Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Renaissance of the Running Renaissance

The handful of you who read this regularly may (or may not) have noticed that it's been several months. Here's a quick update:

  • I ran a PR in the Hartford Marathon (3:09:47) even though it was pouring.
  • Five weeks later, I placed third in my age group at the South Shore Half.
  • I kept running throughout the holidays.
  • I ran my fastest 5K in years (19:17) on New Year's Day.
  • One month later, I got divorced and moved out.
  • We got seven feet of snow in three weeks, beginning on the first day of my 16-week training program for the Vermont City Marathon.
  • The snow cancelled a half marathon for which I had registered.
  • I caught a cold that has adamantly refused to go away.

I neither want nor expect a pity party. Plenty of people get divorced, and most didn't have as mutual and amicable a breakup as we did. (After our court appearance, we had lunch together.) Plenty of people suffered through the snow, and most didn't get to work from home every day. (Granted, it's because my office is several states away, and I always wok at home, but whatever.) Plenty of people missed training runs and got colds, and most didn't have the luxury of easing into training as I did. (I missed the first of five 20-mile training runs, yes, but I always miss the first of my 20-mile training runs.)

I bring this all up here because, truth be told, running got me through most of this. In the tenuous weeks before we finalized the divorce, my runs represented the only certainty in my life, the only time when I and I alone held control. I hadn't started training yet, so I had the luxury of tying my shoes, heading out the door and running as fast or as slow as I needed to. It cleared my head and reaffirmed why, for me, running is, above all, a beautifully cathartic experience.

After the divorce, and after my move, training forced me to focus. Rather than stare at the ceiling and wonder if my life would ever be normal again, I needed to figure out if that first slow-as-hell long run stemmed from nasty conditions or a genuine gap in my fitness level. (Answer: The former, thankfully.) Rather than write and rewrite an online dating profile, I needed to figure out how the hell I was going to do repeat 800s in 20-degree weather with all sidewalks and most roads still covered in a thick coating of snow. (Answer: On a side street, at midday, when no one's around, and with no expectation that you'll hit your goal pace.) Rather than eat junk food and drink beer, I needed to figure out how to cook enough food to feed myself after a long run using a two-burner electric cooktop, microwave, electric teakettle and convection oven. (Answer: Not all at the same time, unless you want to fumble with the circuit breaker in the dark basement.)

I still occasionally stare at the ceiling and drink beer, but I didn't create an online dating profile (suffice to say I haven't had to) or eat any junk food (because any world in which peanut-butter filled pretzel nuggets or maple creme cookies are considered junk is not a world I want to inhabit). That could change, but at the moment, I'm focused on training my ass off so I can run my ass off on Memorial Day weekend in Burlington, run another PR--and maybe, given my luck, qualify for Boston two and a half months before I join a new, slower age group. (Oh, yeah, I guess there's also work, and decorating my apartment, and figuring out just how many running shirts will fit in my new washing machine, and going on real dates for the first time since, well, ever.)

What's done is done. All I can do is move forward, one step at a time. Now that the snow and ice are finally gone, I can do it that much faster.