Writing another marathon story


I learned a lot of things running the Sugarloaf Marathon in 2017, most importantly, don’t race in a superhero shirt because if you are having a bad day, nothing is more annoying than hearing someone yell, “You look great Superman, you got this,” every mile.

I woke up Sunday morning, patting the mattress to my right, searching for my phone (horrible habit, I know). I finally found it after 10 seconds or so of feeling around, used my thumb to unlock the screen and tapped on the Instagram icon. The app opened and as I swiped up with my thumb, scrolling through my timeline, I was overwhelmed with images of people I follow preparing to run the Sugarloaf Marathon or 15K. Later in the day, wasting time on social media again (horrible habit, I know), I saw pictures and read post from those same people after the race. Their pictures showed all the emotions of the marathon: Pain, joy, relief.

Tuesday morning, I started my morning the same way (horrible habit, I know), searching for my phone and scrolling through social media. Still a little foggy from not a ton of sleep, I tapped the Facebook notification to see my “memories” from all the May 21 that I have been on Facebook. A few swipes of my thumb brought pictures of my own experience at the Sugarloaf Marathon two years ago. The only emotion I saw in those pictures and read in the words of those post was disappointment.

I had a mixed reaction to those two social media experiences, but more than anything, I was inspired.

Seeing all those folks on social media, some I know in real life, some I know only on the internet, having a good day in the pouring rain, crushing the 15K or the marathon, made me want to have that same experience. It gave me hope that with the right training, I could have my own good day.

Seeing the disappointment on my face in those pictures from May 21, 2017 inspired me to create some new marathon memories. I went into Sugarloaf a little injured, a whole lot undertrained, 15 or 20 pounds heavier than I was eight months earlier when I set my marathon PR at the Maine Marathon, and crashed in a big way. I took a moment to myself in the food tent post-race to cry, not tears of joy or of relief, but of disappointment and anger. I had high hopes leading into Sugarloaf and was having a really great block of training until it was derailed and I had a race so bad I almost swore off marathons completely.

I didn’t swear of marathons completely, though, because I don’t want that to be my last memory of the distance. Sugarloaf was my fourth marathon and they were all completely different experiences.

  • My first, the Smuttynose Marathon in October 2013, was just about finishing, covering the distance. I didn’t even train to run it.
  • My second was actually taking a shot at racing a marathon. I trained for months to have a good day at the Chicago Marathon in October 2014. It didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was still a major triumph.
  • My third at the Maine Marathon in 2016 was about gaining confidence that I could stay healthy in training and actually put together a good day over 26.2 miles. As difficult as the last three miles of that race were, it was one of my favorite days as a runner.
  • My fourth, Sugarloaf, well, that was a shitshow in every way imaginable.

Here I am approaching the finish line of the Mother’s Day 5K a week and a half ago. I left this race with a huge sense of accomplishment and relief that I’m fairly healthy and gaining fitness. I want to keep this momentum going as I train for Chicago.

A lot has happened in two years since I hobbled to the finish line at Sugarloaf. For a long time, I dealt with the fallout of that race and then with a pair of knees that remind me every day that I’m not 18 years old anymore. I didn’t have the desire to even think about a marathon, much less train for one, for months after the race. Then I couldn’t run for two months and I started to think my marathoning days were over.

But I’m ready to take another shot. After spending 2018 just getting myself back into the every day rhythm of being a runner and getting my knees to a point where they allowed me to run without a whole shitton of pain, I decided late last year (with some arm twisting from a friend) to try to get into the Chicago Marathon. I was selected in the lottery, and here I am, preparing to spend the summer deep in mileage and physical therapy and stretching and rolling, to get ready to tackle 26.2 miles again. 

This is a chance for me to write a new story. Not just the story of race day, that of course is important, but of the journey to race day. When I think back to Sugarloaf, I remember how much fun I was having training for the race until things went to shit and I fell apart. I want more of those memories, to see those happy post from race day and from training. 

Two years from now and two years from Oct. 13, I’d prefer not to wake up patting around for my phone to scroll social media (horrible habit, I know), but if I do, I want to be to reminded of a fun, hard, successful training block and see a look of relief, joy, and probably some pain, too.

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