Though I’m now only a handful of days from running NYC, marathon #4 of the year, I’m still very much processing my Chicago experience from 10/13. I feel like I’m past figuring out the logistical, race-day and training execution stuff; I’m pretty sure I know what went well, what’s worth replicating or modifying, the stuff I can improve on, and the like.
Races never fail in teaching us our strengths and weaknesses–and boy, is that EVER true in the marathon distance–but I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten a good, or good enough, handle on this stuff right now. I know what the next cycle will (probably) look like. I’m already beginning to think about this, even though a) I still have another marathon to do this year and b) my race calendar next year is one big question mark, since I don’t know when I’ll be moving yet.
There’s still, however, something lingering out there about my CM13 experience. Something just… there.
After writing, and rewriting, and starting this post about 5 times in the past 7 days, I think I’ve finally able to articulate what has made my CM experience so different and meaningful.
Here’s a hint. It’s not me.
I’ve always trained with other people; by fundraising, and later, mentoring, for Team in Training and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, right from the start of my marathoning “career,” I have always had the luxury of surrounding myself–though accidentally–with experienced and talented runners, some of them whom had been doing this crazy marathoning business for years, if not decades.
I’ve fortunately always been around people who “get it,” people to whom I can turn for guidance and support. Though they didn’t read my (paper) training logs I kept, they knew, or at least could deduce, from how I ran on our Wednesday speedwork nights or our Saturday morning long runs that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing during the week.
Yet still… something was different about CM13. Something unique, something that I’ve not done before, or at least in this specific capacity, and something that left an indelible impression on me, as dramatic as that sounds.
The best way I can think of describing this is that Chicago ’13, for perhaps the first time, made me feel like I “belong” in the running community, that I am somewhat “legit,” as douchey as that sounds, and that being part of team helped me bring my “game” to a whole new level. It’s somewhat awkward to type all this out now, because I realize how horrible it sounds and, again, how douchey I’m portraying myself now, but hear me out. Maybe this will make sense.
This was the first time where I ran the race, a race wherein I had finally decided I wanted to have a positive experience, after years of sub-par performances on this course, and go for a respectable PR, as part of a team of people that brought with them a sense of unity and fellowship, a drive to haul ass like no other, and an unmatchable passion for the sport. I’ve done the team thing before with CM but only half-assedly; it was more akin to me finding out that there existed a team competition, and I got a bunch of my buddies on the roster, and that was it. There was no intention; there was no strategy; fuck, there wasn’t even a mention of it after I got everyone’s bib numbers and names to list on the roster.
CM13 was different, though.
There was most definitely intention.
There was most definitely strategy.
And among other things, there was pressure and stress–the good kind, the kind that helped me get psyched up for the event in a way that I thought of simply being on my team–the Bootleg Runners Coalition–an honor in and of itself.
I wanted to perform not only for myself but also for my team. I didn’t necessarily care if we “won” or “lost” simply because I didn’t know what stakes, if any, were on the line.
Like I alluded to earlier, though, I was running CM not just for me and my never-ending goal-chasing pursuits but also as part of a bigger group of people, of runners whose experience and performances make me starry-eyed and wonder “wow… maybe I can run like X when I grow up…”
Suffice it to say that having this experience of running as part of a group, of running as part of a group of people–friends–who are as genuinely interested in hearing about and supporting each other’s training as much as they are than their own training (perhaps even more) is incredibly, mind-blowingly refreshing as it is downright humbling.
Though I am fortunate to be able to have many people in my pocket, people who are my cheerleaders day in and day out of the sometimes grueling reality that is marathon training, these specific run buddies, folks who have since become my BRC teammates, really helped make my CM13 memorable. In no particular order:
On a 21-miler in Barrington in the depths of winter, my friend Amy and I happened upon Meredith, who had (I think) gotten turned around somewhere and didn’t know a shortcut back to the high school. This chance encounter led to a phone number and email exchange and, later, a friendship rooted in dailymile (strange as that sounds) and each other’s workouts as we prepared for our spring races. It wasn’t until Ragnar in June that we even saw each other (and ran together) again, but Meredith has genuinely and positively supported me since the winter, pretty much since the time I’ve been on dailymile. She is tough, smart, and so technical in her running that I’ve learned I can’t skim her dm posts if I want to remotely understand them (and even with a lot of time, and several read-throughs, I’m not sure I do). Watching her balls-to-the-wall training this year in preparation for her marathon in September was awesome; what was even better was hearing about her enormous marathon PR. There was no one I wanted to see at mile 25/25 and change at CM13 more than Meredith. Her marathon in September? 3:23.
Annabelle, also known as Captain Bootlegger:
A chance encounter with this woman in Barrington (in the parking lot, after running with Meredith and Amy) in the winter eventually led to a twitter connection that led to me jumping on her Ragnar Yogging relay team that, eventually, led to me “formally” partaking in the BRC and reppin’ appropriately at CM13. Annabelle’s the type of runner who gets shit done. She’s not wasting her time taking mid-run selfies or tweeting hashtag-running to her twittersphere. She saturates her 9-5 with her heart and passion, much as she does her running. She’s as smart a runner as she is competitive and damn talented, and were it not for her positively channeling what she affectionately calls a “tantrum” one day, there would be no BRC. AB’s a badass and worth knowing. Oh, yea, and before her CM13 PR, she PRed the distance in September, won the women’s side of the marathon race, and then, just a few weeks later, took another 90 seconds off her mary PR to score Chicago in a 3:13.
Again, with the chance encounters… though I have AB to thank for this one. Meeting Lynton on a very steamy and warm summer Sunday morning run was pretty awesome, especially when I learned that he, too, is the same type of cray-cray as I am and was doing two marathons in the fall season (Fox Valley and NYC). Soon after this run, he was on dailymile, and similar to Meredith, seeing how he nailed his runs day after day, week after week, was so inspiring to me. That he was following the same plan as I was, Pfitzinger’s 70/12, was also fun And, in the ‘special type of crazy’ department, Lynton totally did it for me when he willingly decided to do a grueling pre-dawn (circa 4 a.m.) speed session with me at the NPU track in the middle of the summer. Again, another runner with very little fanfare but with a tenacity and commitment to improvement that’s simply unmatchable. Such a good guy to know, such a tough runner, and one whom I am totally looking forward to seeing progress for many years to come. Fistbump. For him at mary 1 of 2, earlier this fall? 3:09. PR city.
People think I’m crazy for doing the pre-dawn running, but I don’t do it every day. Declan does. Aside from being an amazing dad–seriously, I can count on one-half of one-hand how infrequently I have seen his toddler daughter have a toddler moment–he decided to run CM as his first marathon–NBD, it’s a popular race for first-timers–by following the Hansons Marathon Method. Yes, Hansons. If you know nothing about Hansons, know this. It’s unconventional. It’s tough. Really, really tough. Most runners, I’d say ~85%, couldn’t handle it. Not only did Declan use a challenging plan for his first go at the mary distance, he did most of his runs, and was back home getting ready to go to work, before most of us hear our first alarms in the morning. Declan is like the mayor of the Chicago running bloggers’ world insomuch that if you have a blog, and Declan has read it (which he probably has), he has commented on your stuff and has expressed a sincere interest in supporting you somehow. This guy has a heart of gold, and he made all the MLRs throughout the summer fun and quick, even if many days we were texting each other in the 4 or, as was often the case, 3 o’clock hour (yes, a.m.), giving each other status updates about our.. uh… bio breaks and the likelihood we’d be leaving on time. It happens. Oh, yes, and the first time we ran together (having met off the internet and all), it rained and thunderstormed like the world was ending, and it totally killed his phone. One last thing- remember that whole “he ran his first marathon ever and used Hansons” thing I was just mentioning? 3:17. FIRST MARATHON. Watch out for the mayor on the running path. Soon enough, you won’t be able to catch him.
Like I wrote in the world’s longest race recap, were it not for Ken’s insistence that I sign up for and run Chicago this year, I wouldn’t have done it. Honestly, it is because of Ken that I even learned about dailymile in the first place, since he was the one of the first people Twitter recommended me to follow, and many of his posts were links to his DM entries. He has no idea how he has connected me to scores of runners whom I would have never had the opportunity to meet (and support) otherwise, and the fellowship that I have with the many runners I do now is largely because of him. Ken’s an aggressive runner, someone who says he came “late to the sport and is making up for lost time,” and a runner who sees running as part of the bigger picture. I can talk hippie-dippie-runner-shit with him, and he both tolerates and reciprocates it; I mean, c’mon. He’s vegan. Of all the runners I’ve highlighted here tonight, I’ve known Ken the longest (though still, less than a year, incredibly), and consider him like my super-speedy older brother whom I’d one day like to finally catch (though he assures me this is in the works). Like Mere, Annabelle, Lynton, and Declan, Ken, too, is a fanfare-less runner. He wants to run? He runs. He wants to kick ass and take names? He does. I tease him about his fan club of followers on dailymile, but people love Ken for a reason. I don’t think I personally know of any other runner who is faster or, more importantly, more humble than Ken. It’s a special match for sure, but hey. He’s a special guy. This year’s CM13 for him? 3:00. And oh yeah, he’s PRed every distance he’s raced this year. NBD.
What made my CM13 race experience wasn’t my course PR, or my legit PR, or the wonderful, actually-feels-like-fall-weather that I finally got to experience on what is usually a godforsaken Sunday in October.
What made my experience is the people, my run buddies, my BRC teammates, yes, but more importantly, those whom I am proud to call my friends. Running has enriched my life in ways I would have never in a million years imagined, and this race experience–because really, the marathon was just part of the puzzle–perfectly manifests this idea.
To Meredith, Annabelle, Lynton, Declan, and Ken, and readers, to your own run buddies, the cheerleaders you keep in your back pocket, raise a glass of the fluid of your own choosing. Cheers, guys. And thanks.
PS- One last thing. That team competition wherein the BRC competed? The ladies’ team, the team I was part of? Totally won.