Returning To My Happy Place

If you are someone who has a calendar, or if you are simply the type of person who is generally aware of the date, you know that Monday was September 24.

Ah, September 24.

Last year, I spent months — and many miles — eagerly, anxiously and OMG-excitingly anticipating September 24.

On September 24, 2011, I ran my first marathon. After a seemingly flawless training cycle wherein I met some of the most incredible people I’ve ever known…

Coach Cane! Remember him?!
YOU DIDN'T EVEN KNOW BRIAN THEN! He was my mysterious "Handsome Friend" because our dating was all scandalous and stuff. Except it wasn' all. Turns out, no one cared. Oh well.

…I arrived in the Hamptons, ready to conquer 26.2 miles.

And from the start…

There I am in the purple, just chillin'. No, J/K. That's not me. This is like Where's Waldo. Good luck. I'm so hidden and inconspicuous.

…to the finish…

My "sprint" was so sad at the end. I thought I was motoring. Reality: I was not. Also, I will post as many marathon photos as I'd like today. LET ME HAVE MY MOMENT...again...and again.

I enjoyed every single mile, every single step, and certainly every cheer I received along the way from my kickass fan club.

I couldn't even keep up with them. See? I needed a Gu.

It was a perfect day.

September 24 crept up on me this year. I didn’t have a marathon to run on Monday. Instead, I was swimming in a mess of piles and deadlines at work. In fact, I didn’t even run on Monday.

But I did wake up that morning fully aware of the date on my giant desk calendar. And yes, I still use a massive desk calendar because I find that it is more reliable than anything electronic…at least until I inevitably spill my water on it every single month. Also, I can make it pretty with markers and stuff.

So yes, I knew that Monday was September 24: my marathoniversary.

I didn’t have any profound “What My Marathon Meant To Me” thoughts, and I didn’t feel a nagging desire to run a million miles in honor of a year’s worth of memories.

Instead, I just smiled like a fool remembering that too-good-to-be-true-but-it-actually-was-real-life day last September.

MICHAELA WAS WITH-TYLER AT THE TIME AND I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT. So awesome. Tyler, you were totally there cheering me on. You're such a good friend.

And somehow, as I reminisced, I found myself perusing the Hamptons Marathon website.

And then I was on the group’s Facebook page.

And then I was on the phone with Brian at the ripe hour of 7 AM.


That’s how our conversation started. I was all shaky-excited and I think maybe he was still sleeping a little bit.

“So what would you think about me running the Hamptons Half Marathon this weekend? Not racing it. Just running it. For fun. If I can get in.”

Orange is my current favorite color. IT'S A SIGN.

“Do it,” Brian replied. He’s a man of so many talents and such a massive vocabulary.

Next thing I knew, I was writing an email to the amazing women — Diane and Amanda — who run the Hamptons Marathon and Hamptons Half Marathon (same day, same time, slightly different distance). I was ultra-gushy and I told them about how the Hamptons Marathon was the best day of my life. I said I was fully aware that the race was full, and that I missed my chance to register.

“But is there any chance you have room for one more?”

I said I’d pay the full registration fee and I didn’t need a goody bag or a T-shirt. I said that aside from the porta potties at the start and the water stops along the way, I wouldn’t even use up any of the race’s resources. I just wanted a bib.

And that nice lady Diane wrote back immediately and said I was in.

And they gave me all the goodies, even though I swear I tried to resist. Diane was like, "What size shirt?" and I was like, "No no, no thank you," and she was like, "You paid the registration fee, take the shirt," and then I was like, "You have amazing arms. How did you get so toned? I'd rather have your secrets than the shirt and the JetBlue sweatband," and she said, "Lots of push-ups," and then I said, "OK, I'd rather have the shirt than do push-ups. Thank you so much!"

So that happened.

It may not be exactly one perfect year later, but this Saturday, I’ll be returning to Amagansett, NY, to the Springs School, where I toed the line for my first (and, um, only so far) marathon.

I’m not planning to race this half marathon. I was planning a cutback week in my marathon training anyway, so 13.1 miles seems just right for Saturday.

Sure, it would be nice to feel great and do well. But I’m not running this weekend for a PR, for a medal or for the “OMG read about how awesome I am!” recap to come afterward.

I’m running the Hamptons Half Marathon because I could use a little distraction from training right now. Since getting healthy again, I’ve jumped right into full-out running and marathon training, and while some of my runs have been great (8.5 “easy” miles this morning turned into a progression-ish run with the final mile at an 8:02 pace, WTF?), others have been less-than-stellar, like yesterday’s failed attempt at mile repeats.

I’m in the mood to run for the love and fun of it, and I know I’ll be able to do that out of Central Park, back in my happy place in the Hamptons.

I am truly, deeply grateful that I was able to get last-minute entry to this race, and I’m looking forward to running solo, this time without my way-cool fan club (though you guys are welcome to make the trip if you’d like — bring Tyler!).

So much paparazzi. I loved it until mile 22.5 when I wanted to kill them all and run into the woods and hide.

This time, I don’t need or want any fanfare. I don’t need or want a pace plan and I don’t need or want any racing pressure. I’m just excited to get back to the place that is filled with my best memories.

So that’s what I’ll be doing this weekend. Skipping along for 13.1 miles, and crossing the finish line with a smile on my face, no matter what happens.

LET’S TALK ABOUT STUFF: Where’s your happy place? Your bed? Your childhood home? The grocery store, specifically the ice cream aisle? Gould Hill Apple Orchard in Hopkinton, NH?



41 Responses

  1. I think it’s awesome that you’re doing the Hamptons half! I did a lovely low-key half down in the Kent countryside this past weekend, and it was just the chilled out run I needed. Though every run is made better when the entire population of a little village is out cheering you on in the middle 😉

  2. Double thumbs up! Looks like you should start planning for Hamptons 2013 (either the full or HM)!!!!

    Happy place for me is me time with a cup of coffee and the papers or mags every morning.

  3. Ahhhh… I’m so excited! I love doing Half Marathons! I certainly want to do more of them next year (because two is not enough)! Recently, I found my new Happy Place, and that is in Bend, Oregon. I was visiting family there in the end of August and I automatically fell in love. Being born and raised in LA, it was so refreshing to to be in nature and even find deer and wildlife everywhere.

  4. Good for you!
    I just ran my third marathon last weekend. Training didn’t go great (I took a long break to get married and go on a honeymoon) and then got injured. But I went just to do it with no pressure of a goal time or anything. It ended up perfect. It was my most fun marathon to date and I think the no pressure thing really helped with that.
    have a great run this weekend! Enjoy every stride!

  5. What timing: I’m running my first marathon this coming Sunday (!!!!) and am full of good-excitement and terrible excitement. Hopefully it will be okay, but I may well not finish! Oh well, right?

    In any case, thank you so much for pumping me up in a good way. It’s too easy to let nerves get the best of ya!

  6. Everytime you post about New Hampshire it makes me smile. I went to grad school in Keene ( grew up in Los Angeles, and decided I needed some winter in my life). And, I have family in Contocook. So cool. The world is small.

  7. I am doing the opposite of you! I ran the Akron half last year as my first half and loved it so this Saturday I am running my first full! I hope Akron, Ohio continues to be my happy place and I will try not to hate my fans at mile 22. Especially if my “fans” are driving slowly behind me asking if I’m OK, picking up the cones and letting the cars through. (I’m a very slow runner, but I still love it!) Have a fun weekend!

  8. I’ll be there with my “I Heart Sweat” shirt running 13.1! I’ve been feeling pressure all week to meet my goal time. I need to take your advice and just worry about crossing the finish line with a smile! Have fun!

  9. I tried the whole “please, I love you, I’m a Napa native” plea to get into the Napa marathon last year….didn’t work at all. I assumed it would never work? I may need a copy of your letter so I can learn the appropriate level of gushing so I can get into races that sell out wayyyyyy earlier than I am willing to commit.

    I didn’t know of your blog one year ago, so I love the pics. You really do look like you’re loving every second of it!

  10. Flip flops, what an awesome race souvenir! I’m always getting baseball caps from races, which I never wear. I have a nice collection to give to my dad in New York.

    That’s awesome that they let you in the race. I love doing a half as a marathon training run– you don’t have to plan a route, you’ll have water/Gatorade set out for you, etc.. Good luck!

  11. That’s so exciting! Last minute races are the best — you don’t have any time to freak out about goals or speed or distance or even weather, since you know all that, say, 4 days ahead of time. My happy place? Not original, but Central Park anytime before 8:30 am. I suppose with you, there’s no need to explain why.

  12. Happy marathonaversary and good luck this weekend!
    My happy place right now is my local frozen yogurt place… just had some for “lunch” and it was spectacular.

  13. Great idea, I bet it is very motivating to run at a race and place that means so much to you.
    My happy place? that’s hard. I guess I just figured out (again) how happy a swimmimg pool can make me- returned back to swimming yesterday.

  14. First of all, it’s been a YEAR since your marathon? I feel like that JUST happened. craziness. And I LOVE that you are revisiting this happy place 13.1 style. Awesome awesome! My happy place? one week ago, getting engaged to M 🙂 <3

  15. Holy shit this is awesome!!!! YOU ARE MT HERO!

    And my happy place is the group fitness studio at the gym. LAME, i know. Oh and the handbag section of Nordstrom. That is also my happy place… until my CC bill comes. 🙂

  16. Just found your blog a few days ago and have been reading through the backlogs. You are fabulous. 🙂

    My happy place is a paved trail in the fall with leaves all over the ground and next to a river when it’s 45 degrees and overcast. This actually exists in Kansas City and I love it to bits.

    My other happy place is on the couch with my beagle and some tea.

  17. Ok, I admit, I am a long time stalker of your blog but have never felt a need to comment (sorry for always taking and not giving back…??!). But today I had to! I am running the Hampton’s full marathon on Saturday, so if someone creepily yells “OMG I READ YOUR BLOG AND WE SHOULD TOTALLY BE BFFs” at you, I’m sorry and I swear I’m really normal in real life. Good luck!

  18. fully support this! i got all giddy after my catskill jaunt this weekend, i’m ready sign up for another race in october – a trail run that ends at a winery. seriously, what could be better? i am all about the happy place these days. excited for you!

  19. My happy place is in bed with a good book.
    Have a great time at the Hampton’s Half. I run a lot of races during marathon training to keep me motivated. It’s much easier for me to run when someone tells me exactly where to go and I have lots of people around me and porta potties and fluid stations throughout the course. I may not need them, but I feel better knowing they are there if I need them.
    I know you’re really running the Hampton’s half for a cookie from that bakery out there. 😉

  20. That’s so great that they let you into the race, and you’ll be able to relive some of those awesome memories! There’s a beach in Florida that is one of my favorite happy places. I love it there:)

  21. I am running my first half marathon on Saturday!! I am so nervous and excited! I hope you have an amazing time running in the Hamptons again! I hope I don’t die at 10.1 miles (my farthest training runs have been 10miles).

  22. This is awesome, Ali. Get out there and enjoy it!

    My happy place is the beach. I grew up in Rhode Island, and I definitely took the beach for granted when I was growing up. Anytime I return to the ocean (any ocean, anywhere), I suddenly feel home again.

  23. My happy place is my bed. It’s where I can be completely alone. I also love the feeling after a good run. I dread it beforehand, but once I’m done with it, it’s magic.

    Great decision on the Hampton half. For like most of a post, I somehow read Hampton full and was going to say maybe doing a marathon randomly might not be such a good idea, but moot point. And now this comment is super rambly. Sorry!

  24. Jealous!! I ran the half 2x and LOVED it. I thought about registering again but it’s a week before my full so I thought better of it. Have fun and enjoy the Hamptons!!! Traffic stinks, but the farmstands and apple picking is the best right now!

  25. That’s awesome that they gave you a bib for the half. I fully support this plan, it sounds like something I would do. Actually, it pretty much is something I did, since I am going back to Richmond for the half in November! So, there you go.

  26. YAY! that’s awesome ali!

    my happy place is for sure the mountains- i miss them so much since moving from colorado to maryland. my first full marathon was almost entirely in the mountains, and it was beautiful, and i would do anything to be able to run it again.

    if only flights were free.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

listen to the podcast

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.
  • Post Date

related posts



Answering questions about my dream home, dream podcast guests, and dreams for the future.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.