Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Taking a Run Down Memory Lane

During my 18 miler this past Saturday, my body wasn't the only thing running.  Being out for over two hours gives you a lot of time with yourself, and thus, a lot to think about.  I've been asked before, "What do you think about while you're out there for that long?"  I always have a hard time answering.  A lot of times, it's simply assessing where I am, how I'm feeling, is that car going to hit me, parts of my upcoming route that may be challenging, or offer respite.  I've heard others say that they must listen to music.  While I think that helps, I often get so lost in thought or in the pace that I don't even know the music is there anymore.

This past Saturday, I cruised through 18 miles.  It's rare I get to say that on a long run, but it was one of those where everything just felt right and precisely because of that, I tried to keep my mind off of that fact lest any doubt creep in.  

While my body ran, my mind went off for a little jaunt of its own through trails of memory.  Most of them pertained to running, adrenaline dropping in when remembering races past, particularly my BQ race, the 2009 Vermont marathon.  

But then I settled on another memory that got me so pumped up for Boston (61 days from now according to my whiteboard at work). It was actually thinking about to the first marathon I ever ran, and more specifically, the experience of my first race weekend.

Signing up for the 2004 Philadelphia Marathon went a little something like this:
(Phone rings, it’s Rachel, catching up chitchat)
Rachel: So my dad and I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon in November.
Brad: Huh? (snicker)  You two are going to run a marathon?
Rachel: That's nice. Think you could do it? Why don’t you sign up and do it with us?

Next thing I knew, I had to go from barely being able to handle running two miles to tacking on 24.2 more in five months. My racing experience extended back to one spring season of high school track.

Fast forward to race weekend. So much anticipation and unknown. Philly teemed with runners of all shapes and sizes. We debated where we fit in? Should we walk around? Should we sit around? Is it ok to eat this?

But the big attraction, for me at least, was the expo. We waded through a claustrophobic maze of booths boasting discounts and gear galore. It was a dizzying array of colors, shoes, socks, gu packets, sunglasses, massage sticks, oh, and our race numbers.

What I zeroed in on were the runners walking around in their Boston marathon jackets. They wore them like badges of honor, truly something that had to be earned. I pointed them out to my wife and father-in-law and we all sort of laughed, knowing that whatever time and pace we ran the next day would be nowhere near a BQ. Nor could either of us conceive of ever being able to run 26.2 miles that fast.

This jacket became my symbol for Boston. At the various races we signed up for over the years, from 5K through other marathons, there were always a small contingent of runners wearing those jackets and I looked at them with such envy.

One of the first things my wife and I talked about on the plane ride back home to VA after I qualified was getting that jacket.

About a month ago, I got an e-mail from BAA advertising 2010 Boston Merchandise and I about fell out of my chair at work when I saw the jacket. I had to fire off a couple giddy e-mails then...just stare.

When I get tired on my runs now or am low on motivation, I think about crossing the finish line in April and sliding my arms through that jacket, finally earning the right to wear it.

I’m not sure if this helped power me through my run on Saturday, but there was a little bit more bounce in my step in the middle of that run.

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