Has This Ever Happened To You?

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 11.29.53 PMOne morning last week, I felt the need to do 400 meter repeats on the track.

Mind you, this out-of-the-blue urge arrived despite the fact that I’d…

worked the closing shift the night before, and…
woken up before the sun to babysit, and…
done a heavy lifting session at the gym the day before, and…
not set foot on a track in, wow, at least a year? two maybe? and…
been a happy member of the “Anti-Formal Training Camp” (re: zero speedwork), also for quite some time, and…
resolved to not to run races (and thereby need to do speedwork) for a while, and…

The list could go on for reasons why I shouldn’t have gotten this lovely little burst of inspiration. But there it was. That day, I had to do 400 repeats. The decision was made before the idea had even crossed my mind.

So I got home from babysitting and informed my boyfriend I was headed to the oval. 400s were on the menu. If he was game (which he was, this is one of the reasons I love him) we’d do them together, relay style. And that was that. Hello, rubbery red track, my old friend. So nice to see you again.

[An aside: Does this straight-up random need to do random workouts happen to anyone else? And do you actually follow through with them? Please tell me I’m not the only nutty one.]

I ended up doing 8 400m repeats. We ran the first four together, then I did the last four on my own. I surprised myself by keeping a pretty consistent pace start to finish and even ran the second set a couple seconds faster on average. Looking back at old training logs, I was about 10 seconds per lap slower than I was for a similar workout during my best season at Lehigh. Given the factors listed above, I’ll take it!

Although 400 repeats are, by definition, torture, and should’ve been especially torturous on this particular day, I rediscovered the groove I’d worn in that track over the four years I ran at Lehigh. Instantly, I was transported back to those warm spring afternoons during track season when my teammates and I would take turns leading intervals. My form fell back into its natural stride and cadence. I found my rhythm, even though I hadn’t tapped into it in years. I finished each repeat hunched over and heaving but eager to bang out another one. My body knew what to do. It just felt right. And damn did it feel good.

This time around, though, I relished the fact that I was pushing myself just for the sake of it. No end goal in sight other than to say I accomplished something that day. The feeling of hitting the last split was so incredibly satisfying. AND I got to tap into a part of myself I hadn’t felt in years.

Thank goodness for that random spark of inspiration.

A week later, we returned to the track, this time for 800m, 400m, 800m, 400m, 800m. As we finished, another runner began circling the track. He was maybe in his 40s or 50s, but you could tell by his lean, muscular figure that he was a fast, seasoned veteran. He asked what workout we’d done. I told him and explained the random reasoning behind it. He laughed but admitted he was very much in the same place with his running, saying he was considering a fall marathon—he hadn’t done one in 10+ years—but could very well end up training for a 5K instead. Before we parted, I asked what he planned to run.

He still hadn’t decided yet.

Maybe I’m not the only nutty one.

Race Report | 2013 Runner’s World Half & Festival

Unlike my usual Race Reports, I’m dedicating this post to my dad and brother who raced at the 2013 Runner’s World Half & Festival. I’ve always been “the runner” in my family, but this weekend proved that that’s so not true anymore. Here’s why:

A few weeks after the Boston Marathon this year, my dad texted me this: photo 1

Honestly, this text nearly brought me to tears. For years now, my dad has hopped on the running wagon only to fall off of it (no) thanks to roadblocks life decided to put in his way. There was no doubt in my mind that my dad could do it (back in January, I wrote about how I secretly wished he’d run the RW Half), but I knew all too well how god-awful it is to train through the summer in Texas. Not to mention a lot can go wrong in six months. Getting to the start line of a race healthy for anyone is a miracle. He had a long road ahead of him.

photo-2But sure enough, weekend after weekend all summer long, my dad reported successful early-morning long runs that started before the sun crested the top of the mountain and weekly 3.1-mile afternoon runs that got progressively faster despite the rising afternoon temps. He challenged himself with hills, pushed through the sweltering heat, learned the importance of hydration on long runs, and didn’t get bogged down or discouraged by the not-so-great runs. I might not have witnessed it in person, but his commitment and focus on his goal of completing a half-marathon was apparent and incredibly inspiring.

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Before we knew it, there he was at the expo, picking up his bib with my mom and brother in tow.

Later that night, we attended Dave McGillivray‘s keynote speech. Dave, the race director of the Boston Marathon, not only rocks a wicked Boston accent, but has notched countless running feats throughout his lifetime. (He runs his age in miles on his birthday, he has run across the country more than once, he has finished the Boston Marathon for 40+ years in a row, the list goes on…) The philanthropist had us laughing and crying, all the while teaching us life lessons he’s learned while pounding it out on the roads. I wish I could bottle up his talk and re-live it before ALL of my races. It certainly set the tone for the next day.

On race morning after we pinned on our bibs, my dad and I set off for the start line. The air was crisp, the clear-blue sky was bathed in sunlight – it was the PERFECT day to run. We lined up at the front so we could take it all in. The crowd’s energy was electric. A few minutes before the start, my dad and I snapped a couple pre-race photos and gave each other good-luck hugs. I can’t really put into words how much it meant to me to see my dad on the brink of accomplishing this goal he’d worked so hard for all summer long. It made my heart swell with happiness. Instead of crying nervous tears, I cried happy ones. (Click on the photos to enlarge!)

And with that emotional start, we were off!

The game plan was to finish my race, which doubled as my last long training run before Marine Corps, then run the course backwards until I found my dad. After I finished my run, I snuck back on the course, and it wasn’t long before I saw him cruising past a water stop just before Mile 12. He was crushing it.

With just over a mile to go, the two of us set off for the finish line. Then, with one last hill behind us, we made our way through the tunnel of cheering spectators, spotting Mom and my brother before crossing the finish line. He did it.

photo 3photo

My dad ran every step of the race at his 5K pace from January. He not only finished 13.1 miles, he demolished them.

Seeing my dad’s goal become a reality in the form of a hard-fought finisher’s medal was incredible. I’m literally in awe of the perseverance it took for him to get from “the starting line” he crossed on that day back in April when he texted me to the finish line of his first half-marathon. His accomplishment is the reason why running is awesome. My dad is my inspiration, always has been, and always will be.

————–

photo-1On Saturday morning, my youngest brother Kyle lined up for the start of the 5K at the Runner’s World Half & Festival. Had you told me that the kid who once quit soccer because he “didn’t like to sweat” would be voluntarily running a 5K, I wouldn’t have believed you. Unlike my other (older) younger brother and I who both dove headfirst into soccer (and eventually running for me) early on and obsessed over athletics more than pretty much anything else in life for years, Kyle tried different sports on and off, but nothing really stuck.

However now that he’s gotten a bit older, he started running for the track and cross country teams at his middle school. Just like I did when I was his age, he’s getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to log some miles at practice before going to school. What’s amazing about my brother is that he already knows how to run just for himself. He doesn’t get bogged down about what others think of his performance. He focuses only on improving from one race to the next, enjoying the camaraderie of his teammates along the way. He knows he’s not the best on the team, but that doesn’t matter to him. I think he just likes to run. Yup, he figured that out about 10 years before I did.

Smarty pants.

It makes me so happy to see my brother enjoy the sport I’ve been passionate about since I was his age. My hope is that it becomes something he enjoys doing for the rest of his life, in whatever way, shape, or form that may be.

————–

I have to take a second to do a quick shout-out to everyone in the “twitterverse” who I met in real life this weekend: Jocelyn, Ashley, the #RunChat dudes Scott and David, Jaime, Pam, Marcia and more! Y’all are so dang cool, and I seriously wish we all lived closer to one another so we could run together all the time. But hey, thank goodness for twitter, right? Thank you guys so much for coming to our event. I’m so thankful that we all got to connect in person, and I hope that our paths cross again many more times in the future!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.” – Fred Lebow 

A Note To My Future Self That Summer Marathon Training IS Worth It!

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 4.57.36 PMDear Future Megan,

Next summer when you inevitably return from a long run dehydrated and defeated, remember Sunday’s 20-miler. It was epic, it was ahh-MAZ-ing, it was confidence-boosting, you name it. That single run made up for a summer’s worth of slow, sluggish death marches. Yes, it’s hard to see now with stinging sweat in your eyes that the cooler weather will bring with it faster, easier running. But remember that this run proved that it does.

More than once that day, I caught myself experiencing the “runner’s high.” Around mile 12 or 13, we dropped the pace to 7:35. And it felt easy, like we had only 10 steps, not 10 miles, under our belt. I felt smooth and in control, my breathing was relaxed, and I shifted into cruise-control so I could fully take in the gorgeous, sun-soaked scenery around me. (Mind you, I’d been struggling to hold my pace within 8:15-30 range on my long runs so far, so stop feeling discouraged about your long-run splits so far this summer. It’s not worth your time or energy!) Then with four miles to go, I still felt strong, so I decided to try to dip down into the 7s again. I genuinely couldn’t believe it when my splits were all 7:30 or faster. I was giddy for the rest of the day (and week for that matter).

Remember how this run completely changed your mentality going into Marine Corps and how it revealed that yes, you really do love this sport even when you’ve sweat buckets at the butt-crack of dawn Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Remember to feel grateful and thankful for the ability to feel that runner’s high and rush of endorphins that sometimes get dampened by the summer haze. It’s all worth it, I swear. This is your mantra: Summer marathon training IS worth it! 

So go take a cold shower, cozy up in bed, cue up Netflix, and get excited. Fall will be here before you know it!

(One-Month-Out-From-MCM) Megan

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?” – Peter Maher

Pounding it Out into the Pavement

Back in college, whenever we’d push it hard on a run, workout or not, we’d call it “pounding.” It meant we’d pressed the pace and just took off, completely in the flow, literally pounding down the road. A sheer release of energy.

Though my emotional state one week after the Boston Marathon is thankfully inching closer and closer to what I’d consider normal, it hasn’t exactly been business as usual at RW. Our entire staff has pored over every detail of April 15, rehashing it all while we try to figure out how to cover the tragedy in our upcoming issue. It’s been an exhausting, but exciting, and heartbreaking, but uplifting process that I’m completely thrilled to be a part of because I know the end result will be something that will make the running community proud.

But what I realized on my run today was that I still have some bottled up, lingering feelings that I need to work out. (I know this is completely normal after going through something so life-changing and traumatic.) I’ve been so focused on work (or on anything else besides the marathon) that I hadn’t noticed it was there, building up in my chest, needing to be released.

It’s incredible how you can actually feel it.

Long, irrelevant story aside, something set me off today during our run. The emotions bubbled to the surface, and I felt the need to just get away. Now. Fighting back tears, I tore down the street on my own. For that last mile and a half of my run, I pounded out the pent up sadness, anger, frustration, and stress into the concrete, feeling that with every deep, swelling breath I was letting it all go.

I’ve experienced this maybe only once or twice before. The last time was in the midst of my senior year of college. I’d been so stressed out with work that the anxiety had, like today, been building up in my chest for weeks. All I could think about was desperately needing to just run fast, far, and alone. On what was supposed to be an easy long run with my team, I got permission from my coach to do my own thing. I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d reached my breaking point. I broke away from the group, flying down the road letting myself cry it out at times. I felt like I could run forever.

I returned six miles later rejuvenated. The weight that had been sitting on my chest was almost gone.

Like it has countless times in the past, running amazed me today. It’s the ultimate cure-all that only requires a pair of shoes and an open road. I’m so thankful that I’ve found something in my life that allows me to work through tough times, release whatever might be inside me that needs releasing, and escape.

How lucky we runners are, huh?

—–

Because laughter is always in order, here’s a funny, somewhat-relevant-to-this-post clip from an otherwise not-so-funny movie (At the :45-second mark, that was more or less me today.):

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Everyone who has run knows that its most important value is in removing tension and allowing a release from whatever other cares the day may bring.” – Jimmy Carter

Have you ever experienced a run like this? 

Friday Faves | BOSTON, BOSTON, BOSTON

Here I am, typing this out from my hotel room in BOSTON! I cannot really wrap my brain around it all, but it’s slowly starting to sink in. (I snagged an official jacket earlier this afternoon (see below) – I feel so “official!”) For obvious reasons, this week’s Friday Faves is all about Beantown. I’ve included a bit of what I’ve seen today, too! Here we go!

  • Via @whitrunsthis:
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  • While I waited to interview Serena Burla, I chatted with Kara’s husband, Adam, while he held Colt during Kara’s interviews. I told him how neat it was to finally “meet” Colt in person and asked him if Colt recognized his mommy on TV during her races. (He does! *Cue cuteness overload!*) It was incredible seeing the pro runner + motherhood dynamic – all I can say is Kara does it with grace.
  • Insanity. Enough said.
  • Thanks to the ever-wonderful RW Facebook fans and Twitter followers, I pulled together this Boston Marathon advice-filled article full of insanely inspiring tips from Beantown vets. Gave me chills!
  • I found out what’s written inside these amazing uniforms for Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher today. In Shalane’s, it reads “Dare to be different.” In Kara’s, “Courage to believe.” LOVE.

    oawib

  • THANK YOU TED! =)
  • I wrote about the awesome Americans flying under the radar on Monday, Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce and Serena Burla. Check it out here.
  • This is sort of Boston-related, but I HAD to share: Lauren Fleshman is officially writing for RW! The tweet below includes a bit of the awesomeness (and click the link to read it, too!)
  • And here are some shots from the weekend so far!
Kara's Boston Banner!

Kara’s Boston Banner!

The finish line is being set up! So ridiculously cool.

The finish line is being set up! So ridiculously cool.

The girls at the press conference. (Ignore the dude's head!) This was the first time I've seen both of them together, and man, they giggled the entire time. It's obvious how close they are!

The girls at the press conference. (Ignore the dude’s head!) This was the first time I’ve seen both of them together, and man, they giggled the entire time. It’s obvious how close they are!

The jacket. And man is it schnazzy.

The jacket. And yep, it is pretty schnazzy.

Stay tuned for updates throughout the weekend–probably more on twitter than here depending now how busy I am–and my race report early next week! To everyone running Boston, GOOD LUCK!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Here’s my mantra: ‘Every mile is a gift.'” – Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon.

Friday Faves | Pies and Surprises!

In no particular order of importance (or on any scale whatsoever), here’s this week’s Friday Faves…just a teeny tiny bit late:

  • In what might be the sweetest (pun intended) use of social media ever, two sinfully delicious pies were delivered to my coworkers desk in celebration of Pi(e) Day. She tweeted that she wished we had pie at RW HQ, and not two hours later, @Stridebox had pies delivered to her desk. Long story short, this:

    lead to this:BFWEaNjCYAAZ_Q9Seriously. Read the whole story via Storify here.

  • For the ladies: Now I might be mistaken for a 12-year-old boy when it come to my chest, but this post titled “Have Boobs, Will Test Your Sports Bras” from Once Upon A (L)ime had me laughing literally every other line (and also made me grateful that I’m small). She’s my newest follow on my blog reader, and I can’t wait to read what else she has to say!
  • I added two races to my race calendar this week: the NYC Half on Sunday (stay tuned for a Race Report) and the Golden Gate Relay (I found out one of my legs goes over the Golden Gate Bridge! AHH!) Best. Surprise. Ever!
  • These still-so-freakin’-cool Flyknits left over from the paint-themed photo shoot for the Spring Shoe Guide:
  • “8. Running when all I want to do is eat and sleep and stay snuggled under a nice comfy blanket.” – from Shalane Flanagan’s post about 13 things she hates about running. She should pin Jordan’s tweet (below) up somewhere because it’s awesome. I should, too.
  • This video for the Boston Marathon Banner Day. Gives me chills! 30 MORE DAYS!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “I love this time of spring. It’s starting to get warm, the end of training is in sight (or at least the taper is), and I can practically smell the vaseline Boston feels so close. I’m so excited for you. There is nothing like the first Boston! It’s so much fun! We’re going to have a great time.” – in an email from my coworker, gazillion-time marathoner, and RW Challenge coach extraordinaire, Jen Van Allen

Rediscovering Steve PREfontaine

photo-1Recently I’ve been inundated with all things Steve Prefontaine. It all started with this seriously epic Pre stop sign that our art director created for a feature in the April 2013 issue of RW (pick up a copy and read it because it’s really, really good). My coworker then interofficed me his copy of Pre with instructions to finish it before the Boston Marathon. After getting over a (teeny tiny) obsession with the TV show Friday Night Lights, I dove right in.

The book satisfied every fiber of my inner #runnerd. It covered details from his entire career, clarifying the scope of his impressive and inspirational dominance in the sport. Because I was born nearly 20 years after his death, Pre has always been quite literally the stuff of legends. Like any other runner, I know his most famous quotes by heart. And yes, I was one of those geeks that had a poster of him in my dorm room at college. (Click here to see proof. It’s above the TV.) He’s one of the most enduring running idols ever, but I never really knew why.

I learned A LOT about Pre from reading the book. But what struck me was how genuinely normal he was. Here are my three passages that struck me the most:

  • “Before any race, Pre would always say how he didn’t feel good and didn’t want to run,” teammate Steve Bence recollects. “No matter where the race was or how important it was, he was saying, ‘Aw, I wish I wasn’t running; I don’t think I’m going to run well…’ Then he’d go out and run like heck.” The self-doubt that plagues most runners–even Steve Prefontaine–quickly disappeared after the challenge had been met and conquered. – Even Pre, who won 78 percent of his outdoor track races, got pre-race anxiety. That’s something to remember when I’m freaking out before a race.
  • …it hadn’t been all that long since the time Prefontaine was out on an easy-day road run with the then-freshmen Terry Williams, Dave Taylor, and several others. It was supposed to be a relaxed 10-miler, but one runner took off and disappeared, which nettled Pre to no small degree. So near the end of the run, when Taylor and Williams started to pick it up, it was too much for Pre. He caught up with the two of them, grabbed each by the shoulder and started screaming that there was no way they would ever make it, that they were both going to burn out so fast. – He might’ve gotten up every morning at 6 a.m. for a run (often his first of two for the day), but he knew how to train in moderation. Take your easy days easy, and leave the hard efforts for workout days.    
  • Training was not always all that much fun, as Pre himself admitted. “It really gets grim until the competition begins,” he once said. “You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to the self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Like Pre, figure out why you love to run, write it down or post it where you can see it often, and remind yourself of those reasons when you’re struggling to pull yourself out of bed for a run or hurting in the middle of a workout.
photo

Thanks Bart Yasso for introducing me!

What capped off the book were the parts about Pre’s relationship with Frank Shorter. [Fair warning: This will likely sound very silly/obvious/cliche/dumb, but I get pretty intrigued by weird connections like this.] I met Frank and Bill Rodgers at the Falmouth Road Race last year and watched them speak on a panel. I also ran into both of them at the hotel at the Walt Disney World Marathon. But I didn’t realize then was that Frank was Pre’s close friend and training partner. He was also the last person to see Pre alive. (Pre dropped him off right before the accident). When I finished the book, I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that I’d met (and spoken to, and shaken hands with) someone who knew Pre. [Cue the obvious!] Pre was very much a real person. That’s what I call crazy bonkers.

Immersing myself in the seven-time American record holder’s life added color to my previously hazy perception of Pre. I now appreciate his words that have been plastered on runners’ walls for years; they no longer seem cliche, which makes them all the more inspirational and moving.

If you’re in need of a little motivation, I’d highly recommend geeking out a bit with Pre. It’s worth it. (And yep, I’ll be watching Without Limits this weekend, and I’d bet money that I’ll be in tears at the end!)

P.S. Here’s the opening spread of the Runner’s World article. Pretty sweet, huh?

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QUOTE OF THE POST: “Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” – Pre