Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What Am I Running Toward--or From?

I got back into running in 2006.  It was part of a return to exercise to get back into shape in general in the beginning.  Then, over beer at a local Irish restaurant one night after a worship band practice, someone challenged me to run to train for a half marathon.  It was a distance I knew I could do in high school and that seemed feasible to return to.  Until I reached that distance Labor Day weekend 2007 that is what I ran toward.  I had wanted to participate in the Baltimore Running Festival in 2009 but decided to register too late. I had not realized the popularity of the event

After a hiatus to take care of professional matters, I returned to running again in 2009 and ran toward the Baltimore Running Festival--this time understanding how early I would have to register.  And meeting that goal (although with a time that left me dissatisfied), in January 2010 having seen one colleague and one student run the marathon, I decided to set my sights on the next goal to run toward.  At the time, qualifying for Boston was not high on my list.  I was just trying to see if I could go the marathon distance and the idea of running a 3:20:59 (what I would have needed to qualify at that time) seemed unattainable.

I ran that first marathon in 3:39:48.  It seemed a long distance away from the qualifying time.  But I had also gotten into fundraising through running and so the next big race to run toward was the Maryland Half Marathon in 2011.  I had heard great things about it although that year it moved from its original location in Timonium to southern Howard County.  Beyond that I was raising funds for a new organization--the University of Maryland Cancer Center.  That race went well, although not perfectly.  After that I aimed for the Baltimore Marathon once more.

I ran toward that with everything I had and achieved a 3:22:05.  I had reached the end of my fund-racing for a while (to borrow a term from Back on My Feet), but could see that the 3:15:00 (which was the new qualifying time) was within my grasp.  Suddenly the Boston Marathon became what I would run toward.  From mid-October 2011 until April 15, 2013, that was one of my main purposes in running--and exactly what I was running toward.  I ran two more marathons to qualify--each time aiming for the 3:15:00 I needed and finally meeting that in March 2012.

From then on, I committed not to run another marathon until Boston (which I stuck to) but I did keep training and doing as well as I possibly could at Boston was always at the top of my mind.  Every tempo run--towards Boston.  Every track workout--toward Boston.  Every Saturday long run--toward Boston.  And every in between race--toward Boston just getting ready.

Then I registered.  Getting ready for six months from registration.  The drive up.  Everything was about getting ready and moving toward the race.  Then on race day the ride to Hopkinton and the wait at Hopkinton was about moving toward the race.  Then once I started the race it was all about moving toward the finish.  All very clear.

After the end of the race--even before the explosions--things were less clear.  Why?  It was sort of like when I got promoted to full professor back at the School of Public Health and my next question was "now what?"  For racing, the question is also "now what?"  Eventually I found the next step in my career--my new job in the Carey Business School.

Whether I will find a next step in my running other than just "continuing to run for fitness" remains to be seen.  I have promised my family no more marathons for a while--more than a year at least.

And since the explosions last Monday I feel like I have been running from things rather than running toward anything.  I have run seven of the last nine days.  That is more days than I usually run.  Some of those runs have been high quality runs and others I have had to push through.  But those push throughs have taken my mind off last Monday.  Even just running--oddly enough--takes my mind off last Monday.  In fact, I think it takes me to a time in my mind before last Monday.  It is escapism.   Especially when I run alone.

Over time, I think less frequently about the events of last Monday and it becomes easier to let go.  And the runs become less about escaping.  But for the time being they are helpful as a way to run from the things that I don't want to relive every day.  Remember yes.  Relive those first uncertain moments and the devastation of hearing about three deaths no.

Just some more processing.  

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