The long run

Today is the Boston Marathon. It is the oldest marathon and is watched in person by 500,000, run by 30,000, and followed by countless runners, runner-wannabes, and armchair warriors. It’s also the place where horror occurred, killing three people and injuring 264 in 2013.

It is an elite event that you have to qualify for (you can’t just register online and make magic happen). It is on many a-runner’s bucket list. And as my Twitter feed and Facebook timeline fill up with fellow bloggers who are making the trek to actually RUN IN THE RACE, I can’t help but feel nervous for them. A lot nervous for them. My stomach hurts.

And this year, instead of being the runner who can’t even fathom the kind of preparation or stress or effort it requires to train for a marathon, let alone BOSTON, I have a solid understanding of what it takes because I’m DOING IT.

No, not Boston (wouldn’t that be nuts?!). And no, not a marathon (did you know it’s 26.2 miles? That’s 42 kilometers, people!!). But a half-marathon. A full 13.1 miles. A full 21 kilometers. I am going to run one. In two weeks.

Isn’t that nuts?

Yes, yes it is.

It’s an idea that I’ve toyed with in the past. Waaaaaaay back in 2010. I was a new mom to Sophie, I was working, and I remembered, in my foggy-no-sleep-mom-brain that I had loved running once upon a time ago. So I challenged Ben (because I’m crazy that way) to a marathon! Let’s run a marathon TOGETHER. We made up a training schedule and we got excited. Sitting in our house. And then we got worried because the number of weeks from now until the marathon we picked weren’t so many…and the number of times we had run in the past weeks were none. And those two things together made us re-evaluate. We would do a half-marathon together! Shorter training time, shorter distance (by HALF), totally doable. It was done. We were running a half-marathon! And we were still sitting in our house!

We went on some training runs separately (remember that baby that we had?). We skipped some training runs together (remember that baby that we had?). And then I got pregnant. And I had spotting. And I was scared. So I stopped running.

Ben kept going though, and he finished the half-marathon as planned, as Sophie, Ben’s mom Dianne and I ran our own marathon, trying to find Ben on the course and driving around to cheer him on.

The awesome, incredible, finisher. Time? 2:45.

The awesome, incredible finisher. Time? 2:45.

Ben is now officially a footie man and only runs medicinally (when and only when he has to). And I am officially a runner, at heart AND practice (it’s not all talk anymore!). And I’ve decided to run a half-marathon. This time Ben will be the one cheering me on while I run my butt off.

Thankfully, I am not alone in this crazy scheme. I’ve managed to brainwash convince two other school moms, Bethany and Andrea, and Toni to do it with me. And thank goodness for that, because you actually have to TRAIN for a run like this. You can’t just ‘do it’, unless you’re Barney Stinson, but even then karma will balance everything out.

You need to have a plan that lasts for weeks. The one we picked was a 9-week map of how to get to the half-marathon without breaking our legs and dying of exhaustion. Which means, of course, that we started running in January to get ready to start really training in March. And if you haven’t done the math yet, that means runs in -20 degrees C weather…and running in the snow…and running over ice…and jumping snowbanks and skating down hills and landing in slush puddles, all to achieve the illusive stamina to get us to the finish line.

You need to eat right, and when you’re a parent, that sometimes feels like you’re asking to lasso the moon while standing on your head and trying to get your insane child to EAT BREAKFAST ALREADY. It’s near impossible some days. But if you have awesome training partners, there are more Pinterest-hunters, more bakers, more people willing to go the distance to find and make the perfect energy ball to take with you on a run or the perfect post-run smoothie recipe, or the best chocolate dessert to celebrate.

You need to stay motivated and there’s nothing like a frigid wake-up call at 4:45 a.m. so you can go run in the near extreme-cold-weather-alert temperatures, all bundled up and wondering what the hell is wrong with you. Or the long runs at night because you’ve run out of time in the morning to complete them and you find yourself putting your babies to bed and then getting suited up to go run for a couple of hours. For fun. Buddies make these moments easier to swallow and harder to cancel.

Seriously.

Seriously.

You need to do things you’d never in your wildest dreams even entertain in your mind as a possibility. And I’m not just talking about running for an unnaturally long time. I’m talking about other things. Like peeing behind a tree (Toni) or in a field (Andrea) or by a swamp (Bethany). Or pooping near a field (me…yep, Andrea, I am confessing – I pooped before our speed intervals last week…because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to finish the run OR I would have had a huge accident…so, I did it. I pooped. And I had enough tissue in my pocket to wipe well. And I went back and picked it up and threw it away after we got home from the run. And GOOD GOD who would have thought we’d be HERE?!). Because when you’re out running, you have choices. But they’re not easy choices, like walk a few steps and go pee, then come back. Or skip home to poop and then do speed work. They’re gross choices, like I’m a billion kilometers from home, so either it happens now, or I make a mess.

True story.

True story.

And when you get to the end of your training, like we have, you have to complete these insanely long runs that make you question your sanity the entire way. Like this past weekend – we had to do our longest run ever (as in, ever completed by any of us EVER, not just in training), and the longest run we will finish before the BIG ONE, the half-marathon. Saturday morning, Bethany, Andrea and I (Toni was sick with a crappy chest cold) tackled a 17 km run that took us out of our city, through a neighbouring village, and back again in around 2 hours and 42 minutes.

Sunrise near the top of the second giant hill of our run.

Sunrise near the top of the second giant hill of our run.

It was crazy.

It's hard to feel defeated when you're running past scenes like this...and they're REAL.

It’s hard to feel defeated when you’re running past scenes like this…and they’re REAL.

It was awesome.

This is what my long runs look like...Bethany waaaaaay up ahead, Andrea waaaay up ahead, and me waaaaaaaaay behind. I'm slow, but steady. I'll get there, but I'm not winning any land-speed records.

This is what my long runs look like…Bethany waaaaaay up ahead, Andrea waaaay up ahead, and me waaaaaaaaay behind. I’m slow, but steady. I’ll get there, but I’m not winning any land-speed records.

And finishing was all the sweeter because we got to share it and finish it together.

These beautiful ladies totally waited at the top of the last hill so that we could all finish together. They're running soul mates and I'm so glad I found them.

These beautiful ladies totally waited at the top of the last hill so that we could all finish together. They’re running soul mates and I’m so glad I found them.

I’m so nervous for the runners in Boston. I hope they run the race of their lives, whatever that means for them (winning or finishing or achieving a PR).

And I’m so scared I won’t be able to complete the race in two weeks (I’m a professional worrier, remember?). But I do know this one thing: I’ll have my running buddies with me and we’ll do it together.

~ Julia

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