1,015.6. That’s how many miles I logged on my Garmin last year — along the Mount Vernon, Four Mile Run and Potomac Yard trails, at the National Mall, in the neighborhoods of Arlington and Old Town Alexandria. In other places, too: Philly; the Poconos; Portland, Maine; and Orange County, California, where my passion for pounding the pavement began.
I didn’t always like running. I preferred tennis, Jane Fonda (her workout videos) and rollerblading like a true ’90s kid. My dad was the runner. For his 50th birthday, he ran the Los Angeles Marathon. I don’t remember much of it, but I do recall the blue shorts he sported while training. Lows included my mom picking him up from a roadside payphone where he’d stopped, exhausted on one of his long runs; highs: how jazzed he looked after that March 7, 1993 race.
It stayed in my mind and as I approached my 30th birthday, I laced up my Asics and followed in his footsteps. The OC 5K was my first sanctioned race, with numerous others over the years — 10Ks, 10-milers and half marathons from Orange County to D.C. Among them: my first Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. (that mile sixish hill ruined me) and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, engulfed in blooms at Hains Point.
In 2019, I tackled the Marine Corps Marathon, my first attempt at 26.2 miles.
It was a personal victory. 13.1 miles is one thing — doubling it is quite different. I was terrified of hitting that wall around mile 20, about not finishing, about tripping over my own feet.
But more than that was my health. I live with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic disease in which the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin, a hormone that impacts blood sugar levels. Every little thing complicates exercise. Blood sugar too high? Expect severe muscle cramps. Blood sugar too low? I risk a seizure. So, I must pause, eat something sugary (Clif Bloks, Honey Stinger Gel or glucose tabs) and wait. There’s a sweet spot for pre-run fuel and it’s become somewhat of a science, ranging from half of a grapefruit to overnight oats, berries and almonds, plus snacks along the way (the latter for a marathon). There are other factors, too; adrenaline, for example, spikes me.
It did exactly that before the rainy Marine Corps Marathon, slowing me down for seven miles before evening out and letting me bask in the pleasure and pain of it all. (I cried happy tears at the finish line.) There to support me were friends (one ran a mile with me), my husband, Luke, and of course my dad, whose 4-hour, 50-minute marathon years before mirrored my own.
It helps knowing there are people in your camp, even if they don’t get it. Luke will never understand what drives me to get up in the wee hours and run some ridiculous mileage before a full day of work.
I can’t tell you why either. There’s something about watching the sunrise, exploring new neighborhoods, the sound of the podcast in my ears (the news, true crime series), the sheer focus it takes. Feeling my body move. Deciding if those deadlifts are paying off. (They are. I’ve become a strength, HIIT and circuit training devotee thanks to FitOn and trainers Danielle Pascente, Breann Mitchell and Bree Koegel.)
So, what’s on my summer calendar? I have some kinks to deal with, like the literal (sciatic) pain in my butt I’ve had for years which brings down the spirit of running. Physical therapy has helped in the past, so I’ll probably return to that. I want to try acupuncture — but have a fear of someone else poking me with a needle. (As a person with T1D, I realize this is absurd.) And I’m trying to drink less wine: The fewer glasses I have, the better my runs. But I also love a good vino. Balance, right?
In terms of running, I want to build up my endurance again. Since my second RNR Half in November 2021 (it was much more successful this time — I credit my interval training), I’ve reduced my distance. As I write this, I’m averaging between 16 and 20 miles a week, with my long run Fridays topping out at 8 miles. Speed, too: I don’t think I’ll ever be as fast as I was as a young person, but I’d love to get back to an under two-hour half, even if it’s 1 hour, 59 minutes. (The RNR had me at about
2 hours, 18 minutes; my Garmin at 2 hours, 13 minutes.)
As for the races? My first Broad Street Run 10-miler in Philly is on May 1. By the time this article has come out, I’ll have figured out if I want to apply and have been approved to run with the Beyond Type One team at the New York City Marathon. Also on my radar are the Army Ten-Miler in October and the Virginia Wine Country Half in May. And, maybe I’ll switch up my solo runs and join a club, like Pacers Running, or hit the road with a friend.
More than anything, though, I want to savor each moment of running ahead.
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