19 days and counting.

19 days from now, I'll be lining up at the Start line on Staten Island to run my first marathon.  This time last year, I had the exact same thoughts, countdown, jitters and excitement constantly rolling around in my mind and I can't really believe that I'm here once again.  

This hasn't been my best training season, and I can definitely admit that.  It's kind of interesting-- last year I obsessively trained and whittled down my lists to prep for the race until I was at my wits end, snapping at my family and Brian, crying at the drop of a hat, not sleeping.  This year, while I've trained, I haven't trained at my hardest and I know that I won't run the best marathon that I'm capable of, but I'm much more laidback going into the whole mess.  

I'm not happy with my training, knowing that I could have done better.  The stars just didn't line up this fall as perfectly as they did last year, and it's taken A LOT for me to keep pushing and trudging along.  And while I'm not happy that I'll basically be settling with my finish time, I'm happy and proud that I've stuck with this.  Believe me-- there have been moments when I strongly considered cancelling my entry.  At the end of the day, as stressed as I may be, I'm not a quitter.  I also know how many people supported me and fundraised for me last year, so this race isn't only for me but for them as well, and to quit on myself would be quitting on everyone who believed in me.  I, in good conscience, could never, ever do that.

Truly-- the majority of my thoughts are consumed by this impending 26.2 mile marathon that I'm preparing to run.  While I'm not obsessing over the details, I'm obsessing over LIFE.  I feel like other runners may understand what I mean.  I evaluate my shoe choice each day depending on which gives me the most support and stability while walking-- my cute leopard flats have been momentarily retired.  When I'm walking through grass, I constantly watch for holes and slopes, knowing that one is just waiting for me, hidden in the grass, waiting to take me DOWN.  Every meal reflects back to which workout I have next, and every glass of wine is debated against how many miles await me the next morning.  

It is exhausting.

Adding to this whole shit show is the half marathon that I ran this weekend.  It was my first (race-- in training, I've run that distance time and time again), and I wish I could say that it was my last but I don't think it will be.  The course was in Boston and constant. hills.  (I believe I texted my good friend and fellow almost-NYCer afterwards to say "Those hills were a motherfucker," because YES.  Yes, they were.)  The start was downhill and fast, so I paced myself well for 5 miles, and then hit a turnaround point on the course where I looped and realized that I was nearing the end of the pack.  The majority of the runners were apparently much faster than I was, and even though I was pacing at a great pace for myself, I felt slow.  I also started to realize that all of those awesome crowds who were cheering for everyone early in the race?  Yea, they start to dissipate once the main group comes through.  So there I was, far enough behind the fast people and far enough ahead of the last crowd to be completely alone with my thoughts and self-doubt.

Even with my music, I was alone with my thoughts, and that's about the worst possible thing to happen to me during a race.  The more I let myself think, the more I doubted myself, what I was capable of, if i would finish, if I would get hurt.  The miles crawled by, with the only interaction with anyone being at water stops.  I had to pee so unbelievably badly was quickly becoming dehydrated, so I stopped at along the way for a bathroom break.  At that point, I was TOO dehydrated, so every Gu Chomp and sip of water felt like waves in my stomach, pushing me to complete nausea with every bouncing step.  

When I got to Brian at Mile 9, I was just not in a good place.  I started sipping Gatorade, which I never drink, which only made me feel more sick.  At that point, I just wanted to finish and go home.  I knew all of my time goals were way past feasible, and my left foot was starting to twinge.  As I came up on Mile 11, something pulled on the outside of my left foot, and I slowed to a walk.  Walking uphill, around curves, on dirt trails... it was never ending.  I started to powerwalk to my music, just to keep up a decent pace and test my foot to see if it was okay.  I wasn't collapsing, so I figured I must be reasonably fine.  I made it to Mile 12 and lined up with the sweetest girl named Aileen.  As we both swore and cursed the race and the fact that we were running through a zoo at that point, we agreed to push each other to the finish.  When she'd stop, I'd push her and vice versa.  There was a note in the race handbook that only people who finished in under 2:30 would get a medal.  Aileen was upset because she had fundraised and ran the race for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in honor of her sister, who has leukemia.  She said that she had really wanted to run and get a medal to give to her sister, but that her boyfriend, who had also run (very quickly, I might add), would give his to her sister if she didn't get one.

The last bit of the race finishes on the track of a stadium and we joked as we rounded the last corner that there's a reason why we never ran track in school.  The announcer said my name and which town I was from ,and I crossed the finish with a smile, with Aileen following close behind.  As we walked towards the track exit I saw groups of volunteers still handing out medals and pointed them out to Aileen-- I have never seen someone so, so happy.  She took her medal and gave me the biggest hug and told her boyfriend, who was waiting past the finish line for her, that I had pushed her through and to not stop.  I can't lie-- as awful as I felt and as angry at myself as I was for how the race had turned out, that felt pretty good to hear.  

I found Brian and the fab Caitlin and her boyfriend Andrew, who had come to cheer me on (and jog with me at one point!) and promptly collapsed on the ground.  It was a long and tortured downhill walk back to the train, and then a long drive home.  After a long shower, a delish lunch and a change into yoga pants, I retired to the couch with pumpkin beer for the rest of the day.  

Today, two days later, I'm hobbling around.  My knees keep catching, my quads are on fire, and if I had to move anywhere quickly, I would surely be left behind to die because moving fast isn't happening.  I may have shed a tear walking down the stairs this morning.  And yes, in the back of my mind, I cannot stop thinking about the fact that 19 days from now I run twice that distance.  I keep telling myself that I haven't trained for hills like this course since NYC isn't hilly-- yes, there are bridges and then hills in Central Park, but for the most part, the course is generally flat.  I'm coming up with my little plan for the marathon and know at this point, I'll do the best that I can.  I'm resting my foot, icing, and running easy runs for the next three weeks.  I can only prep my body so much at this point, and while I want to RUN this marathon, I'm also going in with a completely different mindset from last year.

This is probably the one time that I will ever run the New York City Marathon.  While I want to try my best, I also want to enjoy and soak in every single moment of the day.  From catching the bus to Staten Island to waiting in Runners Village with Meridith, to hearing "New York, New York" play at the starting line.  I want to remember the signs and the cheering people and all of the daydrinkers who come out to support the thousands and thousands of runners.  I want to capture that moment as I come off of the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan and it's a "tunnel of sound," giving me a much-needed push at Mile 16.  I want to stop and hug my family and friends as I see them along the way and not rush past them as if I'm too busy to stop for 2 seconds.  I want to never forget the day, and I'm going to enjoy it as much as I possibly can.

I just ran my first half and have my first full right around the corner-- go big or go home, right?

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