Reflections on Running [Part 1]

Nearly two years ago, I had a dangerously close call at the Boston Marathon. People who I hadn’t spoken to in years came out of the woodwork, wondering if I was okay. My professors called, saying they alerted the deans that I was running and “would you just call us back?”

My heart shudders when I think of this. Two minutes slower, my life would have been very different or non-existent.

I ran the following year as a member of the Tufts Medical Center team. My father works for the Dental School, for patients with developmental disabilities, and Tufts is the closest hospital to the finish line. The symbolism was incredible motivation, pushing me to raise thousands of dollars.

What is most interesting is- I don’t remember last year’s run, or at least not clearly. Sure, I have photographs. Family, co-workers and friends all cheered me on. I do remember the armed policemen on the roof of Hopkinton High School at the start, and I do remember meeting up with friends at a hotel near the finish. Certainly I remember the sunburn on my right arm, and my right arm only. But what lacks is any significant memory of this race. I didn’t run my fastest, though it was my fastest Boston run. I didn’t want to vomit as much as I had wanted to in 2012 when it was 80 degrees outside. I crossed the finish line and swiftly moved into the area to receive my medal, almost as if I were on a conveyor belt. Perhaps I was delirious, but I didn’t feel a thing. My muscles hurt, yes, but my emotions? Where were they?

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Climbing Heartbreak Hill in 2014

Fast forward to October 2014. I ran the best race of my life at the Chicago Marathon. I PR’ed but not only that, I felt great. I smiled the entire race, meandering through the different neighborhoods of Chicago, trying to soak it all in. I was healthy, fast, strong- and not in Boston. My boyfriend and I coordinated where we would meet up after the race – “not near the finish line,” he said. I think I have internalized this for more than he meant, but I couldn’t help but think he was just as scared as me to hang out near the finish line.

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Chicago Marathon 2014 – my face says it all

And now, I am currently preparing for the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT on May 24th. Training hasn’t been easy with this winter weather (plus a sprained ankle, a head cold, etc.), but I’m doing it. For myself, my health, blah de blah.

The Boston marathon is approaching, though. April 20th. I can’t get that out of my head. It’s not that I wish I were running (I am actually glad to be taking a year off), but suddenly the emotions that I should have felt in my 2014 run are gushing out. Most likely this has to do with the press coverage of the trial. It’s hard to avoid it. I run through a crowd, and I can’t help but think, is that person on their phone about to detonate something? It’s unreasonable, irrational, and sad that I have these thoughts. I have told myself that I can’t watch this year’s race, even though I believe spectating is sometimes just as important as racing.

As I prepare for the Vermont City Marathon, I will try to flush these emotions away. I am scheduled to run the Chicago Marathon again in October. I qualified for the 2016 Boston Marathon, and pending that I get accepted into the race, I’m going to make sure that that race becomes the best race of my life. Perhaps I’ll be speedier, maybe just stronger, or perhaps I’ll finally be able to just let go.

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A Long Run, and Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

Coming home from Mexico, with only four weeks until the Boston Marathon, I vowed to eat more protein, vegetables, and whole grains. I was doing a tremendous job, eating hard-boiled eggs, hummus, vegetable-filled sandwiches, and Greek yogurt. What loomed over my head all week was my 21 mile training run. I carbo-loaded on Thursday night, eating bowls of cereal instead of my vegetables (I know how my digestive system would act if I ate my traditional vegetables and legumes right before running 21 miles). Then, I ran and ran and ran and ran. Until my legs felt like goop, my sweat caked to my forehead, and my  body felt arthritic. Success!

I counteracted this extreme exercise with an extreme dessert, as a gift to my friend who vigilantly held water for me during the run.  My friends gathered around the pan of gooey, crunchy, sweet and salty masterpiece. The pretzels take this cookie bar over the top.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla

12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

12 oz. bag peanut butter chips

1 1/2 cups mini pretzel twists, chopped.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a square baking pan with cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients. Fold in half a bag of chocolate chips, half a bag of peanut butter chips, and chopped pretzels. Spread batter in pan, press down. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown. While still hot, sprinkle bars with additional chocolate chips and peanut butter chips, as well as pretzels. Place in oven for a minute so that chocolate and peanut butter melt. Cool completely, then cut into squares.

This Post is Not About Food

Hear me out on this one.

I just read the best, most fascinating book I believe I have ever read.

Yes, that is a bold statement. Yes, it may not be everyone’s favorite book. But yes, this book will teach every human being something.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall made an incredible argument that humans are not “The Walking Man” but instead “The Running Man.” If any book will convince you to get off of your bum and onto your feet, this will be the book. If any book will convince you to try running barefoot, or eating less processed foods, or being compassionate, this will be the book.

Some points I took away from the text:

“Instead of cringing about fatigue, you embrace it. You refuse to let it go”

“You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running”

“Eat like a poor person”

“Because I was eating lighter and hadn’t been laid up once by injury, I was able to run more; because I was running more, I was sleeping great, feeling relaxed, and watching my resting heart rate drop.”

“As long as we keep sweating, we can keep going”

“Know why people run marathons?…Because running is rooted in our collective imagination, and our imagination is rooted in running. Language, art, science, space shuttles, Starry Night, intravascular surgery; they all had their roots in our ability to run. Running was the superpower that made us human–which means it’s a superpower all humans possess”

“We’ve taken away the jobs our bodies were meant to do, and we’re paying for it”

“Just move your legs. Because if you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history. You’re denying who you are.”