A Tale Of Two Runs

Yesterday was kind of a rough day for me.

Nothing particularly tragic happened, but I felt awful all day, work was sheer madness and I was feeling very overwhelmed. I skipped my morning run in favor of some extra sleep, and I was hoping I’d feel better by the evening so I could squeeze in my run.

Coach Cane wanted me doing a mildly challenging workout yesterday. I knew it would be tough, but I was confident I could do it…if only I hadn’t been so dizzy, so I’m-about-to-vomit, and so stuck in the bathroom all day.

By some miracle, both my 5:15 and 8:00 appointments were rescheduled, so I had plenty of time to get out and run.

Unfortunately, I still wasn’t feeling up to it. I didn’t want to skip the workout on account of being a baby, so I laced up, headed out and resolved to “do my best.”

In the past, I was never an advocate of “just doing my best.” It was never about being my best, it was about being the best. Over the past few months, though, I’ve had to rethink my crazy competitive ways. I’ve learned to be a bit nicer to myself, and I’ve learned that I won’t get far in life by beating myself up in the face of failure.

And so the plan yesterday wasn’t necessarily to nail my paces — three counterclockwise loops of Harlem Hills (the hard way!) at 10-mile race pace (we’ll go with 7:45s) — it was to get out the door and not give up.

Despite having the best intentions and what I thought was a manageable attitude toward this run, I took a major beating, physically and emotionally.

I started my warm-up jog to the park.

I stopped to use the bathroom at Starbucks.

I continued my warm-up jog, still not having reached Central Park.

I had to stop and walk, and then hobble toward the tennis court bathrooms.

At this point, I gave myself a pep talk: “Just get through the first loop, and we’ll see what happens from there.” I figured that if I could do one loop, I could do three loops. Half the battle is mental, right?

The loop starts on a downhill, which is glorious, and I kicked my pace up to a sub-7:45 without a problem. I’d love to say “without breaking a sweat,” but I started sweating as soon as I left my apartment. So I will not lie to you: I did, in fact, break quite a sweat.

I got to the bottom of the hill and had to come to a sudden halt.

As I cursed Crohn’s disease and this damn never-ending flare-up situation, I turned around and did a weird sort of limp-walk toward the Harlem pool bathroom. I made my way down to the super-sketchy bathrooms, only to find that there was no toilet paper in sight.

That wasn’t going to work.

And so I took a few deep breaths and started to run again.

I had to walk up Harlem Hill.

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t part of Coach Cane’s plan.

I picked it up again on the next downhill (running in this direction you get two big downhills and one big uphill in between), and settled into a 7:45 pace again.

But at this point, I knew the planned workout wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, I made my way back to the tennis court bathrooms — which I ended up visiting several more times over the course of the evening — and made a new plan.

I wasn’t ready to give up on running completely since the pain kept coming and going. There were moments of ache-free bliss, and then there were spontaneous pain wars in my intestines. So my new plan was to still cover the distance Coach Cane had in mind for me — roughly 7 miles — trying to maintain marathon goal pace.

All factors considered, these splits are not terrible...even if they're not at all the ones Coach Cane wanted to see.

My total running time was 1:01.

My total time in Central Park: 2 hours.

I was only running for half the time I was out. The other hour — 59 minutes, to be exact — was spent walking and bathrooming.

That is not what I call “ideal marathon training.”

I wanted to be proud of myself for not giving up entirely, and I do feel that way, but this run was tough. It was especially upsetting for me because at times I felt so good! After the first few stops, I thought I was good to go. I thought I had, literally, gotten it out of my system.

As I walked home from Central Park, I checked my email. My mom spent the past two days babysitting Tyler (Michaela is officially off maternity leave and is back at work, which happened so fast), and she had sent me a bunch of precious photos and videos of my little buddy.

Tyler loves his Patrick the Pup. One day they will be the same size.

I watched a video of Tyler smiling and being cute as I walked, and I just lost it.

I was upset because I miss Tyler. I hate not being around him more.

I bought this little elephant blanket for Tyler for Christmas...even though he wasn't born yet.

I was upset because I thought about all the training runs I’ve done so far to prepare for the New York City Marathon, and not one of those runs has been stop-free. Every single one has included a stomach interruption…or 12.

I was upset because last year at this time, I felt so good. I was training for the Hamptons Marathon, I was surviving on barely any sleep and I felt like I was kicking ass in every part of my life.

Now I feel like I’m living oppositely. If oppositely is actually a word…

I shed a few frustration tears as I walked home, and promised myself that as soon as I got back to my building, I’d stop. I did my best, I gave the run a shot, it was over with, and I’d move on just fine.

I got a little worked up once I got upstairs, but I didn’t cry. My best friend Becky (yes, I will always refer to her as “Best Friend Becky,” even though you may know who she is by now) texted me to say that her wedding photos were online.

I looked through them, and I just felt sad. I was clearly still being stupid-emotional and couldn’t shake it, but I felt homesick and I missed my family.

Good dance moves are so obviously in my DNA.

Eventually I showered, forced myself to eat some dinner (I didn’t have an appetite all day — clearly a sign that something is wrong) and then watched as I made my primetime television debut.

Kind of.

THAT IS MY HAND ON THE RIGHT. IT'S SO FAMOUS. Let me know if you want an autograph from my famous hand.

This morning I woke up when my alarm went off.

I said my “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” (do it) and I popped out of bed, ready to start the month of August on the right foot with some happy miles.

Yesterday’s run was behind me. I was ready to get back out there.

Today’s plan was easy: six miles at marathon goal pace +:30/mile (that’s 9:15s).

I felt slightly better this morning than I did yesterday, so I was feeling positive.

In the first four miles, I think I made four bathroom stops.


I was annoyed, but since this was just a regular run, I wasn’t too worried about it.

And then the rain came.

"Those clouds look ominous," I thought to myself. Little did I know...

It was just a drizzle at first, and I figured it would pass. I still had two miles to go, and I was on the south side of the park — as far from my apartment as I could get.

Then the drizzle became hard rain.

Still not a big deal. I’m not afraid of rain. I like it.

I was near the Boathouse bathroom, so I hopped in there to grab a wad of toilet paper to wrap around my phone. Stupid me for running with my phone this morning. I thought a little TP wrap would keep it dry, but that didn’t work.

Because then the hard rain became a washout downpour.

I had never run in anything like that before.

I looked out from the Boathouse with another runner girl who had stopped in, and we both just laughed. It was getting late and I had to get home, so I did something I swore I would never, ever do, all in the name of protecting my precious iPhone:

I took my shirt off, wrapped it around my phone, and ran home in just my little shorts and sports bra.

For a long time, I said there were things I never wanted to do:

  • Run a marathon.
  • Run in just a sports bra.
  • Complete a triathlon.

Well we know how the marathon thing turned out, and now I’ve broken my second promise to myself as well.

It was kind of amazing, honestly. I bolted home in the pouring rain and I was so, so soaked.

I loved it.

I loved it so much that I forgot about yesterday’s disastrous day.

The park had totally cleared out, but there were a few runners still making their way around the main loop. We all smiled at each other as we passed, and kind of laughed, acknowledging that yes, this is totally crazy, but also wicked cool.

I ran up Cat Hill, and toward Engineers’ Gate, never once worrying about whether my stomach flab was hanging over my shorts or my love handles were jiggling with each puddle jump I made. I aimed for puddles instead of avoiding them, and I loved that my shoes were about six pounds heavier because they were so drenched.

As I ran out of the park, doormen outside their buildings laughed and clapped.

Thank you, kind sirs, for your applause. I look forward to your personal support on November 4.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

And go figure: As soon as the crazy rain started, I didn’t think about my stomach at all, and I didn’t have to make a single bathroom stop from that point on.

It’s amazing what a little rain can do.

Today I loved running. I didn’t care about training for a marathon. I didn’t care about PRs or fueling or negative splits (I hardly even know what those are). I just loved putting one foot in front of the other. It was so fun.

That is the story of my two drastically different runs in 12 hours, and the time I did another thing I swore I’d never do.

I stand firm on the triathlon thing though.


WHAT ABOUT YOU? Anything you swore you’d never do and then — oops — did anyway? Here’s another example: I swore I’d never eat Velveeta shells and cheese again after all those times it used to make me sick, but oops, it was one of my final “I still live alone and can do whatever I want” meals before I moved in with Brian. Whatever.



46 Responses

  1. I swore that I would never skip icing and foam rolling after a long run again…but oops, I passed out on the couch instead. This has happened multiple times…it’s a vicious cycle.

    On a more serious note, way to push through a very tough run! I hope August is a better month for you health-wise.

  2. I’m impressed with your positivity! Sounds like you’re really learning from your experiences….and it also seems like you pushed your body and yourself so much last year that it’s catching up to you now. I’m sorry you’re feeling so sick and having so many flares. Crohn’s sucks and I feel for you! I suspect you’ll keep on growing though…and learning from your experiences….and being kind to yourself. Taking a day off and being kind to your hurting body does not equal defeat or “being a baby”. Obviously you know your body better than anyone, and I’m not doubting that….I’m just saying I hope you continue to be kind to yourself.

  3. This is going to sound so crazy coming from someone who is obsessed with running, but after every marathon I do – I swear I am never going to run another one again. And then inevitably a few months/years go by and I decide to give it “just one more try”.

  4. Ahhhhahaha… Last year I watched my friend cross the finish line during her first 1/2 marathon. It was the Seattle Rock and Roll full and 1/2 event. I remember looking at the full marathon runners with icepacks on their calves and saying, “Yeah, no thanks. That will never be me. Why put yourself through that pain…”

    Exactly one year later, I was running that very same race…26.2 miles conquered… Never say never. 😉

  5. You’re SOOO going to do a triathlon! Just wait…with all the cycling you’ve been doing, it’s in the cards.

    I have been having a ton of stomach issues and it has been keeping me from running as much as I would like and I end up feeling like such a loser. I think about how you will still get out there despite a million bathroom stops and pain while I wimp out. You are amazing and an inspiration!

    I hope you get your chronic flare ups sorted out soon so you can go back to your happy, negative splitting runs!

  6. I said I would never run a marathon, too. But I am now signed up for one on Sept. 29th. Also, last week I took an ice water bath. (Something I definitely thought I would never do!) It made me not sore after my first 15 mile run ever, but my husband is convinced that I have finally actually lost it. You are an inspiration! I just found out that someone I know was diagnosed with Crohn’s and I am going to send her your blog. Keep running and writing, you are awesome!

  7. Tyler is so cute! You need to plan a trip to go see him soon. 🙂

    I, too, am having a totally different marathon training year from last year. I developed an IT band or something weird about my left knee issue. I need to go to a doctor. I also sprained my right ankle a few weeks ago and then rolled it and it never got a chance to get better before I started pounding on it, so it doesn’t feel great. I totally feel like a broken down robot. I am taking a couple of days off (yesterday was scheduled, today will not be).

    I love that you had a wonderful worry free part of your run. It always feels great when you run and can just enjoy it without worrying about bathrooms or aches and pains.

  8. Ali, hang in there. You do whatever you can; stop planning; go with the flow. There are “bad” days but this just makes the “good” ones so much better.

  9. yeah yeah yeah, no triathlons…we’ll see about that. After my first marathon I swore I’d never do a tri…and yet somehow I now have two Ironmans under my belt. Watch out once you get that bike! 🙂 Loved your mental turnaround!!

  10. Wait…you managed to do two runs within twelve hours? I find that when I work out the night before, my legs just wont cooperate the next morning and let me run to the best of my ability.

    1. Yeah, but today’s run was a slow one, so it wasn’t too bad. I also didn’t push very hard last night. Normally I’m with you though—I need 24 hours in between runs!

  11. I’ve been following your blog for a while, but I’ve never left a comment until now- but I am because I just realized…; November 4, your marathon, my birthday…. Naturally you’re totally going to beast it! You’ve even got some rainy training in in case it pours!

  12. I’m glad your second run turned around. Just out of curiosity, why are you so anti running in a sports bra? As someone who runs in Texas I just don’t get it…

    1. I’m just not comfortable doing it, and I like to be as comfortable as possible when I’m running. I don’t like my stomach enough to let it all hang out while I’m running. Maybe if I bothered to do core work and tighten it up I’d be more confident in that department, but for now I’m happier with my shirt on. Though if I lived in Texas and had to deal with the heat you endure, I’m sure I’d get over any insecurities real fast!

  13. Good days and bad days – it’s what keeps us going. I’ve been caught in a bad rainstorm only it was cold! By the time I got home I couldn’t feel my legs or arms, but it was awesome!! About 6 years ago i swore I would never run….. Now I live and breathe it! hahaha

  14. Yes! I loved the positivity at the end of this post. I was leaving a 6:15am SoulCycle class this morning when the washout downpour came. I wrapped my stuff up in the SoulCycle plastic bags and just walked out there. It was gloriously fun (and besides, we all needed to shower, anyway).

    😉 Keep on smiling today!

  15. ALI! I was out there in the rain too! It was glorious! I had so much fun splashing around and YES it was the hardest rain I had ever run in. I choked a few times breathing all the water in.

  16. Love the story of you running in the rain! How do you carry your phone when you run? Just in your hands or do you have shorts that have a magic compartment big enough for your phone (and if it’s magic shorts, please tell me which ones!)?

    1. I just carry it in my hand. It’s terrible and I drop it constantly. Coach Cane also says it’s bad for my form. Oops… (I don’t race with it though.)

  17. It’s like we were Crohn’s twins yesterday! I was having a rough, rough day and instead of my normal work out, I slept about 4 extra hours. I also started getting really anxious last night from being away from my family (I’ve been alone all summer completing an internship in a different city). But, somehow today has been so much better already. It’s nice how real you are on here. It makes all of us other people not feel so alone! Hahah

  18. I love to hear that someone else loves running in the rain. That is actually how I started running. I only when it was raining. It rained for a week straight then I ran to jump in puddles and before I could realize what was happening I was hooked. 5 marathons later I still love running in the rain and snow.

  19. Seriously?? I can’t even get over your utter commitment to the run, even given all your tummy troubles yesterday. I mean really, 99.99999% of the world would have scrapped the run from the start but you? Nope. You power through and give it your ALL, no matter how many bathroom breaks it takes. And then you wake up today and do it all over again. I am always always always amazed by you!!!!

  20. I nearly cried several times through this post. Mainly when you were so sad and frustrated, I’m SO sorry about all the bathrooms. But then I nearly cried for the fantastic rain story!! What an amazing run….how wonderful to get running back in one fell swoop like that!!! Fabulous!!

  21. I was near the Intrepid when the REALLY hard rain started. So awesome. I had to take off my shirt and hold it for the last 4 miles of my run.

  22. Thanks for being so positive, this post made me tear up! Sometimes when I have a terrible run it’s really hard to not let it consume your day and even your next run…After reading this I know you just have to find positive things and shake off the bad stuff, no matter what! Negativity just perpetuates more negativity!

  23. Hooray for a great run. I love getting caught in the rain (though I really do my best to avoid it). There’s something so freeing about running in a downpour.

  24. Nothing like a good run to wipe out the bad! Way to stay positive! I too recently ran in a sports bra after swearing I never would. While I felt like I might as well be running in the nude – I survived! One perk of 5 a.m. running – not too many people out!

  25. Good for you girl! You are definitely inspiring! I totally get the whole homesick for your family thing. I just looked up tickets to fly back north, like tomorrow. The funds are not there, but I would do it in a second if they were!

    I just signed up for my first marathon–excited to make it happen!

  26. Yay to happy thoughts. I was feeling gutted reading about your first run and then the rainy bit totally put a smile on my face. Good for you! 😀

  27. I got caught in that rainstorm too!! I was doing 1000m intervals around the reservoir, and in the middle of my 4th one (LITERALLY as far as I could possibly be from home on the entire route), the skies opened…it was completely insane. But kind of fun. And the fact that I totally nailed my 1000s didn’t hurt, either 🙂

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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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