Tuesday, May 26, 2015


This past weekend, I was scheduled to run my last long run, a 23 miler, for my upcoming June marathon.  Holy.  Shite.  In all of my past training cycles, I’ve never tackled a run this long, typically peaking out at 20, maybe 21.  But, everything is new this time around; new goals, new workouts, new age bracket.  So, why not a new long run distance?  The issue, however, was that my family was headed to Cape Cod for the holiday week-end to spend time with cousins and grandparents and the thought of running for over 3 hours on one of my precious vacation days was, well, let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled.  To my good fortune, my running partner and good bud, Kirsten, was also going to be on the Cape with her family for the week-end and while she’s not currently training for a marathon, she’s always up for both a long run and a challenge.  I called her last Thursday and asked if she would join me for at least part of this dreaded long run on either Sunday or Monday morning.  “I have a better idea,” she said.  “Let’s run the Johnny Kelly Half Marathon on Sunday.  You can do a few miles before and after on your own and run the race with me.  I don’t want to go nuts, but I’d like to put in a decent effort.  You can be my rabbit."  (meaning, I could help keep her on goal pace throughout the race).  It was a brilliant idea.  23 miles alone?  BRUTAL.  23 miles broken up by 10 miles solo with a half marathon in between which I get to run with my bud?  AWESOME...well, relatively awesome, but still.

Sunset on Cape Cod
Friday night before race day

Saturday morning, I got up at 6:15am and headed out to scoop Kirsten up at 7:00.  The early start was less than ideal for both of us, but, at the same time, it's always good to get the day going early. About 30 minutes later, we got to Hyannis, parked and made our way over to the town green to grab our numbers.  We made a plan to meet at the start, near the back of the crowd and then I headed out to get a few miles under my belt before the race began.  It did feel a little odd to start cruising down the street with my bib on as other runners were pulling in for the race and then even more odd to get to the start fully sweating; not that anyone cared or even noticed.  Finally, at 8:15am, we were off.  We both had our music on, but could still hear each other talk.  As usual, our first mile was a little fast.  Knowing that Kirsten wanted to run a good time and finish strong, I suggested we pull back a bit.  We settled in nicely, still a little fast, but clearly comfortable for her so we went with it.  People were passing us left and right and I got the sense sense that she wanted to pick it up and go with the flow.  But, in my 10 marathons, I have gone out too fast in at least half of them and it never works, so I tried to hold steady and keep us in check, knowing that we could use that saved energy at the end of the race.  After a few miles we got to the beach.  We were running against the wind on a slight incline and our split for mile 5 reflected this as it was a bit slower.  She gave me a look of concern and I told her not to worry, that it would even out.  She nodded and I could see her relax a little.

We continued to cruise along, enjoying the scenery, chatting a little, checking in with each other and just zoning out.  Around mile 8, I paused my music so I could listen to Kirsten’s breathing.  I wanted to make sure our effort was still manageable if not comfortable and by having my music on I couldn’t really gauge this.  As we moved along, I just listened to our footsteps, which were often in synch, to her breathing, to my own breathing, to the crowd, to everything.  I rarely do this and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  At mile 9, Kirsten took a drink and then slammed dunked it into the trash can, and shouted “2 POINTS” while smiling.  I laughed, knowing, at this stage that we were going to be good to go for the rest of the race.  As we pushed on, the sun beamed down on us and I could tell the heat was starting to become a factor.  Finally, we made it to mile 11.  “Okay, Kirst,"  I said "we’ve got 2 miles to go.  That’s like running from my house to yours and back.  You can do that in your sleep.  Let's do this.” To which she responded, "I'm tired."  Shit.  She’d hit the point when her head was starting to play games with her despite that fact that her body was undoubtedly still capable of powering through.  “I know you’re tired.  I am, too.  But we can do this.  Let’s go."  “Ok," she said.  "Just keep talking.” She needed the distraction.  So, I threw out everything I could think of, running- related or not, even fibbing a little about our pace, which was getting progressively faster, and how close we were to the finish, which was not quite as close as I told her (sorry, Kirst).  We finally rounded the curve for our last .1 and gave it our all to finish strong.  It was an awesome time for her and while she wasn’t feeling good at that particular moment, I knew she would be psyched eventually.  We eased over to the green and grabbed some waters.  There might have been a hug and a high five in there, too.  I don’t really remember and I don't think she would either.  When she was talking again and feeling good, I headed out for my final 7 miles.  Oh, right.  I had 7 more miles to tackle on my own.  Oof.  I was really, really tired.  But, I was also elated.  I was thrilled for Kirsten, who had run a really great race and time and I was pumped in general about how fun the whole experience had been for me.  I was floating on pure runner joy.  I took my bib off, cranked up my tunes and just let it roll.  I’m not going to lie, my legs started to get heavy pretty quickly.  But my head was so filled with good feelings that it didn’t matter.  That was pretty cool.  When I got back to the green, I found Kirsten chilling out in the grass with her feet up and a huge smile across her face.  I laid down next to her and neither said nor did anything for a few minutes.  She took a picture to document my 23 mile finish.

Shortly afterwards, Bekah S., a fellow Oiselle enthusiast, came over and introduced herself.  She’d seen us on the course and shot the above photo.  Kirsten doesn’t actually run on the team with me, but she might as well as she’s a huge fan and always sporting the duds.  We chatted for a while, learning that Bekah is nursing a foot injury (sucks), and that her husband, Paul, had run both the 5K and the half (impressive).  We bugged her for another photo and then headed off to get iced mochas, our traditional post-race treat.

Since Kirsten had had some time to recover while I kept running, she offered to drive my car home so I could put my feet up.  Bless her.  We made it back easily, she dropped herself off and I ambled slowly over to the driver side to get myself home.  Both of us were looking forward to enjoying the rest of the week-end.  Lazily, I might add.

I run for a lot of reasons.  I love to push myself.  I crave the mental release.  I enjoy the challenge of racing.  But, none of it is nearly as exciting or fulfilling without a buddy by your side.  Someone to run with, yes.  But, even more so, someone to get up early with, to commiserate with, to drive to and from races with, to enjoy post-race coffee with, to support when things don’t go as hoped and to celebrate with when they do.  Running is awesome.  Running with a bud is more awesome.  Thanks, K.

Listen to this:
1000 - Ben Khan

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