I can hear Billy Joel crooning in the back ground. Something about not wanting to waste more time and being out of touch with the rhythm and blues, and then he lists all the things that he misses about the Big Apple. It reminded me that even though this has been a week of disillusionment and disappointment, I still have an open invitation to run the New York City Marathon. It was something I earned, something that no one can take from me, and something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. I also was reminded that I have been through an MRI, x-rays, multiple doctors and physical therapists, and still I face a wall of uncertainty taunting me to give up.
I pulled up my calendar and counted the weeks – 17 weeks until November 4, 2012. A typical marathon training regimen is 18 weeks. My professional life and my personal life are in a state of change: change of expectations, schedules, and predictability. At this point I need one certain thing in my life, something that honors who I am and what I can overcome. So I put on my running clothes, looked to my running guru Hal Higdon, and found the mileage for today. I laced up my pink running shoes that are far past their expected running life. I thought about how I left a big part of myself on the road, both in hope and in pain, with those shoes. I ran looking for hope, I ran with faith, and I ran in denial. They took me through 570 miles, feeding an endorphin addiction, through rain, snow and blistering temperatures at an average pace of eight and a half minutes per mile. Their shocking pink color helped mask the pain of the journey through both good times and bad. They brought personal bests and personal disappointments. They ran Boston when many dropped out, when the heat of the pavement threatened to melt their soles, and carried on when all I wanted to do is give up. They were a reminder that I am a woman who can do things that I rarely believe I can do. They also are a reminder that I am a woman who can do things that others rarely believe that I can do. I decided that they would probably hold up as I start my training and at least until I can find their replacement. Deep down inside I know it will take more than pink to get me across that New York City finish line.
I chose a route that matched Hal’s recommended mileage of nine miles. It was a route that was misleading, starting easy and scenic, offering downhill ease for the first five miles. The turnaround point offered a memorable vista of Lake Washington with functional bathrooms, a drinking fountain and fond memories of running fast and fleet in training days past offering cooler temperatures. But the route is beguiling at best. After the turnaround it is all uphill, think Heartbreak Hill, but triple the distance. It seemed appropriate if I was looking to push past hope and face the stark reality of what it takes to go the distance. The only consolation prize was that I would have an extra mile to walk through a wooded nature trail, allowing myself to cool down, collect my thoughts, and hopefully slow the buildup of lactic acid. As I ran, I put my playlist on shuffle, not wanting to hear the familiar progression of tunes that sounded so hopeful just three months ago, but instead hoping that by mixing it up a bit I would find that odd combination of rhythm and blues that Billy Joel sang about.
So here’s to day one of training. Here's to putting the curtain of pain right out in front of me and running through it. One thing I have learned is that in order to cut through fear, pain, and the great unknown is that you have to be bold enough to face it head on. There is only one way to get to the other side and that is to go through it, whether you walk, run or crawl. I just happen to choose to run. And this time it just may take me across the finish line in the Big Apple.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012