How did I get here?
Exactly two years ago today, I ran the 2015 Boston Marathon And in reflecting on my marathon experience on Monday, I realized that most of you probably don’t know this story, or how @coffeeandcardio came about.
I attended Wellesley College, famous in part for being the site of the "Scream Tunnel" midway through the Boston Marathon. Marathon Monday is the best day of the year, in my opinion, with the energy and the community surrounding the race so electric you can feel it. I always had the thought that I wanted to run a marathon, but it wasn't until the experience of the 2013 Boston Marathon that it became a serious idea. Mostly, I needed a way to cope with my feelings about the bombing, and running long distances seemed like a great place to start.
I ran my first marathon one year later in March of 2014, and I trained to run the Los Angeles Marathon for The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in March of 2015. And I trained *well*. I was running long and strong, and feeling good. I didn’t do much cross training, because I didn’t want to be tired for a long run. Come race day, I was on track to PR until mile 19 when my personal worst-case marathon conditions combined with endurance that had no strength behind it, and the wheels fell off. Dizzy, cold sweats, sharp pain in my hip flexors and feet covered in blisters from the heat. Mentally, I was devastated, prepared to curl up and pretend the race had never happened.
And that would have been fine, had I not been offered the chance of a lifetime four days later. The Autism Research Foundation, a charity I interned for in Boston while in college called me to offer me a bib for the Boston Marathon to raise money and awareness about their athletics inclusion program for kids with autism. And being someone who still had intense, "world's greatest sporting event" feelings about the Boston Marathon, on top of feelings about the bombing in 2013, I couldn’t say no. I hadn't qualified, but would have the chance to run the race I loved in the city I loved, for a cause I believe in.
With six weeks to my second race day, the combination of anxiety about the race and overwhelming emotions about running the race that inspired me to run marathons hit hard, so much so that I pretty much felt paralyzed about how to train or what to do. I was so anxious the week leading up to the race that I was dry heaving, unable to keep food down, too pent up to sleep. Soaking up the race atmosphere in my favorite city and feeling the support from friends and family helped, and I decided that rather than run for a specific time goal, all I wanted was to finish in one piece.
Race day in Boston was a crisp 48 degrees, and by the time my corral was called a steady rain started and wouldn’t let up until long after I finished. To my surprise, even through I choked back tears crossing the start the atmosphere was contagious and I started at a cautious but strong pace. But at mile 16, right before Heartbreak Hill the effect of my prerace anxiety-induced nausea hit me in a big way; I ran out of gas. I choked down a packet of nut better I had saved for after the race, and went so far as to stop at a spectators tent to ask for a piece of bread. Starving and freezing, I ran the next ten miles in a haze, determined not to quit but unsure I could keep going. More than once I stopped at a med tent for help to stretch out my hip flexor, and by the time I made the left turn onto Boylston I was once again choking back tears. I crossed the finish line triumphantly, one hand held high, overwhelmed with gratitude that the longest fives hours of my life were over.
Over the days and weeks following the race, my relief about managing to finish the race was drowned out by the realization of just how much I had beaten down my body. I ran two races in the span of six weeks that I wasn’t prepared for, physically or mentally. I had cardio endurance for days, but was mentally and physically too weak to do use it for anything. Looking at race day photos only confirmed what I was feeling—even the miles when I had been feeling good, I looked pained and sloppy with bad form. Running, which had always been my outlet for stress; a way to strengthen my body and mind had become a source of anxiety and isolation.
Two weeks after the race, I decided it was time for a change. I started a fitness instagram account to hold myself accountable, and dedicated the next 365 days to finding health and strength of both mind and body. For me, this account has never been about the number on a scale, or in the tag of a pair of jeans. It has never been about hating my body, or a complicated relationship with food. It has, and will continue to be, about honoring my body and spirit and the things they can do by putting in the work to strengthen them. About knowing that as incredible as your body is, it cannot function as an athlete without a strong foundation- physical and mental. Today, I feel strong and happy, and my relationship with running is the best it’s ever been. Y’all have had a big part in that.
I have never had the intention of turning this into a blog, but in sitting down to write about my experience with Boston I realized that I have more to say than a caption will allow. So, if you want to hear more about what I have to say, stick around. I don’t know that it will be a frequent thing (and lord knows this is not a perfectly designed #blog), but I am grateful to have so many people interested in what I have to say. Next to my health and wellness, this incredible community is the greatest thing that could have ever come from a cold, miserable, rainy run from Hopkinton to Boylston.