Pre-Marathon

I wake up before the alarm chimes and look at the clock. 4:41. I try to get back to sleep but I can’t. I’m just a ball of nerves. For the second time in my life, I am preparing to run a half marathon.

I lose my eyes but the sleep won’t come. I surrender. I get up, dress for the day ahead and try to stomach some breakfast. When your stomach  is full if butterflies, there’s not room for much else.

I can’t see out my window. Texts from Amanda and Kelly are coming in at rapid speeds asking me where I was and how far along in the preparation process I was.

I get into Amanda’s car and look at the clock.  5:37. We listen to Christmas carols as we drive into center city.  Finding a place to park on this busy morning seems just as plausible as me finishing the race first. After 30 minutes of looking, we decide to park illegally.

“Pray and go, just pray and go,” I advise Amanda.

Skip to the starting line.

In solemn remembrance of those who lost their lives in Paris, the city of Philadelphia thinks it’s a great idea to have someone sing the French national anthem as loud as they possibly can.

Kelly and I cannot stop laughing at the awful singing that is being belted down the Parkway at 7 in the morning. We garter a few dirty looks from people who think we are being disrespectful, but really, we are just laughing to hide our fear o the next 13.1 miles.

We made a friend. Her name was Patricia. She was 73 years old and fired up for the race. She gave me so much encouragement and hope in myself in the short time I knew her. If she is 73 and is still going strong in the marathon world, then I can do anything.

Needless to say, she whooped me in the race, time wise.

I would like to say that I am embarrassed because a 73 year old woman kicked my ass in the marathon, but it’s more of an inspiration, really. I hope one day to run into Patti again and congratulate her and thank her for keeping me company at the starting line.

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The Long Run

If this book is anything, it’s a swift kick in the ass. The author is a guy who has lived every drug addicts dream. Drugs, parties, women, but none in moderation. Hell, he is even good at his job! And to top it all off, he is in perfect health. Whatever god was looking down on this man whilst he participated in every act that is unholy was a faithful god. Time and time again, the author gets clean, and then falls back into the clutches of addiction. He manages to hurt the people he loves, but not himself. This book seems miraculous, especially in comparison to the Murakami memoir we have read earlier this semester. However, I think this book was more interesting, personally.

I find myself jealous of author like Murakami and Shubaly because no matter what they go though, they seem to rise above their circumstances by pure luck. Shubaly lives the riskiest of all lives but escapes unscathed and lives a seemingly healthy life thereafter. What made this book interesting is the theory it poses that once you are addicted to something, you will always be addicted to something. For example, Mishka is an alcoholic and a drug addict, however once he gives up these addictions, he merely substitutes them for his running addiction.

I think this is a great way to look at things because I think human nature is addictive nature. This makes me feel a little more hopeful about my running career because if Mishka can live and awful life but still end up ultramarathoning, I could do the same or even better because I am not living an awful life. As far as memoirs go, I like this one because it balances humor and serious content. Also, the author isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself, which I think is a noble trait for authors, especially nonfiction writers.

Post Race

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I felt the pain rippling through my feet and legs. It was like my muscles were passengers trying to jump ship, realizing that the vessel was about to go down. But I was the captain here, and I wasn’t going to let my ship sink. I continued to push through the pain.

“When you get to the finish line, it will all be over,” I encouraged myself. But, damn, this hill wasn’t helping and the finish line was nowhere in sight. I kept getting text updates from my friends who had finished and I was losing hope quickly, despite my ongoing self-encouragement. As I made the turn for mile ten, I gulped Gatorade with a desperation only bested by the desperate manner in which Jesus drank from the sponge of vinegar whilst hanging from the cross. Only 3.1 to go.

I kept running, trying to erase the image of a woman who was old enough to be my grandmother relieve herself on the side of the course. Ahead of me lay the infamous MLK Drive. I have no idea what it is about this place, but every time I run on this particular street, I cry. Whether from desperation, pain, or the grueling knowledge that this is a straight three mile track, I can’t decipher. All I know is that I make that turn, and the tears commence. And for once, I hold them back. I control them because I know I’ve come this far and that I really have nothing to cry about. I made the decision to run this race myself. I signed the release and paid the $90 myself. So what was I crying for?

I flashed back to a five mile training run, where I came in contact with a paraplegic. We made eye contact and I saw a hint of yearning in the glare of that man. I pondered what it would feel like to not have the ability to run on these aching limbs. Probably better than how I feel now!

At mile 12, my brother’s friend Vaughn found a baggie of gummy bears on the ground.

“How gross!” I said. But when he offered, I was so delirious that I took one, two, six, of the fruity snacks.

“These are disgusting,” I said between ragged breaths. I took another gummy bear.

The finish line is coming!

I look up and running next to me are people who are running twice as fast as I am. I’m not discouraged, though. I push through and try to finish strong.

Crossing the finish line was not as marvelous as I had planned.

“YAA!”

I look around and my best friend Kelly is waiting for me on the side, wrapped in her little aluminum foil blanket, a sign of victory. We hug for longer than socially acceptable for two women in a platonic relationship. But what the hell? We had just run 13.1 miles.
“I can’t believe we did that!” I scream to Kelly.

We get our medals together and line up for our goody bags.

The septa ride home is an interesting one. I learn how to walk down stairs when you’re in a large amount of pain and that you always need someone to help you get dressed after you finish the race.

All in all, my post-race is not that interesting, however I did get to spend it with my best friend. I would qualify this as our biggest adventure yet.

 

Squad

12310480_10206928069192884_6896377233165214211_nI used to think I would never make any friends. Throughout high school and a semester or two of college, I never had a solid friend group. Yes, I had acquaintances and I dated people, but there was really no set unit of people that I called friends until I signed up for Running to Write, colloquially known as “Friendship Class.” Here I met three awesome girls who have changed my life for the better. I’m pretty sure I have developed abs from laughing so hard with them.

The day of the expo came around and Cristiana, Kelly, and I cram into Amanda’s handle less car and hit I-76 on a new adventure. As we drove on the highway listening to the worst Christmas carols on the face of the planet, we talked about our expectations for the race. It was during this time that I felt a special connection to my girls. The sense of community was heightened as we discussed the pros and cons of running far distances. It was refreshing and encouraging to have people who are embarking on the same journey as I. I never felt closer to them than in that moment.

We arrive at the expo and immediately, the air is alight with anticipation.

“I’m a pro,” I think as I walk into the convention center because I had been to the expo before. I begin to sweat because I’ve finally come to the realization that in two days, I will be running 13.1 miles; a feat that I had only accomplished once before in my lifetime, three years ago.

“At least I’m here with my favorite people,” I thought.

Kelly, Amanda, and Cristiana scatter like roaches as soon as we step foot into the PA Convention Center. Let me tell you, being left alone in a large room full of professional long distance runners does wonders for self-confidence.

We reunite after we retrieve our bibs and are determined to try every single free sample offered to us by the vendors present. Unfortunately, the official sponsor of the Philadelphia Marathon this year was some sort of prune juice. Needless to say, I was highly disappointed. However, I tried the prune juice anyway. Disgusting.

“Well, if this prune juice supposed to motivate me to run, I might as well just go home now.”

My time at the expo was more than a time to try new things and prepare for the run of my life, it was also a time to bond and hang out with girls who have subsequently been deemed “Squad.”

 

Book Review: Born to Run

I enjoyed this book. The writing style is very straightforward and although it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, it was written in such a way that it made me want to run with the fabled Tarahumara.
I learned from science classes that the reason Humans have a higher intellectual capacity than other animals is because our jaws shrank to allow more room for our brains to be larger. Our primitive counterparts are able to bite down with deadly force. The use of this jaw required very powerful muscles in the face. Now, humans eat sandwiches and other soft foods that do not call for the use of these strong muscles which allows more brain power to be used. This book expanded on my knowledge of the formation of the human race as it is now. This book hypothesizes that another vital part of human development was our ability to outrun our predators because they’re sprinters. We’re marathoners. I think this book offers a lot of insight into alternative ways of running, especially barefoot running. It’s a pretty logical assessment seeing as though humans are born naked. However, I don’t think there will be many advances in barefoot running because there is so much money in long distance running shoes, that it would be a crime to make Brooks and Saucony go bankrupt because well, they’re unnecessary. I want to believe every word this book says and believe that I hold all the power in my own body and encrypted into my human DNA, but I feel like I can’t, possibly because I have the same problems as Chris. When I run, my body hurts. So, while I am not hopping on the all-natural, naked, running from lions all day, with my bare feet train, it’s nice to know some of this information.
Oh, and Chris is funny as hell. When he described his trip through Mexico in the car, I was in tears.
P.S. I didn’t think the Tarahumara was real until I googled it about 10 minutes ago.

Dear Kelly

Team running certainly has its upsides and downsides. I started my running career with a team and I loved every second of it. The feeling of unanimous pain made it feel better in some way, more wholesome. It was, and still is, pretty unexplainable. In my first running team, encouragement was our big thing. We had people on every level of running, so we were a diverse group, however, I really felt no competition. The faster people encouraged the slower ones so it was like we all ran the same time. I didn’t feel like I had to be faster than someone in order to accomplish my goal, which has always been my mindset. To me, everything is a competition. But this world was different. And I liked it and I hung on to it for as long as I could.

I love doing things as a group because I’m a socialite, I am in my element when I am around other likeminded people and running with a group is the perfect setting for a person like me. There is something about sweating towards a common goal which makes me want to work that much harder. Groups hold you accountable for what you do and they push you without competing with you. For instance, if you are running with someone and they don’t stop, you are less likely to stop as well for whatever reason, fear, embarrassment, etc. however, I feel like when I am alone, I can talk myself into slowing down or stopping in a way that I just couldn’t do if someone was by my side, panting.

However, sometimes I like to run alone because as we have discussed in class before, when the going gets tough, I start to sing and I would never want to inflict that sort of harm onto someone’s eardrums. That is truly cruel and unusual punishment.

Other than that one condition, I love to run with people. It motivates me. I haven’t run in so long but as soon as Kelly got back to campus, the first thing I asked her is if she would want to run with me. Her presence holds me accountable for the miles I need to put in. I think group running is part of the running experience. Granted, there are Murakami’s in the world who can run six miles with no music for exactly one hour whist smoking six packs of cigarettes a day by himself, but I feel there are far more Cassidy’s who like to run in a group and work together (please ignore the fact that he left everything he knew and loved to pursue running, I’m trying to make a point). Teams set the foundation for what it is to be a runner. It is truly a community. I feel proud to call myself a part of the running community and I boast about it when people ask.

Running as a group makes running more bearable because misery loves company and if you’re not miserable on mile seven and its 94 degrees outside and you’re running our fourth hill of the route, you’re a damn lie.

So, Kelly, I can’t wait to run with you so we can be miserable together.

Yaa