The First Cut is the Deepest

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This post will be the first of I don’t know how many. I’ve been putting my thoughts on running (mostly), life (hardly at all), and virtually nothing else on paper for over a year now, but have been simply keeping it in a text document. I’m hoping that putting them in a public forum will inspire me to take note of what I’m thinking and feeling more often. For now, it’ll mostly be running stuff, but I’m also going to post some of the research that I’m doing for work that I find interesting. Just little projects (or other random things) that others might find interesting. Maybe it will spur some discussion or questions. Who knows. Maybe you’ll get bored and not come back. Fine. But you’re wrong and I dislike you (hate is a strong word).

Anyways, I’m going to start with my most recent entry about the Boston Marathon and then will be posting from the beginning (December 2011) so you can follow chronologically back up to the present. It’s kind of like the Star Wars Machete Order (see: http://www.nomachetejuggling.com/2011/11/11/the-star-wars-saga-suggested-viewing-order/ ), but not really. I just wanted to get that link in there because it’s important. So here goes…

Monday, May 13, 2013

This entry comes after a longer hiatus than I had hoped, but a lot happened and I’m not quite sure I’ve gotten a grip on it yet. We’ll start with the marathon itself. It went fantastic. As well as it could have. The trip there was uneventful. I got to see a bunch of friends from UNC and the apartment Liz and I were staying in was ideally located. I picked up my packet on Saturday without any issues, went for a shake out around town (almost identical to what Monk and I did last year), and then just tried to relax. I had a great dinner with Liz, Mark, his wife, Ellen, and Allie at an Italian restaurant that had clearly changed its prices for marathon weekend, but it was fun and a good pre-race meal so no complaints. As for the race itself, it went perfectly. No troubles getting to the start line. The weather cooperated. Cheyne and I were very conservative through the first couple downhill miles and from 4-5 miles onward, the race was spent picking people off. We came through the half in 1:10:40 and I felt great. Controlled, relaxed, and comfortable. The fans were awesome and responded every time I asked for support. I was on my own starting around mile 17, and just kept pushing. My splits stayed pretty steady and while I slowly became more fatigued, the hills didn’t pose much of a problem (thanks, Mt. Tam!), and I was able to keep moving along well late into the race. I think I was only passed by 1 person (#84 – which means I passed him at some point), which I think is another indicator of how well the race went. I unfortunately didn’t see any of my friends on the course, although they saw me, which I think is more important. I just can’t get out of my head how amazing the crowds were. Anytime I felt tired or started to slip, I’d ask for some noise and was rewarded with incredible support. I still get chills thinking about it and was having such a good time that a lot of the photos show me grinning like an idiot. That’s how much fun I was having.

I finished 26th overall in 2:21:40 (almost perfectly even splits) and couldn’t have been happier. I then made my way back to the apt, showered, changed, and got a burger with peanut butter and bacon on it. It was delicious. After that, I made my way up to the government center area to meet Dave and some others. That’s when the bombs went off. We were sitting in the restaurant and all of a sudden the news flashed up something about explosions at the finish line. Everyone went quiet. It was surreal. No one knew what was going on and once it sunk in and we realized that someone had attacked the finish line, there was a mad dash to get in contact with friends and family to assure everyone that I was OK and to find out if my friends who were running the race as well were ok. But mostly, it was just disbelief. That someone could do something so evil at an event that is something people work their entire lives for and is supposed to be a celebration of the human spirit is unbelievable. I just don’t understand what drives someone to commit such a heinous act. But more on that later…

After reaching my parents and assuring them I was all right, responding to texts, emails and messages that I was OK, and trying to sort through what was going on with those around me, I headed back to the apt and met up with Liz. We had dinner and just went to bed, still trying to comprehend what had happened. While we were walking around trying to find food, we saw countless police cars and ambulances, as well as bomb squads. It was surreal after seeing how lively the city was last year after the marathon.

I flew to Durham the next morning (with no issues, thankfully) and spent the rest of the week catching up with dear friends, eating a lot, and running some. On Saturday, Jason, Duncan, Jen, and I traveled up to Medoc for the Spring Races, a 7.4 mile trail race with staggered starting groups, like the Dipsea. I wasn’t sure how my legs would fair, but they felt surprisingly good on the trails and despite falling twice on the sometimes very slick terrain, I finished 3rd. I was disappointed that I could not choose the toilet or the broad sword for my prize, as I had to get it on the plane, but it was a great event and I hope they see continued success with it! That night, we ran the Bull City spring beer mile, which was a ton of fun (although my legs were dead), and then went out in Chapel Hill. It was so great being back with everyone.

I flew back to SF the following morning and have been running pretty easy ever since. The mileage has been high and that, combined with the fact that I didn’t take any time off after the marathon, has led to my legs feeling pretty dead over the past week or so. We ran a 2 mile time trial about 2 weeks ago and it felt awful. It’s weird, although not terribly surprising, that I feel terrible on the roads/track when I try to run fast, but feel pretty good up on the mountain. I’ve been going for long runs on Saturdays (16-20 miles) and those have gone well, but I think they leave me more fatigued than normal since I haven’t recovered fully from the marathon. I took a couple of days off last week and am hoping that will help speed my recovery. Bay to Breakers is Sunday, followed by Marin 10k and then the Dipsea in just under 4 weeks. I have to get my legs back under me for Dipsea. That’s priority #1.

As for the tragic events that unfolded during the marathon and in the following week, I still don’t think I have a grasp on their significance. I am happy that the people responsible were identified. The survivor’s fate remains to be seen. I won’t mention their names because they don’t deserve the recognition. Their acts were unspeakable and I cannot imagine what the victims and their families are feeling right now. I’ve heard and read countless opinions on the issue and I think I agree most with what Shalane Flanagan said about it: “I am just pissed off.” That the attackers didn’t kill more people is a miracle, considering how tightly packed people are at the finish. But they injured hundreds and changed thousands of lives. Anyone who was in the city that day will forever remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news, especially if they were part of the race. It seems similar to 9/11 in that respect, albeit on a much smaller scale. It could have been much, much worse, but for a few, it was as bad as it possibly could have been.

My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the blast itself. But they are also with everyone who ran that day. People work their entire lives to qualify for this race and now they feel like they can’t be proud of what they did for fear of seeming selfish or uncaring in the face of such horror. Or at least that’s what I’m feeling. I had a great race but I don’t feel like I can talk about it because people will think that I am not being respectful of those who were injured. Whenever someone asks about Boston and I say it went great, I have to quickly add, “Well, it was great until the bombs went off.” Everyone who was out there did something great, whether or not they had a good race or even finished (by choice or not), and we should be able to talk about it. The obstacles we overcame in qualifying, training, and racing. The emotions we experienced on the course, as we navigated the hills and crossed the finish line, all seem insignificant in light of what happened. But they aren’t. 27,000 people came into that race with a common goal, countless individual triumphs that led to that point, and for us to be unable to talk about it is aggravating. We’ve earned the right to share our stories but we’re afraid to do so for fear of offending someone who may think we’re forgetting about what happened. And that sucks. But let me be clear, this is only about what the attackers took away from everyone, not me being upset that someone might take offense to my talking about my race (I hope that makes sense). I’m angry that people have the right to get angry when folks talk about their race instead of the events that occurred. The attackers took away not only lives and health, but accomplishments and stories and everything positive that should be linked with marathon Monday.

Runners are a determined group of people. It’s probably harder to keep a runner from running than it is almost any other sport. We train (stupidly) through injuries, illness, and any other ailment that we might come up against. That determination showed in the minutes, hours, and days following the explosions. From the man who was knocked over and got up to finish, to everyone who ran towards the chaos to help, to those who donated blood after finishing, to those who weren’t even there who made the decision to run Boston next year, everyone involved showed the resolve inherent in a marathon. Boston 2014 will be a truly memorable event and I am already looking forward to it. In the meantime, there are wounds yet to be healed, and while it may take some time, we will be stronger for it.

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About afvarner

Runner. Donuts. Sneakerhead. Not necessarily in that order. Nike Trail Elite. Picky Bars. Gu. Vicory Sportdesign.
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