Hello friends! Apologies for the radio silence over the past few weeks. I was overseas for one, preparing for an apartment move for the other, and am now in my new digs sans internet (which makes blogging a tad difficult). I hope to be back soon with new stories and fit crashing adventures.
But to be totally honest with you, I haven’t felt much like blogging this week. I haven’t felt much at all. Sure I’ve been hauling furniture, painting rooms, and unpacking boxes. But really, what happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday took the wind right out of my sails. A deep, aching numbness I still can’t shake. I’m dazed, sad, angry. I’ve spent the hours since trying to process the how and the why. Mostly the why.
Like so many others, I was lucky enough to run across that very same finish line three years ago (my gosh, has it really been that long?). My family members and friends came to cheer me on, standing along that very same route you see on tv. The one that looks like a war zone. Among them my mother, herself a Boston Marathon veteran. She fought the crowds and chaos to see me repeat history and fulfill a dream. I can close my eyes and still smell the gatorade and cold concrete. Hear the roar of the finish line VIP seats. The boom of the announcer. The crinkle of the mylar blankets.
It was one of the proudest accomplishments of my life. I wore my medal to the bar for a celebratory beer that night. Clung to it on the flight home. Even zipped up that horrendously garish teal and neon yellow jacket and wore it into work with pride. So what if it wasn’t casual Friday.
I could wax on forever about my experience as a marathoner and as a Boston finisher. I could add to the many, many eloquent blog posts out there paying tribute to those maimed, injured, and killed. I could share with you the cyclone of thoughts and emotions I’ve been working through since Monday. And at some point, I would love to.
But at the moment, I still need time. Time to analyze. Time to heal. Time to lace up my shoes and find comfort in the rhythm of my feet, the nod of a stranger, the sweat on my face.
Until then, I leave you with this: a beautiful essay from a long-time running buddy of mine. She sent it to me on Monday evening, hours after the attacks. “This is something I wrote after my run today while trying to process,” she said. I read it and cried. My heart ached for the marathon, for Boston, and for those who lost their lives, limbs, and sense of security. My heart ached for the sport and for all of us who love it so much.
I ran that evening too, in my Boston Marathon shirt, trying to alleviate my heavy heart with swift feet. Her words encapsulate so much of what I felt Monday evening…as a runner, as a Boston Marathoner, as a human being. I hope it resonates with you as well.
Be kind to one another. Run fiercely and without fear. Send your strength to those who need it right now. And know that everything will be okay.
When I first became a runner, my mother bought me reflective bands for my ankles and a blinking light to attach to my running shorts, and warned me to watch out for cars. When I crashed my bike and broke my wrist, she sewed my race kit back together and warned me to watch out for gravel. Before I slipped into the water at my first Ironman, she traced a blessing on my forehead and warned me to “be safe.” When I finished, she cried as she held me, thankful that her once-broken girl had been transformed safely – oh, so safely – into an Ironman.
My mother never warned me to watch out for bombs at the finish line.
By 3:45 pm today, my Facebook news feed was flooded with updates. This runner was safe, that one had crossed the line and left the area before the explosions, a friend had taken her sister back to the hotel, two spectators were out of the area. It took several hours to find two friends — one of whom crossed the finish line 30 seconds before the explosion.
Since I began taking sports seriously, I have turned to running when I am sad, angry, and upset. There is a comfort in the feeling of your own two feet, the pounding of your heart, and the raggedness of your breath. And so today, several states away and helpless, I went out the door for a run.
I saw more runners than usual this afternoon; runners of all kinds. A pair of tall, lanky men in USNA athletic shorts passed by, keeping pace with each other and not speaking. We looked at each other silently. The younger man’s eyes were shocked. Another pair, middle-aged women who look like they normally walk. But today, they were running. A girl my age — light, straight hair falling from a ponytail. Each time we passed, I looked at these runners. They all looked back, silently.
Usually runners say hi. Or they nod. Something. But today, nothing. Today every eye I met was full of shock, full of horror. We didn’t have words for what we felt.
I stopped at a crosswalk near the Pentagon. An Air Force Captain, my age, with a runner’s body underneath his carefully pressed blues, stood next to me. Without speaking, he turned and held out his hand. I took it, and we held the handshake until the light changed. We didn’t have words for what we, as runners, were feeling. But we needed the solace that someone else knew and understood.
Runners live to run the Boston Marathon. Every runner on that course toed the line with miles and miles behind them. Miles of hard work, mornings of getting up early to practice the lonely craft of breath and footfalls, evenings spent stretching and tending to tiny hurts that promised to escalate if not tended to. Every spectator that lined the course stood on the street to cheer themselves hoarse for someone they loved — someone they’d watched dedicate themselves to the training, to the lifestyle, to the dream of “Running the Boston Marathon.” The 23,000 runners and tens of thousands of spectators were bound together by this dream, each came to the starting line, the edge of the course, willingly, and with love.
There will be other Boston Marathons. With each marathon, the community of runners will grow, and the community of people who love and support runners will grow. Eventually the pain will dull and we will feel like we can run and race safely. But that pain needs time. And dizzied by the pain, we need to be reminded, breathless as a runner at Mile 26, of how fragile our love is.
My fingers floated over my iPod, looking for something to accompany me. And as I ran, as shocked as all of my fellow runners and fellow lovers of runners and fellow human beings, Adam Duritz’s voice floated somewhere behind my feet.
I am ready — I am ready — I am ready — I am fine.
Crashing in the UK: I’m jetting off on my first adventure to London next week in search of cousin Matthew, crumpets, and a few quality crashes. Yes, that was a shameless Downton Abby reference. It’s Friday and I’m a fan, so it’s happening. I’ll be traveling with my best running buddy Jenny to visit our college roommate, who is now living the expat life and promises to show us around the best galleries, pubs, parks, and running trails. I’m doing some research into possible crash locations, but if any of you have favorite London studios/gyms to recommend, please point me in the right direction. I’m looking for Madonna arms, Middleton legs, and a midsection worthy of Sporty Spice.
Gently down the stream: Beginning the first weekend of April, I’m learning to row row row a boat with the Capital Rowing Club. This month-long “learn to row” program is taking my dedication to crashing to a whole other level. I can already see the callouses, capsizes, and awkward tan lines now. Have I ever been in a boat? No. Do I have any idea what I’m getting myself into? Not even close. So, dear friends, please share your advice and check back regularly to laugh along with me as this experience unfolds.
Google Reader going away: If you haven’t heard the sad news, Google is eliminating its Reader beginning July 1st. If you need an alternate way to keep up with DC Fit Crasher, I recommend trying Bloglovin‘. It’s how I keep tabs on all of my favorite blogs and hope it can help you do the same.
Saturday is the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon.
The culmination of three months of training. Eleven weeks of Saturday morning long runs, pre-dawn miles before nine-hour desk days, and two pairs of Mizuno running shoes.
But more importantly, it should be the raging crescendo of so many of my hopes, wishes, and expectations. If you read the story of my previous half-marathon experience, you’ll know why. You see – I used to be one of those devil-may-care runners who bounded through ten miles on a “light” day and casually dropped marathoner like it was my new last name. It got me my first job. It even got me a few dates. I was a runner. The daughter of a runner. And I had every expectation to be that lady pushing a BOB all-terrain baby stroller up hill repeats. Being a runner was the very pit of my core.
But that all changed when I hurt my knee in 2010. A torn meniscus separated me from my running shoes for two long years; twenty four months of physical therapy, bulky knee braces, gentle yoga, and orthopedic shoes. I struggled to hang on by my fingernails to the identity I had built my home in. That runner I thought I always would be was now aqua jogging on the road to nowhere somewhere in the middle of lane five.
Fast forward to last fall, when I was miraculously cleared for running again. And it really was a miracle. With no surgery and just a few injections, my meniscus had repaired itself. I remember seeing the grainy ultrasound images with a sense of wonder and disbelief. It was enough to bring me to tears in the parking garage below the doctor’s office, my hands shaking as I dialed my marathoning mother to share the good news. I was going to be a runner again, mom. Maybe never another marathon, but a runner all the same.
I trained tenderly for a few weeks before deciding to make my quiet debut at the Baltimore Half Marathon. Again, for the nitty gritty you can read here, but the long and the short of it is that I entered with the expectation only to cross the starting line and maybe even the finish line, too. And you know what? I did.
So I signed up for another race – this time with the audacious expectation to train well, thoroughly, and with some fire under my feet. The goal time? Somewhere around 1:45. I laid it all out in a day by day plan, even designating days for cross training and rest. It was – in my mind – the perfect plan. I had it all under control. My knee was feeling better and able to handle the miles, my confidence was boosted from the thrill of being back on the road, and I. Was. Unstoppable.
That is, until last Thursday, when my wisdom tooth ruptured and needed to come out immediately. In one swift yank, I was minus one tooth and one solid training plan. The mileage, the hill repeats, the track workouts – all pushed to the side as I recuperated on the couch. At the very peak of my training, in the critical final stages of preparation, everything came to a screeching halt.
Which brings me to today – the day before race day. The day when I have to readjust my expectations and approach the starting line with a sense of humility and grace. The fact that I’ll be lacing up my shoes Saturday morning feeling unprepared and disjointed is not an easy pill to swallow. Not after I had diligently planned for this, for this race to be my grand re-entry into the world of being that competitive, watch-out-here-she-comes, “how many races this season” kind of runner.
And you know what? It’s perfectly okay. Because expectations are funny like that. We weave them into bold designs and wave them at the world with reckless abandon. Look future, this is what I’ve made for you. It’s a thrill, and it’s part of the excitement of being alive – to feel like we can control the intangible. To feel like lists or color-coded training plans will serve as safety nets when things start to look rocky. But life has a funny way of reconfiguring your design and watching from the sidelines as you struggle to figure out the “now what” part of things.
There are two options: mourn and pout and wave fists at the things that didn’t pan out the way you had planned.
Or carefully study what is in front of you, take a deep breath, and bravely run with the present moment and see where it leads.
I know I have.
How awesome is this photo? It was taken sometime in the 1890s and shows Washingtonians cooling off in the Tidal Basin from the famously muggy DC summer. I particularly love the life guard and his umbrella just hanging out under the looming Washington Monument. Or, let’s be honest, that one lady killing it in the badminton game. You go girl!
The honest truth is I don’t have a post teed up and ready to go for you all today. With the last minute decision to have a wisdom tooth extracted last week, my fit crashes and healthy cooking came to a screeching halt as I recuperated on the couch. I’ve been focusing on getting the sleep I need and taking it easy – not the perfect recipe for exciting blog posts. I am crashing Georgetown Pilates today and running the Rock ‘N Roll half marathon this weekend, so I hope to be back in full force next week with exciting recaps and crash reports.
Until then, happy Thursday and I hope you enjoyed this photo of your bygone counterparts fit crashing in the Potomac!