brain screams: “Nooooooo. Noooooo. We’re not ready! We can’t do this! We must run more! I am not ready for the start line!”

To which your body responds: “Chill. We got this. We ready. We trained. Now is time to rest and gather our stores of glycogen and other nutrients to be able to perform.”

Yes, you are, in fact ready to race.

Your brain is not going to hear that. Your brain is not going to believe. Taper mode is called “the insanity of taper mode” because this is the point at which even the most psychologically robust completely loses their mind.

You develop OCD. You tell everyone you live in a bubble and to not touch you.

You’re like the llama in the Emperor’s New Groove telling everyone to not touch you.

The last few weeks before a marathon, you are also at your most vulnerable, immune wise. You sanitize everything like an air lock on a spaceship. Then you sanitize it again. You sanitize so much you should buy stock in soap and baby wipes.

Your training plan for Taper Mode says 6 miles. You cheat. You run 8 miles instead.

You panic. You pray. You make deals with both God and the Devil and anyone else who seems like they may be able to help you in any way. Your brain is on full-out psychotic freak out mode because it just realized you are about to run a MARATHON and that is 26.2 miles long. It’s way different from those Netflix marathons you’ve been doing to try to cope with Taper Mode.

All you need to do is make it to the start line healthy and strong. If you can make it to the start line, your body will do the rest. The start line is just as important as the finish line. In order to complete a marathon, you must cross both.

You start reading inspirational quotes, books, blogs, magazines, and watching inspirational movies to try to get yourself over the hump. You start imagining worst-case scenarios. You mentally prepare for this race better than some cult about to eat the pudding before the Hale Bopp comet. Run, walk, crawl, drag, or if in Philly, IN DRAG, you will cross the finish line. You imagine every single possible way and scenario to finish 26.2 miles because your brain does not think you are ready. You break it up into chunks: it’s a 5k with a 23 mile warm up, it’s a 10k with a 20 mile warm up, and any other chunk you can break down.

Meanwhile, your body is relaxed. Your body knows. Every fiber of every muscle in your body has been trained. The imprint of the 500+ miles you have run in the 5 months it took to prepare for the race are ingrained in your muscles. Your body knows what to do.

Your brain needs to get it together.

Calm down, man.

It doesn’t matter if it is your first time, your 20th, or your 50th, Taper Mode always feels this way. For me, I am going for medal # 14. Taper Mode is always the same. Your body is ready, and your brain is completely freaked out. You have followed the training plan, and the training plan has worked 13 times before. You will be fine.

But honestly, the insanity of taper mode makes the marathon that much more beautiful. When you lace up on race day, cross the start line, and get into the rhythm of the race, you will find that moment where your brain finally agrees with your body and calms down: “We got this.” That moment, when everything clicks into place, you just fly like you are on cruise control, and enjoy the moment for which you have spent a significant amount of your year preparing to do. That is the moment of marathon magic.

So while the insanity of taper mode is sure to be annoying and drive everyone crazy, in some ways it is necessary. Being able to appreciate how far you have come and everything you have OVERcome to get to this point is part of the marathon magic. The miracle is that you had the strength, the discipline, and the fortitude to train for those 5 months. This is for the Sunday morning long runs when you would have much rather stayed in bed and listened to the radio, this is for all the times when you ran in the pouring rain because you had to get the miles in, and a treadmill would have been worse punishment than anything mother nature can muster.

To run a marathon, you have to go a little crazy.

“But I’m not ready,” says brain.

“Yes, we are,” says body.

“We will start and we will finish,” says heart.