When I started running, the thought of actually running Boston was a pipe dream. I thought my chances of qualifying would perhaps be in my 50s or 60s, when those race times would be more realistic for my actual ability. In 2012 after having both babies and I stopped nursing, I took on marathon #1. I wasnt sure if I would be a one and done or if this would become a life long thing. My goal was solely to finish, but in the back of my mind I wanted to beat Oprah Winfrey's time. One thing about me is I always have a goal in mind, but I never tell anyone...call it superstition if you will. Needless to say, I finished...I beat Oprah's time...Running became a big part of me.
My next marathon was Goofy 39.3, but my goal was just to run a 4hr marathon. I thought that was possible with the amount of training I had done in a years time. There was that 3:35 BQ time that lingered, but I refused to verbalize that thought. Verbalizing it meant I would fail. To my surprise though, I ran a 3:31:24 and qualified for my first Boston.
Nothing going into Boston aligned correctly. I was plagued with injury that would take 6 months to heal and emotionally I felt disconnected. It was rough, but I pushed with all I had to be where I needed to be. I needed to be at that start line at Hopkinton, but my leg, my heart and my head had a lot of healing to do.
The process took a lot of time and quite possibly took a village to keep me put together. My amazing chiropractor who served as more than just the doc, he helped more emotionally than hes quite aware of. My best friends and my RJ family motivated me everyday and believed in me on days I couldnt even walk without limping. The work was on me though and I trained in the most non traditional way possible. The person who followed training plans like bible, now split up long runs, did not an ounce of speedwork, no hillwork, no garmin, no tempos....just me, my shoes, inspirational music and a bag of epsom. I had zero expectations at this point....JUST FINISH!
I landed in Boston with a good friend on a Friday and our agenda was focused on just taking the tourist approach and enjoying everything Boston had to offer. We got lost too many times to count and I spent more time on my feet than I should have. From the moment we landed, the entire experience was just surreal. There really are no words. Runners were royalty there and I did not pass a single person in 5 days that did not say, "Thank you for running!" The atmosphere was celebratory, although at times people cried reading a message left behind or catching a glimpse of a burned up banner that was still flying after surviving the bombings. I took it all in...the history...every moment...every bit of laughter...every tear. I was overwhelmed by all the support from friends and strangers believing in me.
On that Monday, I woke up to choppers flying over head and feeling every bit of nervous. I pinned my bib on and did what I trained my unbroken spirit to do....F**kin Run!!! I do not know what happened nor how I did it, but when you set out with your heart there is no stopping that. I thought my Garmin was broken from the months of neglect, so I even asked some girl what our pace was at around mile 6. I remember passing Team Hoyt at mile 10 and feeling absolutely overwhelmed with emotion. All I remember screaming out was, "You are amazing!" I closed my eyes several times during the race and opened them each time with such amazement. One guy at the top of a hill held a sign that said, "F**ckin Awesome!" Perfect sign for a moment where my legs screamed back at me. So many kids held signs saying, "Punch here for Power!!!" I punched every sign possible and while they jumped for joy that a runner read their sign, they really had no idea the push that gave me. I glanced down frequently at my arm to remind myself who I ran for and the lessons I learned from their struggle. When I turned left onto Boylston, I saw a beautiful finish line waiting for me after a long year. The crowd was 8 deep in some parts and the noise...oh wow that noise. As the runners around me crossed that finish, we all embraced and we cried. Complete strangers celebrating a personal journey and also that WE TOOK BACK THAT FINISH LINE!
"What defines us is how well we rise after falling." I suited up and showed up and running gave it all back and then some!
I get asked a lot if I cross train and what my program consists of. For starters, when I first started running seriously I followed Hal Higdon's program and suggestions as bible. With that being said, as a new runner it isnt suggested you add much extras to your program if you are new to working out in general. Your body is taking on a lot by starting out a new program, so along with mighty Hal, I also say its best to wait until your body is acclimated to all the awesome changes. Although cross training helps prevent injury, aids in recovery and overall makes you stronger...too much too soon can offer the exact opposite.
About a year into my post baby weight loss, I added weight training to my run routine. I began a program called Les Mills Pump. I hate the gym and standing around waiting for a machine or sets, so this program offers me a fast paced full body ass kicker at the convenience of my own home (mind you I work at a gym). I vary the program from shorter to longer sessions 3-4 days a week. Did the weights make me faster?? I think so. My times have consistently improved since putting on some muscle. Although I did endure a stubborn injury this year, the weight training probably had me recover a lot better. The structure and foundation needs to be strong in order to keep moving.
In the last few months, I also added some plyometric workouts. More leg strength just means more explosion. The stronger they have gotten, the easier it is for me to complete a run on tired legs, tackle bridges/hills and work on speed. If you know me, you know I despise speedwork so this is like the compromise I make instead.
Time injured meant my program revolved around just cross training. I was on complete run restriction, so I relied heavily on other things to keep me fit for an upcoming marathon. What I did...tons of time on the elliptical, every spin class on the gym schedule, lots of les mills and lots of plyo. Even though it was not my best time by any means, the point is that I finished that damn thing.
Start out slowly if you are just getting started, but by no means underestimate the benefits of trying out other things. They surely will compliment your running.
Confident, Stronger, Faster and Injury Free
If you train by yourself, as I do, it can get rather lonely. There is no one to get you through a tough long run, celebrate with you when the stars align for a perfect run or just have one of those runs where you unload on someone after a shitacular day. Don't get me wrong, its my choice to run alone. Alone time is a part of that mental strength I continue to work on. There are days its hard to see through some of that fog of the daily grind and see the support that is in fact getting one foot in front of the other for you. Support for me has been my fuel and inspiration....they are the glue that hold it all together for me. Support to me is like that gu when you start fading during a hard run.
My parents will forever treat me like a 5 yr old. I normally dont tell them about my escapades to run across Florida or do a 50mile race down to Key West, until the night before. Their comments will ALWAYS be, "Isnt that too much for you?" Or "You really need to becareful with your knees." I am not always as confident with my ability to do what I do, so the last thing I need is to question it some more. My parents are the most untech savvy people in the world, but my dad somehow managed to figure out how to track me at my first Boston Marathon. He called me in tears to congratulate me on my new PR and then threw in the fact he was sure a sub 3hr marathon was in my future. Thanks for the added pressure dad! My mom who is undoubtedly the hardest person to please, told me she admired me because she did not know how I managed to do it all. Even though they drive me insane, they make sure they always say they are proud with a side of dont hurt your knees. No body is perfect right?
My kids wore a "My mommy is Boston Strong" shirt to school on Marathon Monday....enough said! They think their mommy is stronger than any Disney Prince and stronger than their daddy (i overheard them telling stories to one another with that exact line). They have held signs for me at finish lines, even when they were too young to understand. They are the best mini-me support ever.
My ex husband tried his best to support me, but at the end of the day I think he resented me for it. As we live separate lives now, we just do our best to instill that hard work into our girls. He makes sure they know what I do, but I guess thats the best support I can ask for. He makes sure the girls respect all that I do. Thats all the words of encouragement that I need from him.
Random people in town! I get stopped almost daily by someone that says, "I always see you running the bridges." Those people might be my favorite secret supporters.
My best friends believe in me more than I do. They send cards of congratulations before I even started the race, they made me my very first medal hanger that I received before I toed my first starting line, they know all my pre race and post race rituals, they dont complain when they have to be up at 3am to drive me to the start, they spend their Christmas bonus to buy a ticket to Boston so I dont go alone and they cry more than I do when I cross the finish. They are my agents, my cheerleaders, my coaches and my heart.
My RunJunkEe and Moonjogger family are amazing. I couldnt ask for a better group of strangers to be my family. The support as been overwhelming and when I think about what they all did while I ran Boston, still brings tears to my eyes. The support was unreal. For the hours I trekked from Hopkinton to Boston, they seemed to stop their worlds for me. All that love...thank you will never be enough.
Just when you think you have no one there, open your eyes...there is always someone watching and in awe of you. Sometimes that little bit is all you need.
My first steps as a baby according to my parents was actually a run. At 5yrs old my dad took me to the NYC Marathon, but truth be told I had no idea why people were running down the street. All this was foreshadowing for what was to be a life of running almost 30 years later. "If opportunity doesnt knock...build a door."