When my heart was broken, I turned to art. I’ve been living this mantra. Hope you enjoy.
It’s Day 4 of my official marathon training and I’ve come to some interesting realizations about my 45 year old body versus my 30 year old body. And it’s not what you think.
Yes, I’m older but I’m a much stronger runner now than I was then. Maybe it’s the whole wisdom with age mojo working for me. When I was 30 I trained like a demon. I packed on mileage because this was what you were supposed to do when you were planning to complete a long race. It didn’t matter what kind of miles as long as they were miles- the more the better. I ran longer but I don’t believe I ran smarter.
I took running classes through the New York Road Runner’s Club where we did speed work and pushed ourselves with relays and challenging paces. I remember one sultry evening in Central Park where my fellow running-mates and I were separated into relay groups- losers would have to run a mile at race pace, winners got to run a mile at a recovery jog- and a woman questioned me as I was bent over gasping for air covered in sweat, “Are you all part of some prison program or something?” That’s how committed I was.
I learned the dynamics of running at 30 and I finished my races competitively but there was a definite mind and body disconnect I possess at 45. I could totally kick my 30 year old self’s butt in a race without breaking a sweat. Why?
It’s not because of some radical new diet or herbal supplement but simply learning to listen to my body. My body and my mind guide my training as opposed to running just for mileage. I still set goals for myself but I’m wiser about the way in which I approach those goals. If my body feels tired I don’t push it. I do a mile and come back home with none of the guilt I would have carried at 30. At 30 I would have pushed through the fatigue to hit my goal and then I would have suffered for it through injury or a weakened immune system.
When I first started racing I trained hard every single day, not even taking a day off before a race. Sure I’d finish the race with a PR but by the end of the day I would feel sick. The next couple of days my body would drag as I loaded on junk miles. Now I realize junk miles serve no purpose.
I start off my run in a dialogue between my body and mind.
“What do you feel like today?”
“Legs and lungs feel strong let’s go hard for 3 miles and take the hill at race pace.”
“Okay sounds good to me.”
And I’m off… Sometimes the conversation isn’t as cooperative as this one. Sometimes the body wants to do more than the mind is willing to allow. Those are the compromise runs where maybe time will trump distance or pace. Some days the goal has to be set off for another day and that’s fine. But more days than most, I’ll set a training goal and surpass it. I’ll run longer and faster than I planned. Those are the days I know I’m better than I was then.
At 45 I know enough to keep it playful. I change routes and run new places. I’ve even started running with other people from time to time. Instead of counting miles, I’ll count mailboxes. Sometimes the running shoes stay home and I take out the trail shoes for some hardy terrain. Some days I don’t run at all preferring yoga or my Insanity Workout or just doing work in the yard for a change.
The 30 year old took it all too seriously. At 45 I’m having too much fun to stress about the destination. The joy is in the journey.
There are two types of people who run marathons. The ones who cross the finish line content to mark ‘run a marathon’ off their bucket list. They are happy for their t-shirt and the story they can regale friends and family with about the event. Then there are those, like me, who cross the line, look up at their time and think, “Damn, I could have done that faster.” While people are patting us on the back and congratulating us for our feat, we’re already tweaking our training for the next one.
I guess to be accurate, I should add the third group- those who run a marathon to win but these are super-human beings to us mid-packers.I only come close to winning races during moments of intense training when fantasy takes over creating hallucinations to motivate a tired body.
I completed the New York City Marathon in 1997 in 4:55. I was hoping for a sub 4:00 but deciding to try a food outside of my training regimen wasn’t such a good idea. It was years before I could think about using a Port-a-Potty again. ((shudder))
I was excited to run it again in 1998. I received my acceptance in the mail the same day I took a pregnancy test and discovered Baby #2 was on his way. I considered running it five months pregnant but my middle child was a huge fetus.
I postponed until the next year but then life got in the way- two children and a move sidelined my training. By the time I thought about running NYC again my training was in the toilet. I moved out of the city. I wasn’t competing regularly in New York Road Runner races. I ran to run but I wasn’t pushing like I used to. I filled out a couple of applications for NYC over the years but the universe wasn’t complying, nothing but “thank you but sorry” rejection emails.
This past year, I’ve gradually started back to racing again. I’ve run those races with Baby #2 who at 14 is taller and faster than me but I can run longer (I think?). But the marathon has been calling me, luring me with the thrill of training, maybe even becoming a part of the Hudson Valley running community.
I considered running NYC again but the money, the logistics and the chance of being rejected again pushed that idea out of my head. Then I found out about a local marathon in Goshen, NY on October 20th and I got that same thrill I had applying for NYC. At that time the longest I’d run was a 10K (6.2 miles). I had maybe three races under my belt and I secretly thought it was a bit arrogant of me to believe I could run such a long race but I told so many people I was going to do it, I had no choice, I had to go through with it.
Training was hard. It was thrilling and challenging. I started waking up at 5am to get in long runs before the heat of late spring and summer. I raced almost every weekend becoming stronger and faster. I met wonderful runners who encouraged, shared their stories and their enthusiasm with me. I became a runner. It wasn’t my hobby or a past-time, it became my way of life.
So today while I was feeling crappy with whatever bug is passing around my kids, I did it. I didn’t just think about doing it, I did it. I registered for the inaugural Hambletonian Marathon. It won’t be a glamorous or crowded as NYC but I won’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn and deal with the logistics of getting to the staging area with thousands of other people. I’m looking forward to starting a new marathoning tradition right in my own backyard.
172 days until the race, you know, that doesn’t even scare me… Although I’ll see how I feel come the middle of the summer when I’m trying to get in 20 mile runs in 90 degree weather. I’m excited and feeling a little bit crazy like my first time. 26.2 miles or bust.
“I can run a mile.” This is what I tell myself on those days when I’m feeling a bit lazy or fighting procrastination’s tentacles. I know a mile is the least I can do but it’s substantial because I remember a time when a mile felt like tackling Mt. Everest. The very first time I set out on my first “real” run was a humbling and embarrassing experience. I’d been working out regularly at an all-woman’s gym in the NYC. I did the usual- treadmill, stationary bike, stair climber and step aerobic classes (okay so I’m totally dating myself here). I thought I was in pretty great shape since I could make it through the grueling Step 2 class but I was getting sick of working out indoors and with women who spent an endless amount of energy bashing themselves over the cookie or scoop of ice cream they’d eaten. I decided I needed to get out of the gym and into the outdoors.
So I did what anyone would do, I went to the Barnes & Noble’s sports section. I was intent on finding some form of physical activity that involved being outside. I scanned the shelves and came across The New York Road Runners Running Book. Running! That was perfect. All I needed was shoes. I already knew how to run and was pretty fast as a kid. I bought the book and purchased a pair of “running” sneakers (oh what a novice I was back then grabbing the first pair off the shelf now it’s like a musician purchasing a new instrument). I read through the Road Runner’s book and decided I didn’t need their carefully crafted plan for building a running base of 30 minutes. I took Step 2 class at least three times a week. I was in shape. I had a simple plan. I’d wake before 6am and head out into the great outdoors of the East Village. This was no easy task back in the days where I routinely came home from a night out listening to music or dancing at 4am but I was young and enthusiasticThen I’d walk at a brisk pace for 10 minutes and then run for 10 minutes or longer. The walking part went swell. My heart was pumping, my limbs were loose and I was breathing deeply feeling electrically alive. I pledged to never sleep in again, to wake every morning before dawn, to run a marathon- maybe even a marathon in every country, to train for the Olympic team (these are the kinds of things that happen when you get too much oxygen to the brain). Then it was time to run…I ran. My heart felt like it was about to burst. Was 25 too young for a heart attack? My legs were leaden weights. How could these be considered running shoes since I what I was doing was more like Death March shuffling? It had to be twenty minutes I was running to feel this terrible. I checked my watch. I’d run exactly one minute and thirty seconds. I pushed it to two minutes. I would have collapsed to the ground but it was the East Village of 1993- very gross and sticky. I limped home glad that everyone I knew was still in bed. A homeless guy camped out around Thompkin’s Park told me he could do better than me and he only had one one leg. He was probably right. Instead of giving up, I swallowed my pride and followed the Road Runner’s Beginner Running Program gradually walking and running my way to running consistently for 30 minutes- the sweetest 30 minutes of my life up to that point. Now after completing a marathon, several half-marathons, 10ks and 5ks, I know I can do a mile. This is all the motivation I need to get myself out there. Sometimes a mile is all I have in me and that’s fine. Sometimes that mile is a slow meditative jog and other times it’s run with the intensity of an Olympic race. Other times that mile is just the start of more miles but for certain, I can run a mile.
Every year Earth Day sneaks up on me. I read emails and articles on celebrating and honoring the earth but honestly the day slips away without any real meaning for me. I recycle. I buy organic. I make every effort to eat locally and sustainably. Today, I decided to create meaning in this day.
Today, is the beginning of transforming my bleak yard into a real garden. Every year I start off the season scanning our 2+ acres and then I become overwhelmed. This year I’m taking a different path. I’m calling it Creative Gardening. I realized today that creating a garden is like telling a story. It’s about starting at the beginning and building, one scene at a time.
Today I started working on the area right by our kitchen door.
I planted some catmint when first moved in and I love them. They are incredibly hardy and low maintenance. It’s excellent at deterring weeds because the plants spread plus the bees and hummingbirds love their flowers and the deer and ground hogs have no interest in them. (Right now the ground hog is turning out to be the villain in this story- more on my friend in another post).
Today was just about clearing the dead branches from last season and adding some mulch. Because I felt inspired, I cleaned the siding too.
Now it looks like this:
What a nice inexpensive face lift.
As I calculate it, I have a little over 190 days of optimal weather to transform my yard into something that takes my breath away every time I turn into my driveway. What better way to honor the earth than to turn this yard into a paradise that attracts wildlife while providing beauty and inspiration.