This weekend, you guys. This. Weekend.
For the past couple of days we’ve had the weather Bostonians have been dreaming about since January 27 when the snow started. Sunny, fresh air, temps in the high-50s, then-60s, flirting-with-70. It was divine.
Actually, it didn’t start out that way. Friday night was drizzly and cold. I was tempted to put on sweats and call it a night the very moment I walked in from the office, but I really needed a run to disconnect from the week and kick off the weekend.
I set out in the chilly rain, leaving Henry and husband to nap and play, and ran purposefully, foot hitting pavement left and right and left and right and left and. I don’t often think about the phrase pounding the pavement in the literal sense, much less apply it to myself, but Friday night I thought about it with each step — out of the neighborhood, up my long, slow hill, around corners, on straight-aways, on the turn for home. After a long week it felt appropriate. It gave me the clean slate I needed for the next few hours and days.
Saturday, the sun came out and with it — finally — spring-like weather. We took Henry for his first swim lesson in the morning and in the afternoon I had a list of errands, but squeezed in a run while my car was being serviced. I left the car dealership on a quiet back road, running two miles out and two miles back. It was warm and sunny, and good for my body and mind.
While running Saturday, I was thinking about running routes, about habit, about where I’m most comfortable covering my miles, and where I run best. Do you prefer to discover new routes or run old favorites? Do you run better when doing one or the other? I definitely gravitate towards the routes I know and run better on a familiar course than something new. After thinking about it, I suspect I run more tentatively when I don’t know the road or where I’m headed. Naturally, when I’ve covered a route dozens or even hundreds of times, I’m more sure-footed. Still, running in a neighboring town on unfamiliar streets Saturday afternoon was the perfect easy run, and a good way to cover a few miles without taxing my legs before Sunday’s long run.
With the half marathon two weeks away, this weekend called for another long run — the longest of this “training cycle,” if I can even call it that. I only needed 10 miles, but knew I wanted to run 11, my base much lower and my confidence more fragile than for races in the past. I left the house by about 10:00 and the sun was out. I decided to run the same loop as a few weeks back, with a bit extra tacked on to get me farther than the 8.7 without. To switch it up, I ran the reverse loop, with a long, slow downhill in the first three miles and a short, steep climb from miles 6-7. Close to home some rolling hills are inevitable and while ultimately, I’m grateful for the training, in times that I’m not feeling strong and confident, they loom.
Running felt good, but hard. My stomach felt a little off and by mile four, I debated finding somewhere I could stop if it didn’t calm down. I tried to shift focus from crummy tummy to good music, bright sunshine, a text from my cousin, Leigh, that she had just slayed her half marathon with a 1:47.
Just as I tried to quiet my mind, take it easy on myself, and just run, I heard a whisper in my mind. Quiet and simple, but clear: this does not need to be your comeback race.
At first I sort of questioned the thought — but it is my comeback race. I haven’t raced since December 2013, in the weeks before finding out I was pregnant with Henry. That race, the Happy Holidays Half Merrython, I ran close to PR pace, but it was a long time ago and the end of a racing season with three half marathons and literally hundreds of training miles. I had recently completed a 110 mile month; mileage that comprises a single week for some runners, but was an epic effort for me.
When I signed up for this race a year ago, I thought I’d deliver the baby in September, start running again a month later, be in marathon-shape by mid-winter and the New Jersey Half would be a blip on my comeback radar, my sub-1:50 for sure. The year has been much different than that, though no less fantastic, but I’m in much different shape than I expected and much less prepared than I anticipated.
And that’s okay. This doesn’t have to be my comeback race. It’s just my first race back.
It was the attitude adjustment I needed. I finished 11 miles in 1:41:01, a 9:11 pace. Two weeks to go until race day and I’ll go into it knowing I can finish. I will finish. It’s the first race back — my first race as a new mom — but it’s just the first. It’s going to be really weird to pin on a number in a couple of weeks. I think I’ll feel like a newbie. It’s going to be really strange to know that along the course, I’ll be scanning faces for not only my husband, but my son cheering me on. It’s going to be exciting to remind myself, as always, that I run because I can and because others cannot. And it’ll be hard, I’m sure, but necessary to remind myself at mile one or seven or twelve, when it inevitably hurts or isn’t fun, that this doesn’t need to be my comeback race.
Don’t forget to enter to win a free week of meals from Blue Apron! Two winners will be announced Friday.