For a very long time, I went out of my way to avoid being friends with this running group I’m now severely intertwined with (sorry ladies, it’s true, and you know it). Now, I can’t imagine my life without them. We celebrate milestones, birthdays, holidays, and even have our own book club that has all the features of a book club minus the actual books (read: platters of tasty food and wine).
We also are there for each other in those moments when one of us hits a wall in life and wants to give up. I’m not only referring to workout walls, where I don’t want to wake up early or spend an hour-plus on a work day running in addition to everything else that’s on my plate. But also those days when things on a personal level aren’t great and, to cope, we regale each other with funny stories just to make it through. We always come to the realization that these problems and situations don’t define us and that our time and energies can be better spent. Ultimately, today is a new day and we can make it even better than yesterday.
Why did I avoid being friends with them? Multiple reasons, one of which is hilariously funny but too inappropriate for any type of formal internet posting. In general though, when I started running, the one thing I liked about it was that it wasn’t a team sport. I could strap on a pair of shoes, some headphones, and just go, whenever, wherever. I didn’t see why I should agree to meet up at an exact hour on a Saturday morning to run nine miles with a group of people I didn’t know when I have a perfectly curated music selection.
Then one day, I agreed to meet up. If I had known where this would have taken me, I would have agreed much sooner. I’ve never been more focused on what’s important, and having time for these runs has really helped. When you’re running with a group of people for hours on end, and there’s a funny story, a personal issue, or a stressful week, we share it. And we get through it – mile after mile.
The Hudson Mohawk half and full marathons were a mere few weeks ago. We had all signed up for the half ages ago, and it worked quite well into our training schedule. I haven’t run a half since the beginning of the year, and it was a really good reminder as to how much hydration and fuel I need before a race and during. I regrettably didn’t bring my running belt with me since it makes me feel like an old lady with a fanny pack on. And well, I guess that’s what I am nowadays. I ran a great race, though, and felt good for the duration, but I do have some tweaks that I’m going to start making before I run the full marathon. I figured I’d just time the water stations for the half, but the extra water would have helped for the times I wanted it and no water station was in sight. Next time, I won’t leave the running belt at home.
Over the summer I received some great advice from a fellow runner and a super, amazingly fit woman. She also happens to be a fitness trainer, so that probably helps. She told me to remember a few things that I will definitely apply to the marathon, but I made sure to practice during the Hudson Mohawk half.
I made sure to thank multiple volunteers – and even got to see a few people I knew helping out along the race. That’s the advantage to running a race in an area you’ve lived in for quite a long time – seeing people be so positive and cheer racers on as they’re holding flags to stop traffic, handing out water, or working behind the scenes. Hearing my name was an extra bonus. I’m so grateful they all took time out of their days to help us safely cross the finish line.
High-fiving a stranger – that one is pretty easy. So many people are lined up on the course just to cheer us all on, and they do such a nice job with signs, bells, and little kids who keep us motivated. I can’t high-five everyone, of course, so I make sure to clap when I pass people who are enthusiastically holding signs, playing music, and cheering us on, just to let them know I appreciate it.
Crossing that finish line – and realizing what a gift it is. Well, it’s hard not to cross the finish line and be filled with a ton of emotions. When I started running higher mileage races, I left my headphones at home so I could focus on the moment. By doing this, I never realized how much time I would get for personal reflection. It’s amazing what can keep me motivated when I’m about to hit a major wall. I start thinking about how my grandmother’s voice sounded and what she would say to me to keep me going. And then I think about a good friend’s little brother who never got to finish the last race he was in because of a surprise genetic heart problem, but how she’s likely here now because it turns out she had the same issue. Being present in my own moment and moving forward with my own two feet, to cross that finish line, I realize what a gift life is. And I thank those people for being a part of my motivation to keep crossing more finish lines. Grandma Punkin’, I think you’d be proud.
Now that this race is behind us, we are one step closer to the full marathon. My body is holding up. I’m finding a way to fit in seven-mile runs twice during the work week, and waking up at 5:30 a.m. to exercise before work is now something I do instead of something I’m dragging myself out of bed for because I feel I have to. I love that change in my thought process. I used to be the person who went to sleep, crawled out of bed about 45 minutes before strolling into work, and got ready for work while consuming some black tea. Now I wake up hours earlier to throw on workout gear, work out, and stroll into work and enjoy some black tea at my desk. That’s just who I am now.