The answer, rather anticlimactically I’m afraid, is more running.
A few months ago, I registered to be in the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon. Lottery day came, and I was one of the lucky ones that made it in. I cheered, I probably drank some wine, and then I put all marathon thoughts on a back burner.
With race day less than three months away, however, the contents of that back burner are now at a rolling boil. I’ve begun the long runs and the hill workouts. And, while wading into the waters of marathon training always feels a little disorienting, this feels…good.
For one, it makes me happy that my 20th running anniversary coincides with the start of another marathon training cycle. Lord knows there’s time for reflection when you’re out there logging miles, and these days I’m reflecting on my running life thus far. I’m thinking about:
• My first 5k. It was in Reston, Virginia. I was in middle school and I walked part of it.
• My first high-school cross-country practice. I was soooo nervous.
• Running in college – not on the team, just on my own. Running where I wanted, when I wanted. That’s when I really started to fall in love with the sport.
• The Anheuser-Busch Colonial Half-Marathon, where I cut my teeth for longer races. Also the first race I ever ran that gave out beer afterwards!
• My first marathon: New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Marathon on February 29, 2004. That was the first and last marathon in which I didn’t use energy gels. I learned my lesson.
• Drifting in and out of several running groups, and meeting some of the nicest people ever.
• My first long trail race, which I hated.
• My second long trail race, which I loved.
• Allllll of those bathroom stops.
• My family, whose genes, support, and occasional butt-kicking are behind it all.
And that’s barely skimming the surface.
It also makes me happy that Robin Hood will finally get to watch me run a marathon, and that it’s in the fall. I was thinking about it (okay, I was reflecting again) and it’s been five years since I ran a fall marathon!
There’s just something about a fall marathon. Training in the heat of summer, with the air gradually taking on a crisp edge as your fitness takes on its own crisp edge…developing unusual tan lines and drooling at the thought of ice-cold Gatorade…ahhh.
Last but not least, training for the Marine Corps Marathon feels good because it’s somehow both comforting and challenging. In this year of blessings and change and more blessings and more change, I sometimes feel, quite frankly, overwhelmed. Like when you’re bobbing happily in the ocean, and then you realize you can’t feel the sand beneath your feet.
Running – consistent running, the kind marathon training requires – is my sand.
The challenge comes with this new phase of life I’ve entered. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like training is impossible with a husband and a new puppy. Heck, my husband gets me post-long-run breakfast burritos, and the puppy is all about going on warm-up and cool-down walks with me. But it’s an adjustment. I don’t always get the “optimal” amount of sleep or eat the “optimal” diet, and I’m learning not to care. Running isn’t the center of my life anymore.
It’s just a glorious, glorious part of it.
Here’s to 20 more years 🙂