“You love to run into the arms of anyone. Take off your shoes and socks and stay awhile. You like the adrenaline rush just a little too much. You go from day to day, hand to mouth, and wonder why you’re unsatisfied. ‘Cause love is a marathon. That’s why you get tired so fast of everyone. Slow down and pace yourself – ’cause when it’s good, it’s a long open road.”
– Teddy Geiger, Love Is A Marathon (Underage Thinking, 2006)
* * *
I’m aware that you are all aware of this exhaustive, marathon of a saga – but sagas are defined as a long, involved story or series of events, is it not?
And so this long, emotional story continues, 365 days after we decided it was time for a little separation.
While I have since conquered ITBS, we decided to make Grete’s Great Gallop an annual tradition to welcome the start of autumn in NYC. And then, a few weeks ago, life gifted me with tendonitis.
Down yet again, but not out.
* * *
I woke up early on Sunday, ready to go for round two. My usual level of discipline has since waned – planned meals, absolutely zero alcohol, and sleep (on sleep on sleep) was no longer routine. Despite this, my pre-race routine came back quickly: coffee, black; oatmeal with whites, a few banana slices, and cinnamon; humming the HALF playlist that’s been on repeat for the past 12 months plus.
Once again, overestimating how much time we really had, the four of us climbed into an Uber, silently watching the clock in the car and hoping they’d still give us our bibs if we didn’t get there before 730.
Bibs, bathroom break, and swallowing the last of my energy powder, we hustled over to the line-up with maybe a minute to spare.
“If you feel good, just go. And if you feel worse, call me and I’ll find you.”
I really do have the greatest friends in the world.
* * *
But then the horn sounded and I wasn’t sure what mindset I was supposed to have. 1) Run until you can’t run anymore; 2) You can do this! 13.1 will come to you if you keep running!; 3) Just match what you did last year – just get to mile four; 4) Let’s be practical – run half the half, and we’ll call it a day.
At least I had enough to think about for the six and a half I was able to complete.
Hands shaking, I managed to take a video running past the 6 mile marker. I couldn’t believe that not only had I surpassed last year’s finish, I was halfway through the course.
And then, as if feeding off of my runner’s high, my hamstring, knee, and IT band said please, no more.
Walking it off to mile 7, the 13th mile marker stood resolute just around the curve with utmost sympathy. Close, but just not there yet.
Then came Harlem Hill. And right on cue, my knee gave out.
* * *
I had spent the entire week making sure I was mentally ready for the worst. If it hurt, I had to stop. Walking – typically unacceptable for myself during any race – had to be an option. Shake it off and try again. So I walked, shook it off and tried to run. Absolutely not, my knee said. Ab. Solutely. Not.
I thought of Louie Zamperini and the beam above his head. Months of enduring physical, mental, and emotional abuse and he held that beam with every ounce of his frail, nutrient and sleep deprived body. Pure will. But all the will in the world did not let my knee carry me more than a few inches. I had only made it one-third of the way.
As dramatic as it sounds, I limped, with tears streaming down my face, to the medical tent. I had quit – my personal equivalent of failure. Months of hard work that ended in an epic burn out. You are no Louie, I told myself.
* * *
Who knew that a sport could break your heart so badly?
This past year was speckled with physical therapy appointments (with different physical therapists), a lot of pool time for the average Manhattanite, and a handful of healthy sobfests; but I still tried to manage as many runs as I could – for as long as my legs could take me.
Perhaps we were a little unorthodox with this ‘break’ and kept a close leash on one another, but isn’t that what happens when the love is tried and true? How do you give up on your partner in crime – the one who pulled you from your darkest years and taught you the power of freedom and letting go? How do rid your body of a bug that’s taken over nearly every fiber of your physical make-up?
You don’t…really… (We can argue about it, but let’s say for now that my word is law.)
“Once you set a goal, it’s about how hard you’re willing to work, how much you’re willing to sacrifice and how badly you truly want it.”
– JJ Watt
A believer of signs, this year’s race was scheduled for four days after Severine’s most recent surgery. I thought, perhaps this was another chance to run cancer into the ground.
Work has been busy lately, and life has just been full of events; yet, I reverted to ignoring my body’s weariness. And once again, great love is the root of my own demise. An enriching, powerful escape from a painful reality turned into a (near unhealthy) obsession – one that (continues to) prevent me from truly healing.
Healing is, I will admit, all I want. To not only run again, but fly around courses as fast as I can.
To another 365 days of praying for the patience to slow down, pace myself, and heal properly.
* * *
BUT if there’s one thing I know I’m improving at, let it be known that I am becoming one heck of a cheerleader.
Ash and I were unable to finish the second loop, but nonetheless thankful that not only did we ‘finish’ with each other’s unwavering support, we were able to watch the boys cross the finish line! We missed you this year, Miss Leigh! (Maybe next year we’ll all be a little better at training.)
Thank you to everyone who has heard, listened to, and read this story again and again and again – and thank you for holding my hand through it. Thanks Sev, for continuing to remind all of us that with a little perseverance, patience, and yoga in the park, we can conquer anything. They say third time’s the charm, so you best believe I plan on ending this saga as a trilogy.
Until then, I think a few Pacifico’s might do the trick.