Confession: I didn’t go to work yesterday.

All week — OK, all year? — I’ve been overly stressed about many things, most of which stem from my involvement with Run For The Rabbit.

This is a race belt. I did not buy it.

Training with JackRabbit and Coach Cane for the Hamptons Marathon has been the experience of a lifetime. I feel so fortunate to have had a coach to guide me through training for my first marathon, since I definitely would have over-done it all and been wildly injured by now if I had gone about this process on my own.

I also feel extremely blessed, honored and grateful to have raised more than $8,000 so far for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

But it’s a lot to handle, on top of having a full-time job, friends, family and a sink that seems to be constantly overflowing with dirty dishes.

Obviously marathon training is time consuming, and the training part doesn’t stress me out. Running is my release from everything else. I get to be alone. I get to not check emails. I get to ignore people for a while. It’s perfect.

So yesterday I woke up, freaked out about life and decided I needed a day out of the office to play catch up and to relax.

And that’s what I did.

I slept in and then went for a 6-mile run. I think it was a tempo run because Coach Cane told me to do a 1-mile warm-up, 4 miles at my marathon goal pace and then a 1-mile cool-down. It was great. I felt good, I felt strong and I feel ready as ever to run this marathon in — holy crap — 8 days.

My day involved sending lots of emails, cleaning and making a few field trips.


I went to the New York Road Runners offices — conveniently located just a few blocks away from home — to pick up my bib for tomorrow’s Fitness 4-Mile race.

I saw a really, really big dog on my walk.


The owner saw me take his picture and a guy standing next to me waiting to cross the street asked, “Does the dog look big in the picture?”

I keep saying that I’m excited for tomorrow’s race because I won’t actually be racing it. I’m running it with a coworker — and first-time racer! — and I’m not sure what her pace is but I’m fairly certain (and hoping) it’s not a 7:45.

When I picked up my bib, though, I got a little giddy.

A red bib...

That, my friends, is a red bib. It’s the second time I’ve had a red bib. That means I’m in the second starting corral. That, to me, is kind of a big deal. That means I’m up with the speedy people.

Then I got sad. I got a feeling of wanting to race.

I’ve never raced “for fun.” I pretty much always go out there wanting to run my best race and hoping for a PR. If I happen to have a good time, that’s great. But I’m competitive. I don’t typically shell out for a race entry fee unless I’m planning to show up at the start line with my game face on.

See? Game face.

Game face and legwarmers, of course.

I realized yesterday, as I walked home from the NYRR offices pouting about not getting to run as fast as freakin’ possible tomorrow due to that whole marathon-is-a-week-away thing, that most of the stress and pressure I feel is self-inflicted.

Over the past few weeks, it seems that all of my runner friends have been asking me the same two questions:

  1. What is your goal time for the marathon?
  2. Are you hoping to break four hours?

I know that these questions are asked innocently. And yet they stress me out beyond belief.

This is my first attempt at running 26.2 miles. I don’t want to feel like I have to impress anyone. I want to run a hard race, of course, and I want to make Coach Cane proud. But I don’t want to think anyone is expecting me to run a 3:something marathon.

I just want to finish the thing. Whether I do that in 4:30 or 3:59, I just want it to happen.

I know it’s ridiculous to stress out over people asking simple, polite questions. I’m pretty sure no one will actually care whether I finish in 4 hours of less. But I guess I care a little bit. This whole “I have a blog and will inevitably write a recap after the race” thing makes me want to push just a little harder every day.

I’m also putting pressure on myself to win the fundraising competition.

As important as it is that I work hard to run a good race, it’s also important to me that I’ve done everything I can to send a big ol’ check over to CCFA when this is all over.

Right now I’m in third place. The love and support people have shown me as I’ve fundraised has blown my mind. I am eternally grateful to everyone who has donated and I’m so appreciative for all the emails, Facebook posts and comments with well wishes.

But of course, in my mind, third place isn’t quite good enough. If I can cross that finish line on September 24 knowing I’ve completed a marathon and raised more than $10,000 for my favorite charity, I think I can die happy.

So that’s that. I feel pressure to run fast and I feel pressure to raise money. KA-POW.

After spending most of yesterday being a panicky little witch, I am much calmer today.

Maybe that’s because I went to a party at The Bowery Hotel last night with some surfers. And also Misha Barton, AKA Marissa Cooper.

I would not be a good member of the paparazzi. Clearly.

Apparently the party was a big deal and there were lots of important surfer dudes there. I loved it.

Another thing I loved? Not drinking, ordering delivery macaroni and cheese when I got home and sleeping for six glorious hours.

Last winter, I was going out drinking most Thursday nights. Friday mornings almost always meant a hangover that would kick in right around the time I’d sit down at my desk and an absolutely-necessary bacon, egg and cheese sandwich for breakfast.

I even had a designated hangover outfit, which made rough mornings just a little easier.

Today I’m wearing that same hangover outfit, but I feel a million times better than I did a few months ago.

Putting this outfit on feels much better when I don't have to worry about vomiting on it.

I vowed not to drink for the weeks leading up to the race and I feel pretty good.

Another confession: I got busted while taking this photo in the office bathroom this morning. Hehe.

Those are my ramblings for today.

Check back tomorrow when I will most likely post 1,000 photos of my cute coworker running her first race. As sad as I am not to be acting like I belong in the red corral, I am ridiculously pumped to be there when she crosses the finish line.

UNDER PRESSURE: I could talk about this topic for days, but I’m curious about your thoughts. Who puts the most pressure on you? Other people? Or do you bring it on yourself?



0 Responses

  1. Oh man, I put the most pressure on myself, for sure. In terms of running, I don’t think anyone else I know even cares if I run, let alone what times I get in my races. I do like a little pressure though, because i think it helps me push myself. But seriously, for your first marathon I think you should totally take all pressure off and enjoy yourself. That’s what I did (after really mulling and stressing over time goals), and I don’t regret it at all. It was amazing.

    T minus 1 week!!

  2. Aww I love this post! How did I miss it?

    Anyway. Your marathon is for you. You are doing it for yourself and the people who suffer from Crones. As long as you finish with a smile on your face then you did your best. You are an amazing runner and you have many more marathons to run for time. But for your first, just go out and run YOUR race. If that translates to a sub 4 hour or even faster then fabulous. But don’t put pressure on yourself. You’ve done the training and you are going to do amazing. I cannot wait to hear how it goes! Wish I could be there to cheer you on : )

  3. I wouldn’t have bought that race belt either. Let’s be serious.

    YAY FOR RED BIBs! I got really excited when I got a blue bib, but that was only because it was for the Mini 10k and no men were involved. Details.

    Don’t let all the pressure get to you!! There’s going to be so much going on during race day, but just think of it as one of your long runs, which you KNOW you can rock. Cameras can add pressure. (Not that I would know, I’m not exactly famous.) Knowing people back at home/across the country are waiting for your results can add pressure, but it usually is a GOOD type of pressure for me…they’re all cheering for me from afar! Which is exactly what we’ll be doing. The truth is that in the end, no one REALLY cares what your time is. (At least, I don’t think they do.) You could run sub-4 or 4:30 or 5 hours and we’d still be here to tell you you’re amazing. It’s a number on a clock and you’ve put an amazing amount of training into this while raising money at the same time. (I could never do it.) You’re so ready for this and I can’t wait to see how it goes!

  4. Always, always self-inflicted pressure for me. I’m a mom of three and running is such a stress reliever for me. I always find it interesting that an activity I do that makes me feel so balanced, restores my inner peace and gives me a release also creates such jitters and anxiety before a big race! I think though that it is a good thing – running and all it represents for me is Important to me, so as long as I can channel all that pressure into something positive for myself i think it’s a good thing. It’s good to have goals (I can’t imagine my life, my running, without them!) but also to always have as one of those goals (and really ultimately the most important one) is to ENJOY the experience and not beat down on yourself for how it all pans out. Ali you are going to have a wonderful first marathon because you wont have it any other way! You will do your best and we are all pulling for you. I would be surprised if any of your readers really care what time the clock says when you cross that finish line. We have all loved reading about your journey and are so inspired by your dedication (to your training AND to your cause!), your honesty, your ability to find the silver lining in all that you do… The pressure isn’t going to go away but you have overcome so much to get where you are and you are going to shine on race day, game face and all!

  5. When it comes to dance, I always put the pressure on myself. Case in point: Monday night, I was at rehearsal and just felt off in general. BUT it is a routine that I know I can emit the exact emotions with my dancing that the choreographer wants. At the end of rehearsal, she picked out one person to demo the dance with her. Now, not to toot my own horn, but I’m usually one of the people picked for things like that. Monday, I wasn’t. And I didn’t like. And I got upset on the train home. Wanting to be the best or finish something or do something well that you’ve been training for for a long time can add up to a lot of pressure. But you know you can do it.. and we all know it too!

    xo Marie
    Chocolate & Wine

  6. I wish you the best luck in the marathon! Don’t think about what people might ask you (very politely) and answer your own questions being very proud of everything you’ve accomplished. I’ll read the recap of the race without judging on the time. 🙂

  7. I had a personal goal of WANTING to finish under 4 hours for my first marathon….and I did it: I got 3:59! Wheeee! I also placed in the top 20 for my age group for that race. BUT, the pressure was all mine, nobody was expecting me to do that, really. So I guess it is a personality thing? i ran it for fun, and to see if I could do it. I did another marathon with a sister (who runs a slower pace) and just ‘chilled’ out–it was awesomesauce! I ran it 25 mins. slower but it was a super fun!

    JUSt have FUN! Who cares what the times is? right 🙂

  8. Must be something in the air this week because I feel like a lot of bloggers and IRL friends have been feeling pressure this week, me included. In my case, the pressure comes from my own Type-A-ness: I love making to-do lists, and then I freak out when I can’t get it all checked off. I hate delegating projects because I’m a control hog. The thought of not multi-tasking 24/7 makes me anxious; every free minute should be utilized!

    It’s hard to let go of all of that, hence the pressure. But sometimes, you just have to take a day off, like you did. I’m trying to remember that having a free day lets you get back on track and focused for the next day (spoken like a true workaholic, eh?)

  9. Love that you got busted! And that you took a mental health day. I hope you are feeling better today and no matter what time you cross the finish, it will be a huge accomplishment!!

  10. Great post, and great question! It sounds like taking the day off to chill out and take care of some business was a really good choice for you. With regards to your question, I definitely put the pressure on myself. I am so lucky that my family, friends, and fiance support me 100% in what I do–and I know that in my heart–but I always push myself to be faster, stronger, and better. For a while in my life, I put so much pressure on myself to be thin that it made me unhealthy and unhappy. I think a little bit of pressure on oneself can be a motivating, positive factor, but I also saw the downside of pressuring myself too much. Enjoy your weekend!

  11. I definitely think that most my the pressure I ever feel is completely brought on by myself! But like you, I just wanted to finish my first marathon and I knew I’d feel proud of myself atbwhatever time I crossed the finish line. And I did…and I even surprised myself.
    You will do great, and your fundraising has been amazing. I have no doubt that you are making a huge difference for your organization!

  12. Don’t let everyone’s questions get to you. It’s your first marathon — whatever you run, you PR. Plus, you’ve raised a ton of money. You are amazing. Run easy tomorrow with your co-worker. You’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future to run in the red or even blue corrals. 🙂

  13. I’m always the one putting undue pressure on myself and piling on commitments faster than I can handle them all. Always.

    I do have to say this, Ali. When I did my first marathon and people asked me about time goals, I stole a line from my dad. “Sundown and vertical.” As long as I crossed the finish line before the race was over and was still standing, it was a good race. I realize you’re a more competitive runner than I am, but Ali, it’s your first marathon. Crossing the finish line with a huge smile on your face is a good goal. Don’t work yourself up over what time it is when you cross.

  14. I definitely am the one putting the most pressure on myself. People tell me that all the time and in some cases the pressure can be detrimental. I think you will have a better race if you relax and have fun with it. You only get to experience your first time once. I am sure you are going to kill this race but should something go wrong you have a lifetime of speedy marathons in your future 🙂 Also all the people you think care about your time, you shouldn’t be doing it for them. You should be doing it for yourself. Lessons I am still working on myself.

  15. I’m pretty sure NO ONE puts any pressure on me at all. It’s completely self-inflicted. The blogging definitely doesn’t help, though, except I’ve effectively never seen anyone being judged harshly on the blogosphere about a less-than-ideal performance on a race … so I don’t know what I’m so worried about.

    It’s looking like I’m going to have to race slowly, if at all, this Sunday in Philly. I was also slated to run the 4-miler tomorrow, but my constantly being sick calls for rest instead.

    Best of luck tomorrow! You’re going to be a great pacer / friend to run with 😉

  16. I agree with your desire to just finish. Finish strong and healthy and that will be a success!

    Have fun tomorrow with your race and it’s wonderful that you are there with your coworker as she finishes her first race. I had a coworker there for me when I finished mine and it’s something I’ll never forget. 🙂

    The party you were at is a hit all over the interwebs this morning. Pictures of Mischa and others. Very cool!

  17. Marissa Cooper. How I miss her. And Summer. And Seth. And Ryan. Sandi..Kirsten.. the whole crew. So sad.
    That was a long response to small portion of your post!

    I can imagine how stressed you are.. and I don’t know how I would handle being in your situation. You are doing amazing.. your posts are always up beat and happy.. and regardless of the numbers (your time.. the money you raised..) you will still be doing something that very few people can accomplish in their lifetime!

  18. I think you did the right thing taking a day off work. I feel like I’m in the same boat. I’m also approaching my first marathon (in November), I work full time, I’m planning my wedding, and I just started grad school last week. After a year of being on an almost consistant runner’s high, this past week I experienced “bad moods” and random spurts of crying. And who puts all this pressure on? Me of course.

    Have fun tomorrow! While it may suck not to be “racing” the event, just think of how fantastic you will feel in 8 days!

  19. I would say we put the most pressure on ourselves…most people around you will never achieve what you have set out to do. So when they ask they are mostly in amazement about what you are doing, and they should be! Just enjoy this moment as much as you can. I felt pressure when I did my first marathon but you are right in your goal being that you want to finish. That is how it should be! You are going to ROCK it!

  20. That’s not a dog, that’s a pony.

    I totally pressure myself. The voices in my head are evil, mean creatures. It’s a seriously toxic relationship, sometimes. I don’t know why we haven’t headed to Splitsville yet.

  21. A red bib! I also get excited about my bib colors too! Have fun at the race tomorrow! I’ve run with slower friends before and its a lot of fun to just keep their pace and chat the whole time and generally just enjoy the race experience.

    I definitely put the most pressure on myself. And my blog factored majorly into finishing my first marathon last year. But it was a positive type of pressure as the marathon was a pretty big accomplishment for me.

  22. 1. I will stop asking you if you think you’re going to break 4 hours. Because, obviously you’re half-Kenyan and will actually shatter world record and break two hours. On your first try.
    2. Like Dori, all of my pressure comes from myself (and likely leads to my own stomach issues), but I see myself as lazy, too.

  23. mental health days are 100% necessary. =)

    and it seems like you are being smart about goal pace/finish. it can be hard if you’re sensing there’s pressure butttt you don’t have to prove anything to anyone but yourself! and you’ve already put in more dedication to marathon training than anyone i know (REALLY!).

  24. If it makes you feel better, I always wonder, how in the world does Ali handle all of that?? You amaze me every day. Can’t believe you’ve raised over $8,000 – that is an accomplishment in itself! I’m glad you took a day off from work – we all need them sometimes. They are called “Mental Health Days.” I wish I could take one a week.

    Without a doubt, I put the most pressure on myself. My life would be 10 times easier if I could figure out how not to do that…

  25. I was the same way with my first marathon and actually I was the one putting most of the pressure on myself. I wanted to run under 4 hours, but never told anyone that. I find that even when people ask me my time goals, they really aren’t pressuring me – just asking to be polite and sound interested, even if they don’t know the first thing about marathon. Just relax, breathe and visualize running an amazing race, feeling fabulous and enjoying every second. 🙂

  26. I put so much pressure on myself that it makes people close to me frustrated. They hate seeing what I do to myself and they all think I will feel much better overall (including stomach wise) if I wasn’t so hard on myself. I don’t see myself that way at all though. I think I am lazy and unmotivated. It is strange to hear everyone tell me otherwise. But I guess they see things I don’t.

    I regret not signing up for this race tomorrow! Please take it easy and don’t feel pressured to run too fast. You are on track for a really incredible marathon!

  27. Me for sure. I am without a doubt my own worst critic. My friends joke about it and my parents tell me to chill. At one point in college my parents told me to relax and have more fun – I cried- they laughed.

    But, while I can’t seam to take my own advice, I can tell you to take deep breathes, realize how much you’ve accomplished, and how great race day and your final fundraising total will be.

  28. Aw friend, I really hope you don’t put your pressure on yourself to race a certain time for the blog or anyone else but you. You’ve worked your butt off for this marathon and I want you to cross that finish line proud. No matter what that time says on the clock, you just killed 26.2 miles – something MOST of us will never ever dream of doing in our lifetime. I am so so so excited for you (and so glad you took yesterday for mental health, so needed sometimes!!)

  29. Marathon training is definitely stressful…and especially when you’re doing your first under the watchful eye of many followers! I think I am definitely hardest on myself…I am pretty much the slowest in my group, and I beat myself up over it way too much. I think a lot of my non runner friends have no concept of what people run marathons in, so I don’t think I’ve ever had someone ask me if i was planning to run a 3:00 marathon or anything like that 😉 Hope you got some much needed R&R yesterday, try and relax and just enjoy your first marathon! It will be a roller coaster, but a really fun one!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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