“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” Mahatma Gandhi.
I don’t know why, but I’m still surprised when over 4 years into my running journey, I still have little epiphanies on my run. I had one this past Saturday. My NYC marathon schedule had 14 miles on it for Saturday, which was also my daughter’s 10th birthday. A few weeks ago, a friend had sent an email asking if I wanted to go to the Culture Club concert the Friday night before, and I knew I didn’t want to miss it. I grew up in the 80’s and didn’t go to concerts then, and I knew that this would be just too fun not to attend because of a scheduled long run the next day.
Early in the week, I caught myself thinking, “How am I going to go to this concert and run 14 miles the next day?” I caught myself having a little dread instead of looking forward to these events. I quickly changed my mindset. I’m choosing to go to this concert with my friends because it will be really fun and when I hear Culture Club on the “oldies/classics” station, I sing along every time. I’m choosing to go on this 14 mile run on Saturday so that I can get to run through all 5 boroughs of New York City in my sparkly Tiffany blue tutu. I am grateful that I have the means to make these choices and the body to help carry me through them. I could decide to switch my run to Sunday, but my running group from last season, the LA Leggers, has started up again, and they had a 5 mile run on schedule for Saturday. I knew that by running Saturday, I could run that 5 miles in the middle of my 14-miler with them, which would make the miles fly by so much faster.
A couple of days before Saturday, a few of my Leggers running mates posted that they would be meeting before the official group 5 miler to run some extra miles as well, and then join the rest of the group. Initially, I thought about joining them first as well, but this group of runners is a little faster than my pace, and I know myself. I know that when it comes to running, my body can handle distance much better than speed. If I met with them first and tried to push my pace on little sleep, I knew that I would peter out, but if I started the 14 miles at my own pace and eased into it, I’d be able to go the distance.
Friday night came and the concert was great. We dressed up 80’s, and Boy George did not disappoint, singing every song of his that I love and making us laugh in between. I limited myself to two glasses of wine despite being uber’d to the concert and back, knowing that I shouldn’t add hangover to 4.5 hours of sleep. When my alarm went off at 5:15 am, I got out of bed before I could give myself any chance to hit a snooze button. I ran the first 5 miles on my own without really paying any notice to my Garmin, moving at a speed that felt natural and maintainable, pink hair chalk form the night before streaming down my face. Then I joined the Leggers for another 5 miles, and before I knew it, 10 miles had been done and I only had 4 to go.
When I met the Leggers in the middle, I noticed a few people from last season who had changed pace groups and were now in faster groups…. not me… still in the same pace group. Despite actively working on my speed as I told you I’d be doing in Buckle Up, I’ve only made a little progress. As I was doing the last couple of miles on my own, I started thinking about my slow progress despite doing weekly track sprint workouts and adding more strength-training on my cross-training days. And then it occurred to me, that I was at more than 12 miles in my steady pace, on the 4.5 hours of sleep, and I had no discomfort whatsoever….I had done what I knew my body needs… I had taken this run slow and steady….. And it dawned on me that maybe this phase of my life is not about speed but about going the distance…. not just in running… but in life.
I spent years being on the fast-track to where I envisioned my future self. I knew in my teens that I wanted to go to medical school, get married early, have kids early, and have my life “settled” early…. and I set out and did that boom, boom, boom. I took every AP course in high school and finished college a semester early. In that extra 8 months before starting medical school, I could have spent time abroad, but instead I was in a lab with PhD students harvesting cell lines for cancer research. Before that, in my last semester when I had a light course load, I spent every friday making fly food in a lab… yes… you read that right… fly food for the thousands of flies being used in an experiment. I got married 2 days before medical school graduation, had my first son during residency, my second son in my first year of having a real job, and less than 3 years later my daughter. During this time, I changed a few jobs, we moved a few times, I worked my butt off. I almost drowned.
Maybe this phase of my life is not about speed. Maybe this phase of my life is about going the distance. Not maybe… it has to be…. because that speedy course was not maintainable, and fortunately, before a fatal collision, I got off by literally running away from it and towards me.
As I wound up my 14 mile run, I thought about how it was also my daughter’s 10th birthday, my late aunt’s birthday, and how I had just completed the easiest most pain-free 14 mile run of my life on 4.5 hours of sleep….. Because rather than joining some faster runners and pushing the pace, I had known that I needed to start on my own…. I’m still going to continue my track workouts because I actually enjoy the heart pounding chest heaving exhilaration that comes with the short bursts of speed, but I’m not going to worry about how long it takes for those workouts to translate into a faster base pace…. In this phase of my life, with all 3 kids in double-digit ages now and able to take responsibility for a good bit of their own care, I’m not going to focus on where I am going next but on what I’m going to do to stay off the trap of getting back on the fast train…. In this phase of my life, I’m aware that these 3 kids will be out of my home before I know it, and that while I will always be mother first, my identity needs to be about a lot more than them or a job title….These miles are mine alone; I will run them on my terms. I’m going to continue to run at the pace where I can cover all the miles and invest in myself in all the ways needed to be able to go the distance rather than petering out.
**For those of you who read my post Yes last week, Cecy not only ran her first full marathon before turning 50, but she rocked it….I’m so excited for her. More on the class pass challenge will have to wait until a post next month.