The much-anticipated 21-mile run was last weekend.
This, the last long run before game day, was hosted by the B.A.A. and set on a freezing Saturday morning, in a sun-shining, main streets and back roads-meandering kind of way (if by meandering, you mean chugging along with hot pink Kinesio tape on your legs and a booger rag tied to your fuel belt).
We merry Miles for Miracles runners began our run in Hopkinton, crossing the official marathon start line (!) at 8:30am and following the real-live marathon course through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley and Newton.
It was encouraging to see how quickly the time passed between “Entering X(Town Name)” signs. We watched carefully along the roadside for the mile markers to appear – some with “Water” hugging the number to signify that the sweet relief of good old H2O would be provided at that mile. (Really – the miles of the marathon are painted – stencil-style – on the left side of the road, in the same white paint used to mark the lanes.)
So, all was going well. Happy volunteers were ringing cowbells and pumping fists, assuring us that next time we passed these stretches, they’d be covered with wall-to-wall spectators screaming “Go Children’s” and offering orange slices.
Basking in delightful anticipation, it was all spectators and slices for me … until Mile 16.
Mile 16 is on Washington Street in Newton, at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, just before the right turn onto Comm. Ave. and the ascent to Heartbreak Hill.
It was then when an imaginary child – overweight and cantankerous – grabbed each ankle, demanding to be carried the remainder of my run. It was all I could do not to shuffle the last 5 miles.
I took a handful of walk breaks – never on the uphills, strangely my forte – and then pretty much, okay, fully struggled the rest of the way.
I welcomed a quick break at Comm. and Center (where I will be meeting Sissy to run the last 6 miles together, when I will be swallowed up by the enchanting glow of Heaven and overcome by the melodic voices of a thousand angels whose wings will blow sweet warm breezes under my shoes and whisk me to Copley Square).
Where were we? Ah, yes, REALITY – salty, sweat-stained temples and ten-ton legs. Back to Comm. and Center. That was where I was interviewed – no joke – by a reporter from WBZ News who asked whether I was experiencing a runner’s high. “Right now?” I asked, and quickly continued, “No. My legs are so heavy I can barely move.”
Not the answer she was looking for. I pressed on.
The last of Heartbreak’s 4 hills found me pulling out all the stops – I mean, ALL the stops. With an overpowering desire to stop right where I was and become better acquainted with the pavement, I first tried some tough love. It went something like this:
“Don’t stop now, dude. Just do it. Run. RUN. No stopping. Power through. You OWN this hill.”
Too mean. I tried a kinder approach:
“Come on, honey. You’re doing a grrrrrrreat job. You are working so hard. Keep it up!”
Didn’t last long. Searching brain for inspiration … got it:
“Do it for Jayla! She and her parents have been through so much – surely you can run a few miles for them!”
Getting warmer. Still struggling. My legs were shaking, my mind was racing (at least one part of my body was), and all. I. wanted. to. do. was. STOP, for the love of God – let’s just call it a DAY!
And then, from out of nowhere, all the panicked thoughts exited the building and the loudspeakers in my head blasted “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the uphill became a downhill, the downhill became Mile 21, the Journey became the Children’s volunteers screaming my name through a megaphone, and the volunteers parted to reveal my favorite running partners – offering high-fives for a job well done.
The moral of this story – Journey: not just for the Sopranos.
Can’t wait for game day.