Thursday, February 13, 2014

Holding Myself Back

I've started reaching the long mileage portion of my Boston Marathon training. This is now -- to be clear -- the fifth marathon I've trained for (count 'em...New York '11...New  York '12...Miami '13...New York '13...and now Boston). This should be old hat by now, right? 

I have two points I'd like to make about this:

1) It is never easy to run 14 or 16 or 26.2 miles. Never. This is not easier now, but rather perhaps just a bit less daunting? Perhaps a bit more familiar? But not easy. Nuh-uh.

2) This:

Outside is a disaster, and Archie is not impressed. 

During my New York and Miami training seasons I had my Team for Kid group or friends from the group that were there pretty consistently, not to mention running friends such as Kevin and Jen who made regular appearances in my training schedule. 

For this particular marathon training, my running friends have wisely gone into hibernation and I am out there on my own.

If you are a Les Mis fan, please do yourself a favor and watch Lea Salonga perform the greatest version of On My Own ever from the 10th Anniversary "Dream Cast." And then watch all the 10th Anniversary videos. You're welcome.

Two weekends ago I had done my normal Friday night spaghetti dinner and was readying myself for my normal early bedtime, and I was simply dreading the solo Saturday morning 12-miler I'd have to do. The idea of being out there in the cold for two hours alone was honestly the most demotivating feeling ever.

I was missing my running friends and the social aspect that I have come to associate so strongly with my long runs. I've gotten to know new people and I've gotten to make and spend time with some amazing friends. We commiserate, we cheer each other on, and we celebrate our mini-accomplishments. Without that camaraderie I'm just, like, running for hours. And that's decidedly not as fun.

Now, I've known for a while that running stores offer group runs. Nike, The Running Store, Lululemon and Jack Rabbit not only all offer runs, but I am actually on their mailing lists, following them on Facebook and on Twitter to see when these runs happen. And I've never gone. Not a once.

"That's....weird," you are saying to yourself. "You're very social and you're always up for meeting new people. Why haven't you been, MeriG? This seems like a no-brainer to me!"

Well, the short answer is: I didn't have the confidence to go. I was scared.

Here I am, just over 9 weeks away from running my third marathon. I have run 11 official Half Marathons. I now have a regular workout schedule that includes long runs, speed and hill shorter runs, yoga, and strength training. I eat poorly. (C'mon I can't be perfect!) But you would think that at this point after regularly running and working out for 6-ish years I would be somewhat confident in my abilities. Yes? 

In my mind I'm still the chubby kid getting picked last in gym class. (Damn you, Mr. Coffin! Damn you!) I'm still the girl who more sauntered the mile rather than ran it. I'm the nerd, not the athlete.

And so, I assumed I would be too slow to keep up with all the ammaaazzzingggg people who go to running clubs. I pictured them and I got scared.

My view of them

My view of me

On Saturday morning I woke up around 8 and while I was getting ready I couldn't stop thinking about Jack Rabbit. It's a store I've gone to for years and I knew they that had a 9am group run that was advertised to be 10-11 miles. I decided then and there that I would stop being so lame and stop thinking and just put on my big girl pants (in this case warm running tights) and go check it out. I put money and a metro card in my fuel belt in case I wanted to bail out midway through or in case they left me behind or in case I hated it....and I was on my way.

The group met at the store (UES location, 84th and Lex) where we stood in a circle and introduced ourselves to the group. Some people were clearly regulars, but there were a bunch of other newbies. We had an opportunity to drop off bags and coats, use the restroom, get some water or grab a free Gu, and we were on our way.

There was a group leader keeping tags of our little band of runners, and he led us on a route that took us up through Harlem and into Washington Heights on an out-and-back run that culminated in some amazing views and new terrain (although a bit icy for my taste...but I suppose that's unavoidable this year.)

Over the couple of hours that I was out there I not only saw some new sights, but I also got to talk to some really great people. And the time truly flew by. It was the type of training run I had learned to enjoy in the past and that I had really been missing.

There were people faster than me, and slower than me. Runners sped up, they slowed down, and they waited for each other after stoplights. I had absolutely nothing to be worried about, as I could more than keep up with the pack. 

In the past, I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up or that I would hold the group back...that I never actually had tried. And that's really the shame of it all. I went back to Jack Rabbit last week for a second time and plan on checking out the Upper West Side location this weekend (assuming mother nature doesn't want to put a wrench in that plan!) I had no reason to think so negatively about myself and my abilities. No, I'll never be the fastest in a group. And, yes, there was a point I may have been the slowest. But either way, who cares!? We're all out there to have a good time and not to win a race. AND I CAN GET PICKED IN GYM. [Ahem, my apologies...I guess there's still some stuff deep in side of here...carry on.)

I notice that others are often more impressed of my accomplishments than I am. I finished the NYC Marathon in 4:24. To others, that's amazing. To me? I sometimes see the sub-4 that seems unattainable. Others are so impressed that I'd even fathom 12 miles in the cold, whereas I just saw the fact that I can't run faster than a 9-minute mile. 

I'm trying to stop comparing. I need to start viewing my accomplishments and my abilities more on their own merit. Because there's a lot of that merit! And honestly, there always was. Although I always want to improve, I need to recognize that I have the ability to keep up with the pack today. Doubt is the only thing keeping me back, and not my speed or my stamina.

I can't wait to see where my run takes me this week!

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I am running the Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge! I have raised $6,665 towards my goal of $10,000! Find our more or donate here:


  1. GIIIIRRRRLLLLLLLL my first day meeting you at the corner of 79th and 1st on that fateful cross-town bus to the TFK group I thought you were WAY out of my running league. I was like, WOAH this girl means business and I stumble and bumble along. Glad you finally had the courage to go to Jack Rabbit. MISS YOU RUNNING BFFEAEAE

  2. I am so so so so so scared of group runs. Even running with friends. I have one friend who I would run with and well she just had a baby is engaged and moved to the suburbs. Solo runner now here. Deathly afraid of holding people back. Sigh. I will get over it. One day.

  3. Running in and of itself is intimidating to me- never mind joining a group of strangers who could literally run circles around me over and over. So impressed that you tackled both!

    1. Thanks, Kate! I bet you'd be okay though if you were interested in joining!

  4. You've inspired me to make the leap to a group run! I've been eyeing them for a while and share some of the same concerns you had. Plus, I feel super timid around new groups of people. But you make it sound like too much fun to miss.

    1. Glad to offer some inspiration! Check one out and let me know how it went!