Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Breakfast Club

If I had to capture my New York City marathon buildup in two words, they would be: More coffee!

Since June, when the air hung heavy and the thought of fall, let alone covering 26.2 miles at one time, seemed ages away, a small group of us began gathering in the early hours of the morning every Saturday. We pulled up and parked at some point along the Mt. Vernon trail, set off at different paces and different distances, only to meet back where we began to caravan toward the mother of all post-run motivators: breakfast.

Many have come and gone and several guest appearances have been made (Mrs. Onthebusrunning, included), but the core group week in and week out has been my friends Paul, Karen, Natalie, and Rohan. Paul, Karen, Natalie are training for the Philadelphia marathon, while Rohan is just a willing running partner. In fact, Rohan and I covered 18 miles one steamy August morning. When we walked stiff-legged back to the rendezvous point, Paul looked at Rohan and said, “Are you running a marathon this fall?”

“Nope,” Rohan said, throwing his leg up onto a trash can.
“Then why the hell are you running 18 miles?” Paul asked.
Rohan only shrugged. “I guess I just like running.”

And I guess that sort of became the point. Even though we had races way off in the distance to train for, it was nice to know there was someone or some people waiting for you at the end who’d just been through the same thing, could relate, and could inhale a stack of pancakes or an egg white omelet as you recounted the miles together.

It started on a whim. There was a group e-mail. Some back and forth about times and meeting places. Isn’t there something in Runner’s World every month about scheduling runs with others to hold yourself accountable? So, first we became accountable. Then we became dependent.

There became something about waiting for that Thursday e-mail to arrive in your inbox, or Wednesday if we were feeling antsy. Who was going to start the chain? What mileage did people have to cover? And perhaps most importantly, where were we going to go for breakfast?

I thought the title for this blog would be pretty obvious. Then I got to thinking about the actual movie The Breakfast Club. A group of people getting together to serve detention. Sometimes that's the way those long runs feel.

We ran before a hurricane and then gulped down coffee as the wind began to pick up. We comforted and fist bumped one another as the miles began to climb and the races actually came in sight. Suddenly, those 18 and 20 milers didn’t seem as daunting anymore. I caught myself saying, “Well, if I can get through this, I can eat eggs and pancakes with everyone.”

In fact, as Natalie wrapped up her 22 miler last Sunday, she walked by Paul and I and said, “The last three miles, all I kept saying was, ‘pancakes, pancakes, pancakes.’”

With New York this weekend and Philly just two weeks away, I asked my wife what she thought would happen to our gang of running misfits once our goal races were over.

“I’m sure you’ll take a week or two off and then everyone will still want to run something." Then she paused before adding, "Besides, no one’s going to turn down breakfast.”

I let that sink and realized how right she was. There’d be more races on the horizon, more breakfasts, and more coffee. I guess we just like running.

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