Tag Archives: running

It’s A Long Road to Travel Six Miles

I was sitting on a stoop in Davis Square at 4:05PM yesterday when I realized that the weather was perfect for a run. The downpours were, I thought, behind us. It was grey, cool (but not too cool), with a slight breeze. I was transported back to San Francisco, when I went on the most perfect run one morning under similar conditions. I looked at the bus schedule and saw that there was a 4:08PM bus back home, and it would be leaving from the busway right across the street. Of course, as I walked up, there it was… pulling away, early.

So I walked a bit and caught a 4:35PM bus home. Just as I got off the bus, though, the skies opened up. While I am grateful for a good drenching now and then (and indeed was this time), I was sad that the heavy rain pretty much put the kibosh on my plans to go for a run.

I spent pretty much the next two and a half hours dithering about in my office, looking out the window, gauging the heaviness of the rain, occasionally stepping onto my front porch. When the sun began to set, I realized that if it was going to happen, I needed to do a run on Broadway, not along the poorly lit Mystic River. I began plotting routes on Map My Run. And at a certain point I just stood up, said “Alright,” and got dressed. I was sick of sitting around wasting time. Something had to happen, or I was going to feel lousy about it.

My plans were ambitious — for me, anyway. I live at the foot of Winter Hill, which I’ve tackled by bike many a time but never while running. I plotted a route that took me over the Hill to the Powderhouse Rotary and back. If I was wiped, I could just go back home and log 3.3 miles. If not, though, I had an extra 1.2 miles in my back pocket.

The hill was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Before I knew it, I was looping around (after loosening a too-tight shoelace) and heading back up the hill the other way, which was also not that bad. As I passed my 3.3 mile exit ramp, I decided to keep going. In fact, I decided to more or less forget about the length of the route I had plotted and run as long as I felt able.

At this point, I wasn’t even really mindful of the fact that I was running. A lot of times, it’s a struggle — I am extra aware of each step and the labor each one requires, painfully mindful of how much distance stands between me and the next milestone, or the finish line. Sometimes, my stride is reduced to barely a trot, whether out of exhaustion, soreness, heat or some other factor. Last night, though, my pace was good. I was moving, almost mindlessly. Only my most basic brain functions registered what was going on and kept me breathing and moving, while the rest of me exulted in the sensations of exertion, of cool, damp night air rushing past me. A light mist began to fall, cooling me even more.

When I approached the 4.5 mile point, I decided to run around a block a couple of times to get me to five miles. Then I ran up and down a street a couple more times to get me to nearly six miles. I then ran a couple of extra blocks that I thought would get me to 6.2 miles, the length of a 10K. (Though when I got home and measured the route, I turned out I only did 6.03 miles. Drat!)

When I stopped, at the Stop sign where I conclude all of my Mystic River runs, I felt great. I was drenched, sure, but I wasn’t winded or spent. As I walked down the remainder of the block back to my house, I felt quite alive, and grateful I stopped dithering around and made something happen. Not only did I finally tackle Winter Hill, but I logged the longest run of my short running career, in some fine running weather to boot. All it took was getting over my own inertia and getting out the door. I’m sore today, but it’s more than worth it.

M.O.M.’s Run 5K

MomsRunLogo_cureThis year, I seem to be running the same races I did last year as a novice runner. (In truth, my main criteria for a race is that it starts and ends in Davis Square, which automatically limits my options. ) So that makes this my second time doing the M.O.M.’s Run

Coming off of the alcohol-fueled insanity of the Ras na hEireann in March, the M.O.M’s Run is a welcome change of pace. The field is significantly smaller, it’s more of a family affair (duh, it takes place on Mother’s Day) and since it has a walkers’ portion, there is also a greater diversity of ability on hand. It’s a race for everyone. On top of everything, it’s for a good cause, inspired by longtime Somerville resident Mary O’Brien, who died of breast cancer in 2002 and proceeds benefiting breast cancer research.

There are a lot of nice things about the race. The race has a ton of sponsors who donate food and drink, so runners have plenty of snacks and water pre- and post-race (and I don’t mean just granola bars — Redbones donated pulls pork, Dunkin’ Donuts brings in boxes of sweet treats, pizza is on hand, yogurt and bananas for the more health-minded… a crazy spread). It’s also headquartered at the Dilboy VFW, which I have a strong affinity for since co-hosting a dance party there a year and a half ago. All in all, it’s a very Somerville race, which is something I can’t say for the Ras or the Jingle Bell Run, which though organized by the Somerville Striders usually end up feeling like a bunch of rowdy out-of-towners are loitering on my lawn.

I ran this year with my friend Chris, who is at a much higher level than I am but is relatively new to racing (not that I am some old pro, but hey). The course is different than the other three Davis Square races I have participated in, all of which use the same course. This one heads way out east before looping back, and it is pretty hilly. Last year, I ran a 37:55, which marked a 3+ minute improvement from the 41:18 I logged in my first 5K ever 2 months previously, though there was a lot of walking going on.  I’ve been doing well on my runs — on Wednesday, I ran a continuous 5.5 miles! — though I don’t do a lot of hills, nor do I do a lot of speed work. I was quite curious to see how this race would shape up.

It did not feel easy. The first mile was, well, a first mile — it’s always an effort to get going. But the second mile was absolutely terrible. My legs felt like they were made of lead, the sun and warmth had done a number on me before I made the turn to head back west and the hills were a big challenge. On top of all this, it was windy — 30mph+ gusts! — and my hat blew off twice (luckily, some friendly runners were nice enough to pick it up for me both times). 

I did not feel good about how I was doing. I convinced myself I was the pulling up the rear, but was too scared to look behind me and check. I tortured myself with the idea of shifting down to a walk. A bit after the second mile marker, though, as the race began its downhill descent toward the finish line, I got a second wind and was able to make up for some of my sluggishness between miles 1 and 2. As I approached the finish line, I was surprised to see I still had a chance to beat the 35:49 PR I logged at the Ras in March. And I did — by about 14 seconds :-) 

Chris beat me by about 45 minutes, because he’s awesome, and together we indulged in some free food. A half-banana, some macaroni salad, scrambled eggs and a donut — the breakfast of champions. And afterwards, for dessert, we played some catch! (It’s already time to get the old arm ready for softball.)

My only complaint is with the people who brought their jogging strollers. Now, like I said, one of the things I like about this race is how it’s a family-oriented event, and I applaud the moms taking their kids along for the ride. 99 percent of the time, all is well. But at one point, I felt something bump against the back of my ankles — it was the front wheel of one of those jogging strollers! I looked back, and the mom didn’t seem too penitent, and she soon passed me. But that really grated my cheese. What if I had fallen? If you’re going to run in a crowd with those things, watch where your front wheel is. If you can’t, don’t bring it to the race.

The more appalling stroller incident, however, was in the last downhill leg of the race. There was a man who was running with a jogging stroller for two. At one point, he releases his hands from the stroller — to do what, I have no idea — for five or so seconds, letting the stroller barrel on down the hill. Sure, he was inches away, but what if the stroller pitched forward, veered off oddly, or somehow caught speed and escaped his grasp? Maybe, for those who run with jogging strollers, this is no big deal, but it certainly caught my eye. 

Overall, though, it was an awesome experience. I’m already excited for the Somerville Homeless Coalition race, which combines some of a perks of the Ras (the thrill of a big crowd, a timing chip, a really cool long-sleeved tee) with a decidedly local feel and the knowledge that I am helping out a worthy cause. Last summer, I didn’t run at all, but this summer, it’s a whole new ballgame.

Nike was right

Yesterday evening, despite staying at work a little later than expected and having already walked to work that morning, I decided to go for a run since the weather was so beautiful. I’m recovering from this cold and it’s been two weeks since my last run, so I had low expectations for my stamina. I planned a loop that allowed for an early cut out and a total distance of almost exactly 5K. 

By the time I got to the cut out point, a combination of feeling OK and being determined to push myself propelled me onto the longer loop, which winds through the scenic Mystic River Reservation, past the athletic fields and giant windmill. I got an additional psychological boost when I finally began the return portion of the loop. The evolving riverside scenery also helped.

As I was hitting the main path back to civilization (not that I am that far removed from civilization with I-93 literally 20 feet to my right, but at least I’m not on the street), I realized what I was doing — I was taking control. I’ve been feeling a little bit overwhelmed and doubt-riddled lately, and a little bit like I’m not in control of my own destiny, lacking the discipline to do the things I actually *want* to do. Those are sometimes the most difficult to accomplish, it seems. I always look with curiosity at my friends who whine about wanting to do X but don’t do anything about it. I’m realizing, much to my chagrin, that I’m one of those people. But grabbing the reins on your own life is harder than it looks.

But last night, I was doing it. I was exerting discipline, pushing myself in directions that, while challenging, were not only what I truly wanted and needed to do but were what I knew my body could handle, even if there were some minor cries of protestation or reluctance. In the end, I was pretty beat, but the endorphins were worth it. When I measured out my route this morning, turns out it totaled 4.75 miles, which ranks among my top runs ever.

If you want it, own it. End of story. Now I just need to take that lesson into other areas of my life.