We ran that half marathon on Sunday, up in Chris' hometown of Plattsburgh. They put together a nicely-organized race up there featuring both the 13.1 distance and a two-person relay. We indulged in pizza, pasta and garlic bread the day before, in the name of proper carbo-loading :) We also had a beer each and I am now a firm believer that a beer the night before may actually help me run faster. Every PR I've set for various distances was proceeded by a beer or two the night before. Maybe it's just the extra carbs, but it's a routine I can get behind.
It was cold, in the low 30s, but sunny. I ran 11 minutes faster than my previous best time, crossing the finish line just a few minutes under two hours with an average pace of around 9 minutes per mile. Chris ran a super fast race, surprising us both by placing 20th overall and 3rd in his age group, running at an average pace of 6:45 minutes per mile. I was in the zone, practicing my running meditation and concentrating on my form. Whenever I felt tired I shook out my arms, squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and picked up the pace. Or at least, tried not to slow down.
I ran. I thought about Boston. I ran through my to-do list for work. I thought about Chris and wondered how his race was going. I dreamt about food and started planning our summer vacation. I wondered if I looked funny in my sunglasses and then decided I didn't care. I checked in with my body to make sure everything was going ok, and mostly it was. But in between these thoughts, I tried not thinking. I tried to both stay in the present but to allow my mind to escape while my body kept running.
(via Charity Miles, the app I use to turn miles into charitable donations)
What a way to the pass the time. Running for a long time, dedicating hours to yourself, pushing your body but realizing that it's all within reach. It's just a half marathon. It's a small, friendly race. It's a choice you make. You commit to setting aside time to run, to eating a little better and going to bed a little earlier. It's not that radical. It's not that extreme but it still guides you along that path of becoming a peaceful zen lunatic, a soul rebel out on the road with your feet and your mind. You can sit back afterwards and feel proud of your accomplishment but not overwhelmed by it. I am thrilled with how I ran last weekend. Thrilled! But keeping it in perspective. I'm faster than I used to be. I'm less nervous about running than I used to be. I'm a little bit better at seeing the big picture than I used to be. My running is a work in progress, marked by missed workouts, less-than-inspiring runs and even bad weeks. Sometimes I'd rather sit and read. Sometimes I push myself to get out there but sometimes I don't. Sometimes I just can't. It's all alright. You do your best. You grab those moments of running zen and hold them close, savoring them and calling on them when the inspiration doesn't come so easily. Either way, you still get your pre-race pizza and your post-race beer (or is it the other way around?) With running, it balances out.