Rest and Re-Inspiration

After two full weeks of absolutely no running (save for a certain brush with Ryan Hall’s f-ing fast marathon pace), I’ve spent this week slowly coaxing my legs back into running. Winter decided to arrive during my hiatus, and despite a few “niggles,” it feels wonderful to breathe in that cool, fresh air, break a sweat, and laugh with the guys again.

I decided to commit to 14 days of rest because Marine Corps left me feeling a bit banged up. I’ve been marathon training for the better part of the year, so the lingering aches gave me a good excuse NOT to run to let my body heal. Besides, MCM fell smack dab in the middle of the madness that is “working” at the RW Half, MCM, and NYCM on back-to-back-to-back weekends. All of it was incredibly exhilarating and inspiring–heck, I LOVE everything about races–but it’s also exhausting. My brain and body needed some downtime. Badly.

So while I’m here dusting the cobwebs off this blog, I have to say that even though I wasn’t out on the roads, running still managed to find ways remind me why our sport is so tremendously incredible. For instance…

I’m officially “in real life” friends with Iron(wo)man and mother-runner Michele Gonzalez (right), who raised over $10,000 for Superstorm Sandy relief efforts last year; Pam Rickard, an ultrarunner whose comeback story is best summed up by this Facebook post; and Summer Sanders (left), an Olympic swimmer, one of my childhood idols (thanks to a certain TV show), and now an incredible, speedy! runner. Words can’t really express how impressed, amazed, inspired [insert more similar words] by these women. They are the embodiment of why runners are awesome.Summer-Michele

I got a dose of the November Project, the highlight being a high-five with co-founder Brogan Graham, who’s gracing the December cover of RW. The bear-hugging, no-excuses, potty-mouthed “tribe” that began in Boston has injected a whole new level of badass-ness that’s shaking up what it means to be a running group. Get a better sense of who they are here and why they’re the shining light in an otherwise rough year for the running community here.

RW1213_COV_spread

And finally, I spent a weekend witnessing, for the first time, the magic of the New York City Marathon. It’s truly eye-opening to see runners from around the world literally take over the city, to see them streaming into Central Park from dawn until dusk, and to watch the elites cover 26.2 miles with precision, strength, and in Meb’s case, courage, from the gun to the tape. I bumped into Shalane and Julie, who again reminded me that the pros are just (blazing fast) regular runners. The list goes on… I left the city with my mind made up: I need to run New York next year.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 6.05.18 PMBasically, I can’t help but smile at all that went down over the past month or so. And trust me, this post touches on a fraction of it all. I couldn’t be more thankful. Thanks everyone.

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.” – Richard O’Brien

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Race Report | Fifth Avenue Mile

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 9.04.12 PMThere’s nothing quite like flooring it for a mile to remind you what racing fast really feels like. One: It’s incredibly exhilarating feeling smooth, speedy and powerful. Two: After teaching myself to hold my horses for at least 13 miles in a marathon, getting to unleash them over just a mile is a rush. And three: It still manages to wipe me out after just 5,280 feet.

On race morning, after watching my friends run their heats of the Fifth Avenue Mile, I genuinely couldn’t contain my excitement for my turn. Unlike last year where I lined up with cold legs and paid for it for 800 meters, I wanted to do it right this year and give myself a chance to drop my post-collegiate PR of 5:40. So I snuck into Central Park for a few miles and did some striders with my coworkers. I won’t lie, going through the motions of prepping for a race put me right back in college, reigniting those pre-race nerves. My body and brain knew it was time to race (even if it was purely for fun!).

My favorite part of this race is the start. Since I was in the Media Heat, the field was small so the corral wasn’t jam packed like the normal ones. That meant I could put my toe right on the start line. Ahead of me was the pace truck and a straight stretch of Fifth Avenue framed by skyscrapers and elm trees from the park. For a moment, I could imagine what it’s like to be an elite. Not to mention the anticipation of tearing down the middle of a wide open NYC road was killing me.

With a 30-second warning (cue another round of adrenaline), then the gun, off we went! I think I went through the first quarter in maybe 82 or 83 (WAY too fast) and the 800 in 2:42. Then began the internal battle – I had only 800 meters to go, but man was I hurting already. I might be rusty racing distances like this, but they were tricky then and it was tricky on Sunday. To keep pushing or save something for a kick, that was the dilemma.

I held on and attempted to keep my pace, shifting into a slightly faster gear for the last 100 meters. The crowds got progressively louder and more awesome the closer I got to the finish line, so I tried to feed off their energy. I might’ve been dying inside, but I was having a blast.

And with that, it was over. Short, sweet, and seriously ass-kicking. (It’s amazing how racing a mile and cram the feeling of hitting “the wall” in a marathon into just 1,609 meters.) I ended up sneaking just under my PR, running 5:39 for a second Media Heat win in a row. The funny thing about the mile? I want to do it again, like now. It’s like riding a roller coaster. Let’s go again! Let’s go again!

My with my coworkers Budd and Robert. Thanks Erica for the shot!

My with my coworkers Budd and Robert. Thanks Erica for the photo!

The cherry on top of the cake was watching the pro race that was jam-packed with Olympians and World Champions, then sneaking in a quick congrats to Jenny Simpson (who’s back AND better than ever!) and Nick Symmonds.

This race is definitely making it’s way onto my yearly must-do list. The 20 blocks turn into a running party all morning long and it’s just flat out fun. If you want to read more about my experience, check out this post I wrote for RW’s Race Tour Book Column!

2013 Nissan Fifth Ave Mile

QUOTE OF THE POST: “I told him I was nervous about this because Brussels didn’t go well and I haven’t really raced at 1500 for a while, and he said ‘If you’re nervous, just run as far as you can.’ So that’s what I did. Sometimes the easiest instructions are the best instructions.” – Jenny Simpson to her coach Mark Wetmore before her win on Sunday

What a Whirlwind of a Year

photoA couple weeks ago was my alma mater’s graduation day, and a couple weeks before that was my one-year “run-iversary” (I consider mine May 4, the day of my last collegiate race, because I couldn’t tell you what day I started running!). And somewhere in there was my official one-year anniversary at Runner’s World. Seriously, say what? It’s been a whole year?!?

The last time I spoke with my Dad, he said, “Can you believe how much you’ve experienced in just one year?”

After falling right back in sync with my college teammates like nothing had changed, like the year had been shortened to maybe a month, I genuinely can’t believe how different a runner I am today. I’m thankful to report that I’m still just as in love with the sport as I was a year ago. I’d even venture to say that that passion has grown deeper. Career-wise, to say it’s been eye-opening is an understatement.

So here’s what happened this year and a bit of what I learned along the way:

  • I helped cover two major marathons that (unexpectedly) turned into major nationwide events: At the New York City Marathon press conference, I sat beside one of my professional and running idols Amby Burfoot as NYRR CEO Mary Wittenburg announced the cancellation of one of the world’s most famous marathons. After the Boston Marathon, my post was published on runnersworld.com, and the positive feedback I received played an essential role in the healing process. Interviewing witnesses of the tragedy further helped me process all that had happened. After both events, I watched the stellar RW staff pull together two of the most powerful issues I’ll likely ever be a part of in my career. They are the very definition of professionals. I can only aspire to be even a little bit like them in the future. And in both instances, I witnessed the running community unite to support each other and complete strangers. All around, very powerful experiences.      
  • I ran FOUR marathons! I still remember the spring of last year when I registered for my first marathon. I spent the rest of the day in sheer disbelief that I’d just paid $80 to run 26.2 miles…voluntarily. Turns out, it became one of my all-time favorite experiences so far in life. 104.8 miles later, I can say I learned: that following my veteran colleagues’ advice will more than pay off, to respect the distance (feeling like crap at mile 10 sucks) but then discover that mystical “marathon magic,” that the running community is far greater and more awe-inspiring that I ever imagined, and that runners can endure far more than the 26.2 miles in front of them.
  • I started this blog! Beyond helping me grow as a writer, this digital diary has introduced me to SO many incredible runners. Having a platform to share experiences with others and compare notes on all things running has been way too much fun. (I now understand why y’all do it! =) ) I get totally engrossed reading blogs, virtually taking part in your running world. I’ve learned so much, and I’ve grown as a runner and person. I really can’t thank y’all enough for the words of support and encouragement. I hope you know that you have inspired me, too!   
  • I took up running naked (meaning sans watch, not actually naked, hah) most days and adopted what my boss calls “secondhand training.” It’s been a pretty drastic, but freeing change that’s helped me enjoy running for what it is, plain and simple. Rather that worrying over my paces or what workout is coming up on the calendar, I’ve embraced the spontaneity and learned how to love racing again. Let me put it this way: I PR’d after a day (and night’s) worth of St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans, just four hours of sleep, and arriving to the race maybe five minutes before the gun. Compare that to my college self who would hyper-worry over every pre-race meal and warmup drill. Personally, I like modern-day, let’s-just-have-fun-and-see-what-the-day-brings Megan.

And for some not-nearly-as-life-changing, but still pretty sweet highlights:

  • I ran up the Empire State Building and got my butt whooped by Kelly Ripa along the way.
  • I ran my first long-distance, over-night road relay and learned what it’s like not to shower or sleep for 30 hours straight.
  • I met the U.S. women’s marathoning trifecta: I ate Dunkin’ doughnut-holes with Shalane Flanagan, told Colt that his mommy Kara Goucher is one of my running heroes, and ran into (and probably scared the s*** out of) Desi Davila at our hotel at the Walt Disney World Marathon.
  • My current track record for throwing up after a marathon is 50/50. So there’s that.
  • I won the media heat of the 5th Avenue Mile. (It’s not as impressive at it sounds, honestly).
  • I got Nick Symmonds’ sweat on my jacket when he hugged me at the Millrose Games. He’s an incredibly nice guy, and it was very cool getting to meet him in person. (And seriously, where can I sign up to be a contestant on The Bachelor if he ends up being on the show?)
  • I lost whatever upper-body strength that I once had (and likely–hopefully?–channeled that “strength” toward those absurdly long marathon training runs).
  • I ran over the Golden Gate Bridge at midnight and through a closed-down Times Square.
  • I learned how to snot-rocket in motion.
  • I freaked out my 10-year-old self when I met “Figure it Out” (from Nickelodeon, remember that 90s kids?) host Summer Sanders and was meters away N’SYNC member Joey Fatone.
  • I’ve held an Olympic gold medal. Literally made my heart race.
  • I can now run or race at all hours of the day or night, thanks to Disney’s 5:30 a.m. race starts and the midnight relay legs.
  • I’ve done a lunch run in a tutu and did a (totally legit) stair-climb race at RW HQ.
  • I began blogging for–and therefore became friends with–Lauren Fleshman. Love this girl and everything she represents. ‘Nuff said.
  • I’ve almost gotten over being star-struck around elites. This past year, I’ve met or been in the presence of: Bernard Lagat, Meb Keflezighi, Evan Jager, Kim Smith, Alysia Montaño, Hannah England, Anna Pierce, Matt Centrowitz, Leo Manzano, Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce, Jenny Simpson, Brenda Martinez, Mary Cain, Jordan Hasay, Molly Huddle, Amy Hastings, Derrick Adkins, Dean Karnazes, (…and I’m sure a few more) and the legends Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Katherine Switzer. Crazy.

Since it was such a whirlwind of a first year in the “real world,” I wanted to take the time to collect all that happened in one place so future me can go back and remember it. Looking back on this year, all I can say is that I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities my work has given me and the people who I work with who have made me a better, happier runner. It’s opened my eyes to how truly unique the running community is, and I’m reminded every day of how lucky I am to be a part of it. Runners are a different, but brilliant breed. This year–maybe more than any in at least my life time–this fact was all the more apparent. And I got a front-row seat. What a whirlwind.

Here’s to another incredible year!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Keep your head up, keep your heart strong.” – Shalane Flanagan

Friday Faves | Everything Is On Fire!

  • “Retrieving that passion is the only way I could ever hope to accomplish any of those goals I laid out. You can’t MAKE yourself feel it. All you can do is keep your heart open to it returning. Do nothing to prevent it.” – excerpt from Lauren Fleshman’s eloquent and beautifully written post The Fire Still Burns. If you’re stuck in a rut or craving the return of your itch to compete, read it. It’s perfect.
  • “Look for meaning, because meaning endures — it touches us and those around us, and it gives us purpose. And it’s usually right in front of our face, we just have to grab hold.” – via Laura Schwecherl in On Meaning. Read it if you’re interested in a very intuitive take on the phrase “Do what you love.”
  • This epic window display at my local running store. It makes me want to buy ALL of the shoes…seriously. The best part? The box reads, “Caution. Contents inside are very fast.” Bonus points to whoever created it! 426430_10152521858415160_1025914198_n
  • Our Gear Guy’s explanation for the Empire State Building Run-Up:

    (It’s okay, it doesn’t makes sense to me either!)

  • My coworkers and I had our own version of the Empire State Building Run-Up at Runner’s World HQ. It produced this hysterical pre-race photo and this video. Both races made my lungs BURN! Read my #RWRunUp/#ESBRU race recaps here.
    BCX-UU8CEAIJqAj
  • Wednesday was National Women & Girls in Sport Day! How freakin’ cool?!? I made a Storify with some of the best tweets from the day. Check it out here.
  • Sometimes we get so caught up in worrying about a particular race or hitting a PR that we forget why we love to run. In Ann’s post Come On, Let’s Play, the soon-to-be triathlete realized that we’re playing each time we go for a run or race. (Thanks @theirishrunner for sharing this inspiring post!)
  • I need this shirt – talk about a runner/social media person’s mantra! Via @SMACKELI @SBSOnTheRun @dimityontherunBCh5ni6CIAE3h8P
  • There is such a thing as a PURPLE track! It exists at the University of Washington, and I want to run on it now. (My high school’s colors were purple and silver, and we always dreamed of having a purple track to match. Now we know it is possible! Heck yes!) purple track
  • “25 Things You Don’t Have To Justify To Anyone” via Thought Catalogue – Yes, I know it’s not running related, but it’s definitely worth a read. Lots of good things to remind yourself of often!

QUOTE OF THE POST: “Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” – William Faulkner

Read my other Friday Faves posts here

Race Report(s) | RW Run-Up & Empire State Building Run-Up

Ninety floors and some 1,500+ steps later…what I was thinking this week?!?

Here are my recaps for the two run-ups I, well, ran up this week:

Awkward pre-race photo for the win?

Awkward pre-race photo for the win? (Photo cred to Cait’s awesome sunglasses camera!)

Runner’s World Run-Up

Not to be outdone by the ESBRU, my fellow RW staffers and I held our own run-up at RW HQ. (Yep, all four floors of it!) And boy was it glaringly apparent right off the bat that my stair-climbing technique needs some serious work. (This wasn’t surprising since my steeplechase career proved my overall lack of coordination.) Overwhelmed by the excitement (and hilarity) of the start, I completely forgot to go two steps at a time and take advantage of the railings to pull myself upward. Before I knew it, I was bringing up the rear at the finish of our fake race. Thankfully, I have a 86 floors to nail down that technique and take on the media heat tomorrow. Plus, I’ve got some experience throwing elbows at the start from cross-country! Editors of Vogue, I’m ready for you! Check out the video of our event here.  

Empire State Building Run-Upkelly ripa

Holy wow was this race unlike any other that I’ve ever run. I learned that stairs are so NOT my friend. But I also realized that it’s seriously satisfying to say that you’ve run up that ginormous building, especially when you’re  standing alongside it taking in it’s massiveness. That feeling–plus the stunning (but brief) views of NYC at the top–made the experience totally worth it.

There it is! The lights were orange in honor of the race!

There it is! The lights were orange in honor of the race!

The race itself? It was *cough* intense.

I lined up at the front of the media heat–my toes were literally on the starting line!–and I immediately noticed the padded doorway into the stairwell no more than 10 meters away. Talk about a dead sprint into a narrow door frame! I felt the usual mix of excitement and adrenaline while I waited for the gun, but there was an added layer of anxiety as I eyed that ominous-looking gray stairwell. What was this going to be like?!? I tried to distract myself with the fact that Kelly Ripa and Natalie Morales had just lined up beside me–how cool?!?–and I attempted to look not like an idiot while the press took pre-race photos of us. (See above photo!) New goal? Beat Kelly Ripa.

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The Rodale crew pre-race!

The sound of a horn unleashed the mad rush to the doorway. I actually had an awesome start and was one of the first into the stairwell. (Yay, my years of cross country paid off!) But, like at the RW Run-Up, the craziness thwarted any effort to establish a steady rhythm. I went from one-stepping to two-stepping to using my arms to pull me upward to power jogging without the railing. It wasn’t coordinated or pretty at all.

By Floor 15ish (yeah, I still had 60+ floors to go), my adrenaline had worn off and my stair running turned into a plodding march of survival. The dusty, dry inside air had me breathing heavily and my quads were screaming already, which had me wondering Hadn’t I just run a marathon? Where did all that endurance go? I swear to God I’m fitter than I feel right now! I settled into a two-step hike, using the railings only to keep me upright because I couldn’t figure out how to use them to pull some of my weight. Stupid lack of coordination. I stared (more like glared) down at the steps to avoid the urge to look up at what floor I was on, much like I used to ignore the lap counters when I ran track. I still had way too many floors to go. It was like you could literally feel the weight of the building on top of you.

Around the 40th floor, Kelly Ripa started bearing down on me, and before I knew it we were sharing each staircase. She had a teammate cheering her on, urging her to keep going, and I tried to pretend he was yelling those encouraging words to me. (It was incredibly quiet and lonely throughout the entire race, so there was not much to distract me from my blaring omg-please-let’s-stop-how-many-more-floors?-this-is-insane-consumed thoughts.)

I held off Kelly for maybe 20 floors, but she was rocking this powerful and steady pace. My pace certainly hadn’t picked up any by this point, and she finally passed me somewhere in the 60s. I concluded that she is basically the Energizer Bunny. You go girl!

photo 4

Done and done. Heck yes!

When we were within a few floors of the finish, I started to feel hints of cool air circulating down the stairwell. Sooooo close! I tried to trot up the last few steps–I wanted to go out with some shred of dignity!–and finally reached the open and wonderfully flat landing at the top. I was rewarded with a blast of cold, fresh air and an awe-inspiring view of the city. I staggered through the finish, totally relieved and happy that that wild ordeal was over.

I bumped into Kelly again after the race, and I mumbled something along the lines of, “Awesome job! That was crazy right?” and she told me she agreed. We high-fived each other (I’m sure my mum is totally jealous of me right now! haha) before I was herded into the elevator.

I ran it in 18:29 and was the 5th female in the media division. One news story described it as a “vertical marathon,” which is entirely accurate. I learned that going up is a much different experience that going forward, and that my runner’s strength didn’t exactly apply to 1,576 steps. Overall, I’m SO glad that I got the opportunity to run it, but I think I’ll stick to my marathons for now and leave that craziness for the pros like our Gear Guy Jeff Dengate (who, by the way, won the media heat!)

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The bling!

photo 2

QUOTE OF THE POST: “It’s not a stair race, it’s a race to the top.” – Jeff Dengate 

Read my other Race Reports here