Tomorrow, I will run my fourth marathon.
This marathon feels so different from the previous three.
The first one — the Hamptons Marathon — was significant in every way. My training was perfect, I felt in the best shape of my life, and what they say is true: You never forget your first. That day remains the most perfect, most special day of my life. I got to cross the finish line and land right in the arms of my boyfriend and my family.
The second one, a little more than a year later, was a fluke of a marathon. I was supposed to run the New York City Marathon, my training got hijacked by a serious Crohn’s flare-up and a hospital stay, and then Hurricane Sandy hit, and the marathon was canceled. I salvaged just enough training to get by, though it lacked speedwork or intensity, and I ended up running the Manchester City Marathon with one of the greatest runners I know by my side the entire way. I ran a PR that day, shaving more than 20 minutes off my Hamptons time.
My third marathon, again a year later, was my victory lap. I’d had the year from hell with my health, and I was fresh off medical leave when the New York City Marathon rolled around. I was still experiencing a mild flare during the race and had to make three bathroom stops within the first 12 miles, but I ran 26.2 miles throughout my home city, and it felt incredible. Second happiest day of my life.
Now here we are, on the eve of my fourth marathon — the Steamtown Marathon — and I feel calm. All I am hoping for is an equally calm stomach. But I don’t feel pressure to do anything incredible. I have no specific time goal. No one to impress. I feel happy and at peace. I feel ready. Tomorrow is just one more day I get to run.
This year started off horribly for me. I thought I was getting better around the time of the marathon last year, but I never truly got out of that flare. I had to stop running on Thanksgiving. By late January, I couldn’t leave my apartment. I took a full two weeks off work in an attempt to rest, recover, and actually take care of myself.
In February, I enrolled in a clinical trial.
By March, I could run again.
Slowly. Wobbly-ly. Awkwardly.
But damnit, I was running. And I was doing it with a renewed sense of appreciation and gratitude.
In February, I couldn’t get off the couch, except to wither away in the bathroom.
On October 12, I will run my fourth marathon.
It’s not my victory lap. The second half of this year has already felt like a victory lap. As soon as that mystery drug kicked in, I was like a new person.
I was my “old self” again, but with a clearer head and a stronger heart. Every day felt magical. Every run was a success, even though almost all of them still involved one — or a dozen — bathroom stops.
After two years of being too afraid to make plans solo, let alone with friends, I found a little voice in my head that said, “Go ahead. Register for a fall marathon.”
I never doubted whether I’d make it to this start line.
I never put pressure on myself to run. I loved waking up every day and running. There were days when I was so tired, days when the sun showed no signs of showing up during the run, days when my stomach gave me a real run for my mental money. But I loved every mile of this training.
I could have done more hill training, specifically downhill training specific to the Steamtown course. I should’ve strength trained more, foam rolled more, maybe done a few longer tempos instead of mostly short interval work. Still, I ran a shit-ton of miles, and I’m arriving at the start line healthy. How about that?
I was able to complete a 12-week training program — something that hasn’t been possible since my first marathon training cycle — and while OK, I could have pushed harder, better, faster, stronger, I did every workout, every mile, every recovery day. I analyzed paces without obsessing over them, and never harped on a workout.
And now, on the day before Steamtown, I feel more calm than I ever have before a race. On Friday, before driving up to Scranton, PA, I slept in a bit, and then went up to the roof of my apartment building hoping to catch a few minutes of hardcore serenity before the weekend kicked off.
I ran three miles to my happiest places…
…and spent some time pondering life and this year, and generally feeling lucky.
I’ve had my Race Day Playlist on repeat for three days straight…
…and I have the shoes, the legwarmers, the outfit, and the Body Glide all on standby.
I’m sure the nerves will kick in at some point during my luscious Outback Steakhouse dinner in a few hours, but so far I’ve survived the taper with only one night of Race Day Nightmares (I forgot to sync and charge my iPod Shuffle, and I drank a sip of a mystery drink my mom had in her car that I assumed was water but wasn’t and then panicked about how it might affect my stomach) and no major meltdowns. I’ve been my normal amount of bitch, I got tons of sleep, and I basked in being quite lazy. I decorated the apartment for fall. I bought autumnal pillows with owls on them. And I painted my nails.
I have felt a tremendous amount of support this year, and I’d be an asshole if I didn’t give a few shout-outs here. Bethany, Anne, Zovig, all the beautiful November Project souls, Lucy (my very best tiger partner in so much crime), Emily Faherty, AlBurke, Michael and Birthday Girl Blair, Matt Powers (I promise to push it on the straights tomorrow), Steve Mura, Girls’ Club, Paul-tatopia, all my DickCats, Trainer M-Con 4 lyfe (Devendorf), Doorman Kevin (who congratulates me on every run, every morning, as if I’ve just won the Boston Marathon), Coach John, Mom, Dad, Ryan, Michaela, Tyler, Abigail, and of course, the man who puts up with all my literal and figurative shit, Brian. You are all my game-changers, my rocks, my endless sources of positivity and optimism, my very best support system. I’m the luckiest brat in the world.
And to you: The people who read, cheer me on, and make me believe I can have a little purpose and positive impact in this world. I cherish you. (Ew, that sounds so creepy and cheesy-weird, but I mean it. Trust me.)
See you on the other side of 26.2. I’ll be the one in hot pink legwarmers. But you knew that already.