Empire State of Mind

This time five years ago, I would have been recovering, and beginning to run again, after completing my first marathon, the Corning Wineglass Marathon in October. Those days feel so long ago, but also like just yesterday. Looking back, I am baffled by how far I’ve come.

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During the fall of 2013, I was living in NYC and “training” for my first marathon. A few months prior, I had run my last college track race and with that, I shut the door on my competitive running career. At the time, there was no place in my mind for serious post-collegiate running, and even if there had been, my relationship with running was so broken that I would not have entertained the idea. I had registered for the Wineglass Marathon only to run a race with my mom  and to check “Run a Marathon” off the bucket list.

In the summer leading up to the race, I worked at a summer camp where I was a bunk counselor and running counselor. I spent my days running loop after loop around camp with high school girls who were aiming to stay in shape for their upcoming field hockey or soccer seasons. Since most of those runs were slower than I was used to, in addition, I’d run early in the morning or during my off periods in order to get my “actual” marathon training in (even though I had NO idea how to train for a marathon). I didn’t count much of the running I was doing with the campers toward my mileage, and as a result I was likely, without realizing, putting in the highest mileage of my life. Since my relationship with running, food, and my body was so poor at the time, I wasn’t eating enough, resting enough, or listening to my body either. By August, I had a stress fracture in one of my metatarsals.

Fast forward to fall and few weeks into my time in NYC, I was given the clear to run again. If I remember correctly, I was about 3 weeks out from Wineglass and my long run PR was still just 12.5 miles. In those three weeks, I ran as much as I could around Central Park. I tried forcing fitness I didn’t have and running mileage I wasn’t ready for. It was dumb, painful, and it definitely didn’t make me happy. I absolutely loved running around New York, but I never fully enjoyed it because not a single run was done for the right reasons. Every run was a means to an end. A way to get thinner and be better. Whatever that means.

Finally, race weekend arrived and I took the bus back upstate to meet my mom in Binghamton and then drive to Corning. Don’t ask my mom about that day. She would tell you I was an absolutely miserable person to be around. I was grumpy about running the race, I knew I was unprepared, and the idea of waking up at 5AM to run more than double my longest run ever was daunting at best. But I did it and to my surprise, I finished a little but under four hours. I really can’t remember feeling anything other than tired when I finished, but it was pretty awesome having run the same marathon as my mom. That’s not something most people get to say.

It didn’t happen right away, but not long after crossing the finish line in Corning, I knew I wasn’t ready to put the marathon to rest. I didn’t have any big dreams of being competitive again and I didn’t even want to qualify for Boston yet, but I knew I wanted to race again and that I wanted to go faster. In two weeks I’ll be back in New York for marathon number 9.

I find it fitting that five years later this marathon takes me back to where it all started and in the past few weeks of training I’ve done a lot of reflecting. I didn’t expect running my 9th marathon to feel like some huge milestone, but it kind of does. Five years and 8 marathons ago I was unhappy, and I was struggling with disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with running and myself. I hated the sport I’d once loved and I never thought I’d enjoy it again. I had no clue what my plan was past students teaching and really, I just felt lost.

Since then, so much has changed. It began when I moved the the D.C. area for my first teaching job. My environment changed, my friends changed, and relationship with running started to shift. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2014 and qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time, which started to bring back a little bit of my competitive fire. It didn’t happen quickly, but over time things began to change and by the time I ran the Marine Corps Marathon again in 2016, my fourth marathon, I think I could actually say I enjoyed running again.

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In the early summer of 2017 I began working with a coach for the first time since college. I was hesitant due to my relationship with running the last time I had a coach, but I can say with confidence it was one of the best decisions I ever made. In the fall of 2017, I ran a 9 minute PR at the Chicago marathon, officially reviving my desire to be competitive, and then in the spring of 2018, despite horrific conditions, I shaved off another 6 minutes to run under 3:10 for the first time in Boston.

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Although Chicago and Boston were my ninth and tenth marathons, I feel like they were the very  beginning. For a long time I thought I had potential to break 3:20, on a perfect day, but now I know it’s so much more. After Boston, I set my sights on breaking 3 hours.

Training for New York has been far from perfect (as most training blocks are). For one, summer in D.C. is brutal with heat and humidity, so I rarely felt successful during a workout or long run. Then came the stress of switching back to teaching kindergarten at a new school and adjusting to the incredibly busy schedule of the school year. And finally, in the past month, the kindergarten germs knocked me down and I was forced to adjust some training because I just didn’t have the health or energy to get everything in.

October has been littered with doubt and fear. I’ve been holding on tight to the goal of breaking three hours, but my training hasn’t necessarily given me the confidence to believe that’s realistic. I’ve had a difficult time keeping things in perspective and not being too hard on myself, but this week I’ve finally started to get past that mental block and take on a more optimistic attitude.

I don’t think I’m ready to break 3 hours in New York, and that’s OK. I’m confident that I’m ready to run a great race. New York is a tough course and it isn’t known for impressively fast times. My training has been hard and I’ve dealt with a lot of life stress. Is it possible that I could have a perfect race and make it happen? Sure. But that’s not my goal at this point.

I’m turning this race into a celebration more than any other, because not only do I get to celebrate finishing another marathon, but I get to celebrate five years of tremendous growth in my life. Once again, I love running and I have fun with it. Finally, I eat food and I enjoy it. For the first time, I am comfortable in my own skin and I no longer spend time hating my body. Running fast times is great, but there is so much more to running and life. In the grand scheme, the time I run on November 4th does not matter at all. My life won’t change whether I run a 3:10, a 3:05, or 3 hours. It won’t even change if I run 4 hours. But I do believe my life will be a little better if I savor every step I run around the beautiful city of New York and appreciate what an amazing opportunity it is to be where I am today.

I’ll break three eventually, when the time is right, but I don’t need to rush. I am focused on the present moment and I am meeting my body and mind where it is.


Corning Wineglass Marathon, 2013

Marine Corps Marathon, 2014

Boston Marathon, 2016

Marine Corps Marathon, 2016

Boston Marathon, 2017

Pocono Marathon, 2017

Chicago Marathon, 2017

Boston Marathon, 2018

Running Scared

In high school, running scared was my favorite thing to do.

I had a very different definition of running scared back then.

My senior year of high school, my 4×800 meter relay teammates had a knack for handing me, the anchor leg, the baton in first place. I’d accept the exchange, and run like hell, visualizing my competitors on my heels. I never looked back, always willing myself to reach the finish line before I was caught. For an entire season, I fearfully ran myself across the line first. Running scared was fun. Running scared was a thrill.  

Today, I’d do anything to no longer run scared.

This evening, as I laced up my Cliftons, strapped on my Garmin, and situated my phone in my Spibelt, I left my headphones behind. I almost always wear headphones when running alone. I see running as time for myself and enjoy listening to my favorite podcasts on easy days. I keep the volume low enough to hear my breath and my footsteps but today, that didn’t feel like enough. I approached what should have been a relaxing and stress-reducing recovery run with fear and trepidation.

Less than two minutes into my run, my heart raced as I made eye-contact with a man walking diagonally across the street toward me, only to realize he was on route to the entrance for CVS. As I continued up the street, I took a wider than normal breadth around male pedestrians. By the time I reached the National Mall, I was holding back tears, my fear juxtaposed to songs of ice cream trucks and idle chatter of tourists. Continuing on, I noticed every man I passed and felt my stride quicken just slightly each time one reached his hand into his pocket. In my 15 years of running I’ve experience catcalls, cars repeatedly passing by, harassment, and men lunging at me and as a result, I haven’t felt truly safe in a long time. But now, this fear is heightened as I am faced with the question of whether or not I will make it home alive each time I leave to train.

This may sound dramatic. It is.

This evening, I exhaled a sigh of relief as I walked back into my apartment building upon ending my run. Relief because I’d made it home, something Wendy Martinez was not lucky enough to do just two nights ago. But with this relief came grief and guilt, as well. Guilt and grief over the fact that on Tuesday evening, I ran the streets of D.C.,  just miles away from where Wendy would be murdered roughly an hour later.

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Finishing up tonight’s run

This is not the first incident of its kind that has led to the feelings of grief, fear, and anger I am currently processing, but I’d be lying if I said this didn’t hit me a little harder and make my fears feel a bit more real. This time it was Wendy, but how easily could this have been me or one of my closest friends? We all run these streets, and like Wendy did, we often run them alone.

We’ll see articles and news reports filled with safety tips for runners. Uninformed men will ask why we don’t just run inside or find a male friend to run with. Someone will try to make this Wendy’s fault.  To all of that, I give the middle finger. The problem is not that we, as women, are making unsafe choices. The problem is a world where women are unsafe simply existing.

To be very blunt, we live in a world where women are forced to think, “I really hope no one tries to murder me on this run”, as we leave the house. This makes me sick to my stomach. And it sure as hell ain’t fair.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. And I’ll admit I considered staying in my apartment gym and running on the treadmill tonight. But in the end, I went outside because really, what else can we do? We female runners, will not retreat. We cannot and will not hole up in gyms and seek refuge on treadmills. We will not allow senseless violence to rob us of our passions.

Running is mine and I’ll be damned if I ever let fear take that from me. Yes, I am running scared, but I’m still running. And I’m running with a little more passion and purpose as I remember the lives’ of women whom I did not know. Women who were taken from us far too soon.


My deepest condolences are with the friends and family of Wendy Martinez. I did not know Wendy, yet my heart is broken.

Summer Running: You’re Doing Just Fine

Every year, around this point in summer, I begin to feel a little bit of burnout and lack of motivation. It’s been hot for months now, but there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight and the doubt begins to creep in. Paces that should feel easy are leaving me lying on the floor in a pool of sweat with a popsicle in my mouth. Workouts that sound challenging and fun turnout to be damn near impossible. And long runs? Yikes.

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I began my summer training this year coming back from a minor injury I had after the Boston Marathon. Now, this comeback did happen in May, but  in D.C. May is already hot and humid, so that’s when summer training begins in my book. Building my fitness back up during 80 degree runs with 80% humidity was discouraging and for a while I couldn’t seem to figure out what I was doing wrong. I ran a 10K after a few weeks back and although I had zero expectations for myself, I still felt a pang of disappointment when I ran splits close to my marathon pace. Despite knowing what heat does to the human body and how it affects running, I let the idea that I was unfit creep in. I began to think I wasn’t working hard enough and I wouldn’t reach my fall goals. After DNF-ing virtually every hard workout I ran in June, I was letting the Negative Nancy in my head take over.

I tried to keep things in perspective though. I went back and reviewed notes in my training log from last summer before I ran a huge marathon PR in the fall and was reassured by the fact that I was running even slower and felt even worse last year than I did now. I read this article by David Roche again and again and forced myself to stop putting so much weight on the watch. I started doing my workouts on the treadmill to eliminate the heat factor and finally hit the paces I’d been hoping to.

Nearing the end of July, I toed the line to run the Crystal City Twilighter 5k, my first 5k since December of 2016. The race is notoriously hot and I was totally unsure of where my fitness and speed stood, so in the week leading up to the race I backed off my hopes of setting a PR and I set out just to have fun and set a benchmark for my next race. But when the day came and it was rainy (like poured for 12 hours rainy) and cool. The buckets of rain coming down were not exactly the ideal race weather for most people but if I learned anything from Boston 2018, it’s that rain might be my thing. Despite what to me seemed like a poor couple months of training, I ran a 17 second personal best. I was reassured that I’m progressing just fine, but I have still had to word hard to remember that.

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A little over a week ago I was on vacation in Costa Rica. Although I ran pretty regularly and only took one extra, unplanned “rest” day (we hiked so it wasn’t true rest), my running was not the same quality as at home. The weather was similar, but I did the same run each day I was there and it consisted of a steep mile-long down hill, back and fourth miles on the beach, and back up that steep hill. After the first two runs I could barely walk down stairs and by the third, my legs were toast. Regardless, I maintained a pretty solid attitude throughout and focused on enjoying my trip, but when I got home and went back to usual training the negative thoughts swirled around my mind once again. I started the week off with some slow, heavy miles but had an OK run mid-week. I was feeling a little better before I had a long run that left me feeling more beat up than anticipated over the weekend and I worried about my strength. But here we are on a Monday rest day and I’m taking a minute to reflect and remind myself, I’m doing totally fine.

 

Seriously. I’m doing just fine and so are you. One or two or three runs don’t define your fitness. One or two weeks don’t even define your fitness. The summer is so tricky and if you live somewhere hot and humid, it’s virtually impossible to really know where your fitness is. So for the next month or two, I’m going to keep reminding myself of that and remember that if I’m putting in the work I will be ready when the heat subsides. Summer running is hard and it’s even more mentally challenging than physically at times, but hard, slow, sluggish summer miles are when fall breakthroughs are made.

No Thank You

Inspired by Lauren Fleshman and Oiselle

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No thank you to covering up and hiding behind clothes that feel safe. No thank you to keeping the tank on while running in 100 degree weather, for fear of being judged as not thin enough. No thank you to ideal body types and unrealistic standards. No thank you to diets, restriction, and food rules. No thank you to excuses like “I’m not hungry” or “I just ate”, when your mouth is watering and your stomach is rumbling. No thank you to gluten-free, fat-free, carb-free. No thank you too anything ‘free’ other than my own body. No thank you to BMI charts. No thank you to earning desert and exercising away guilt. No thank you to arguments about macros and why “that diet worked for me”. No thank you to Weight-Watchers and Flat Tummy Co. targeting teens.No thank you to scales. No thank you to diet culture.

No thank you to gazing eyes of strange men. No thank you to catcalls and “you should smile more”. No thank you to “hey baby”. No thank you to “bitch”, when I ignore you. No thank you to older men calling me honey. No thank you to looking over my shoulder when I’m walking alone. No thank you to holding my keys between my knuckles. No thank you to checking the backseat before getting in the car. No thank you to pretending to talk on the phone in parking garages and on the street once the sun has gone down.

No thank you to undermining educators. No thank you to scripted curriculums and shackles on creative freedom. No thank you to teaching about Christopher Columbus as if he were a hero. No thank you to standardized testing. No thank you to taking resources from “failing public schools”. No thank you to buying books for my classroom with my own money. No thank you to taking work home every night, yet barely earning enough to make ends meet. No thank you to iPads as babysitters. No thank you to neighborhoods so unsafe that kids can’t play outside. No thank you to low expectations placed on low-income students and students of color. No thank you to segregation. No thank you to guns.

No thank you to gender stereotypes and unequal pay. No thank you to questions of marriage and children. No thank you to “that’s so cute” in response to my profession as an educator. No thank you to mansplaining. No thank you to fear of failure. No thank you to the linear career path. No thank you to settling. No thank you to the appreciation of what you have as an excuse not to want and work for more.

No thank you.

 

Progress is Not Linear

When a baby learns to walk, she crawls for a while. In time, slowly and with the support of adult hands, she stands up and moves forward. Finally, one day she takes her first steps, free of parental support. But seconds later, she falls. She gets back up, takes a few more steps and inevitably she falls again. This process is repeated over and over and over for months on end, until eventually, she stops falling. As she develops into a young child, her early childhood will be riddled with scrapes and bruises from countless trips and falls. She won’t fall every day, maybe not even every week, but she will still fall until at some point in her life, she will stop falling almost completely. Even as an adult however, there will be a fall from time to time, whether it’s tripping over a root or falling over a shadow. Even every adult falls.

Progress is never linear.

Eating disorder recovery is a lot like learning to walk. It starts slow and choppy, and you may feel like you’re failing most of the time. But overtime with commitment and support, it slowly becomes easier and more consistent. No one masters eating disorder recovery in a day (or month, or year). Eating disorder recovery is a long and challenging process. Even when you think you’ve got it down, like an adult surprised by a fall, you will hit a bump in the road.

This isn’t to scare you off from recovery. Yes, eating disorder recovery is arduous but it is also one of the most beautiful things in the world. But far too often, eating disorder recovery is packaged up neatly with a curled ribbon on top. Eating disorder recovery is frequently portrayed as a before and after, an image that can be detrimental for those living in between. Eating disorder recovery is a courageous journey to embark on, but it is just that; a journey.

Eating disorder recovery is beautiful, but it isn’t pretty. Recovery is messy and anything but linear.

For years, in college and beyond, I was consumed with guilt when I ate something “unhealthy” (what does that even mean?!) and I went to extreme measures to negate the “extra” calories I consumed. Track and cross-country practice were never enough, especially if I’d eaten lunch that day. I’d convince myself the extra core-work or rest-day-cross-training I did was for my running success, but it was always in an effort to make myself smaller. I regularly cried myself to sleep and made myself miserable, forever in a fight to change the way my body looked.

My recovery began before I could even admit to myself that I had an eating disorder. Close to four years ago, I was still suffering from a tumultuous relationship with food, exercise, and my body. But around that time, I moved to a new city, made new friends, and began to look at running differently. Slowly, I felt a shift in my mindset and over time I grew to hate my body a little less. It took a couple of years, but in time I was finally eating pizza again, I dreaded bikinis less, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had cried myself to sleep. I thought I was all better. Wrap in shiny paper, add ribbon, end of story.

But like I said, that’s not how recovery works. My recovery continued, but certain behaviors stuck with me or returned. I hadn’t weighed myself in at least a year but then my roommate got a scale. At first I weighed myself a few times out of “curiosity” but before too long it was back to weigh-ins two or three times a day. I was eating foods I once feared, but gluten remained fully restricted from my diet. And rest days? Still wasn’t a fan of those. I kept trying however, taking it one day at a time. Baby steps and plenty of falls.

This time last year, with the birth of Lane 9 Project, I found a community of women with experiences similar to mine to connect with. I began to talk about my experience and for the first time, admitted to myself that I had struggled with an eating disorder and that I am still in the recovery process. With this community I have had the opportunity not only to reflect on how far I’ve come, but evaluate how far I still have to go.

I’ve written about recovery, my personal journey, and the freedom there is in being recovered from an eating disorder, but there’s something missing in all that. Although I’ve progressed and I’m no longer that baby trying to walk, I’m still human and I’m always going to fall down.

For example, I love Cheez-Its. Like really really love Cheez-Its. But while I was eating them the other night, I said out loud, “I really need to stop eating these”. Why?! I was hungry, Cheez-Its taste good. There were zero reasons for me to stop. The voice of my eating disorder, the one I’ve been able to silence so successfully, was creeping in. And again, just tonight, I finished up my easy training run and grappled with the idea of doing some core exercises. I didn’t want to, but I felt like I should. Again, the eating disorder voice I’ve worked so hard to leave behind, was trying to sneak back in. I believe I am mostlyrecovered from my eating disorder, but there is always room for growth, and progress is never linear. I may feel amazing for months and then have a few bad days. That’s OK, the goal is to keep moving forward.

This week, I’m teaching my 3rd grade students about story mountains. In stories, characters face a bunch of problems as we climb the mountain, we reach the climax at the top, and then the character’s problems are resolved as we make our way back down the mountain. In my eating disorder story, I’m on my way down the mountain, I’m beyond the climax, the height of my eating disorder, but the path isn’t clear. The trail ahead is winding, with rocks, roots, and the occasional uphill in the way. I will not turn around and climb back up that mountain, but I am prepared to get a little lost on the way.

No one will get everything right in recovery the first time (or second or third).

I am an adult in my recovery journey, but even the strongest among us fall down sometimes. You will fall and you will fail and that is OK. No one will get everything right in recovery the first time (or second or third). Unfortunately, it just isn’t that easy. When you fall, remind yourself that you are not alone. There are so many others who have fallen down with you, help them up. When you fall, do not stay down. You are not a failure, you are a human. You are doing the very best you can and that is always enough.

 


 National Eating Disorder Association Helpline: 800–931–2236

Originally published on Medium

Breaking all the [food] rules

As I scanned the aisles at Trader Joe’s this weekend, a container of animal crackers caught my eye. In a matter of seconds, I went from noticing them, to placing them in my cart and moving along. I thought animal crackers would make a perfect snack to fill the void I’ve been feeling in the afternoon since I’ve been running early before work. That was all the convincing I needed to take them home with me.

Later, as a munched on a handful of lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!), what I tasted was familiar yet nostalgic.

“When was the last time I ate animal crackers?”

I began to rack my brain. Throughout my childhood, and into my high school and early college years, animal crackers were a staple in my pantry. A simple, yet relatively filling snack I could grab as I headed out the door for karate class or after a run while waiting for dinner. Thinking about it, I realized I probably hadn’t enjoyed animal crackers in about five years.

It was my senior year of college when I stopped eating gluten. I did it because I had so-called stomach issues and I thought that maybe I was ‘gluten intolerant’. It never occurred to me that maybe the reason I constantly felt sick and lethargic was due to the stress and guilt I struggled with every time I ate bad food.

For me there was a clearly defined line between good foods and bad foods. Was it green? Good. Did it contain sugar, carbs, or fat? Bad. I was all in for spinach and egg white omelettes, grilled chicken salads, and fruit smoothies parading as meals. I internally praised myself any day I didn’t eat more than an apple and peanut butter or carrots and celery for lunch. I silently applauded when I said no to ice cream while everyone else headed to the on-campus Friendly’s.

I was constantly keeping score in my mind. If I ate something healthy my score went up, if I ate something unhealthy my score plummeted.

It happened gradually, but overtime I placed all foods into one of the two categories; yin or yang. If a food fell on the side of evil (in other words, if it tasted delicious or actually satisfied me) it required planning and preparation to be eaten. If I ate something I wasn’t supposed to, breaking an arbitrary food rule, I’d bury my head in guilt and shame. In order to rid the guilt, I’d punish myself with something like endless sit-ups, skipping dinner, or brutally negative self-talk until I cried myself to sleep. It was exhausting, but my food rules were the Ten Commandments and they were to be obeyed.

Looking back, I never realized all the rules I’d created for myself, so when I began to heal my relationship with food and my body, I didn’t anticipate all the undoing that would be necessary. Little things, like ice cream once in a while or fries with dinner began to creep back into my diet on occasion, giving me the illusion that I was ‘better’. I was no longer micromanaging every little thing in my body so in my mind I was ‘healed’.

My food rules were so ingrained that I didn’t even notice how vehemently I was still following them.

In August of 2016, we were at the beach, laying in the sun while snacking. In the bag of snacks we toted, alongside some fruits and veggies, was a box of Cheez-It’s. I still hadn’t eaten gluten since 2012, but Cheez-It’s sounded really good, so I thought “what the hell” and dove in. For the first time in four years, I ate gluten. And absolutely nothing happened. I enjoyed the Cheez-It’s, I felt satisfied, and I immediately began to think about all the delicious and fulfilling foods I could finally eat again now that I had officially broken my “no-gluten” rule (GIMME PIZZA!).

No gluten was certainly my most far-reaching food rule, and I’d love to say that once I broke it I began eating intuitively all the time, but that just isn’t the case. I continued to subscribe to a number of food rules for a very long time and I’m realizing there are still many I’m working to break. Just in the past year, I’ve finally begun to allow white bread, white pasta, and white rice back into my life rather than scrutinizing every food label to see if it’s really 100% whole wheat. A couple of months ago I ate a cupcake a student brought in for his birthday for the first time in my four years of teaching. And honestly, eating pizza on a weekday still takes a little dose of courage. But here’s the difference, instead of passively following the arbitrary food rules I created, I’m working to actively break them every chance I get.

Instead of passively following the arbitrary food rules I created, I’m working to actively break them every chance I get.

I don’t think I was holding onto a specific “no animal crackers” rule, but I do think I’m still working to loosen the reins on what I see as an acceptable snack. Animal crackers didn’t fit that box before and now I’ve let them in. It’s a teeny tiny victory, but it’s a step in the right direction. I can think of some food rules I’m still working through and I’m probably still holding on to some that I do not realize now but will eventually be confronted with. For now, it’s a work in progress and there is no longer a clear line between good foods and bad foods. Except that good foods are the ones I enjoy and bad foods are olives.

 


 National Eating Disorder Association Helpline: 800–931–2236


Originally published on Medium

Boston Recap: Make a party of the process

As I’m sure you already know, the 2018 Boston Marathon was one for the books. Cold temperatures, persistent rains, and an unrelenting headwind led thousands of runners (elites included) to medical tents seeking aid for hypothermia. There were remarkable upsets in the elite fields and the winning times were a far cry from the best efforts of the professionals on the course. Simply put, Monday was not a day for fast racing or setting PR’s.

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Boston 2017 wasn’t a day to run personal records either, but for the opposite reason. It was brutally hot. Last year, I thought I was in 3:15 shape and despite the heat I went out at a pace to run just that. Before I was even hitting double digit miles, I knew I was in trouble. I was walking by the halfway point and just getting to the finish line took everything I had. If nothing else, I was determined not to repeat that fate this year.

As Boston 2018 approached, I knew I was in the best marathon shape of my life and that I was ready to better the 3:14 I ran in Chicago this fall. However, after last year’s race I was scared of the Boston course. Early in my Boston buildup I came to terms that if we were dealt another hot day, I would just run easy and have as much fun as possible. Luckily, as the 10-day forecast began to reveal itself, we learned it wasn’t going to be a hot one. I began looking ahead to race day nervous, but excited about the chance to run fast in better conditions.

But then, the conditions didn’t look so good anymore.

By the time I got to Hopkinton on Monday, I’d readjusted my expectations for the expected cold, rain, and wind, determined not to make the same mistake as last year. I turned off the GPS and decided that it would be a day to have fun. I knew I wouldn’t PR so I didn’t even allow myself to entertain the thought. I decided to start conservatively and have fun soaking up the experience that is Boston. Even on a nasty day, the crowds would be out. I wanted to erase last year’s experience from my mind and move forward with happier memories of Boston. I was also hoping to stay warm enough to avoid hypothermia and stay out of the medical tent.

When the race started, I immediately felt great and knew that I was going to have a blast splashing around in the rain. I floated through the first few miles with ease, before finally looking at my watch at 5k mark. I found myself running much faster than I planned on for the weather, so I took a deep breath and tried to settle in. I didn’t look at my watch again until the 10k, which revealed I hadn’t slowed down at all and had actually sped up slightly. Again, deep breath, settle in.

As I began to encroach on the half-marathon mark I felt like I was still out for a training run; exactly what I wanted. I was feeling comfortable and confident, sure I’d settled into a leisurely pace. Then I looked at my watch. I’d split a 1:34.15. On pace for a 6 minute PR. My confidence wavered and I started questioning when it was all going to blow up in my face. Newton probably, I thought. But after a few panicked minutes I steeled myself. Deep breath, settle in.

At this point, I was feeling more comfortable than I ever have at 13-14 miles into a marathon and I kept feeling that way through miles 15, 16, and 17. During those miles I stayed as calm as possible and finally, I made a deal with myself: hold this effort through the Newton Hills and then reassess. I was still worried the hills were going to break me.

As the first hill began, I focused on November Project. I knew they’d be at the top of the hill and the cheering crowd would help my legs to recover quickly. I bounded my way up with surprising ease and got the boost I hoped for at the top. Then, between miles 19 and 20, a woman caught up to me to say that she loved my attitude and that she was running faster than she should be just to stay with me for the encouragement. This was one by far one of the proudest running moments I’ve ever had. I’ve been carried for miles by the encouragement of others, it felt great to do the same for someone else.

Riding the high of helping another runner on such a tough day, I made it up and over heartbreak with relative ease. My legs barley registered the same uphills that slowed me to a crawl last year. Before I knew it, I was hearing that Desi won and I was passing the 22 mile mark. Four miles to go.  At that point, I glanced at my watch again and started doing the math. That’s when I realized if I didn’t slow down in the next four miles, I’d be running a big PR and likely breaking 3:10.

For the next four miles I smiled my face off. The more I smiled, the more support I received from spectators. The more support I received from spectators, the more I smiled. On a day that you weren’t supposed to PR, on a day I didn’t set out to PR, I was about to PR. I just had to keep putting one front in foot of the other.

The rain picked up and the pain set in, but before I knew it, I was turning right onto Hereford and left onto Boylston. There’s something about those two iconic turns, they get better every time. I looked at my watch as I approached the finish line and I think I started laughing. Crossing the finish line in a 3:08.27, I was overwhelmed with happiness. I wasn’t confident I could break 3:10 on a perfect day, I couldn’t believe I was doing so in the worst conditions I’ve ever raced in. I also never thought I’d actually negative split Boston, even if only by 3 seconds.

Chicago this fall was hot and before the race I scaled back my goal from 3:15 to 3:20. My GPS didn’t work so I went out conservatively and ran by feel. Unexpectedly I finished in 3:14, an 8 minute personal best. On Monday, I did the same thing. I threw my expectations out the window, turned off my GPS and trusted my body to know what to do. Of the 9 marathons I’ve run, these happened to be the fastest, but more importantly they were the most fun. I spent 6 or 7 marathons taking myself way too seriously and putting far too much weight on a really expensive long run. Chicago and now Boston have taught me that the only way to achieve a great result is to let go and make a party of the process. I happen to run great times, but I wouldn’t have done so if I wasn’t having so much damn fun.