on the run

To say I love running is a lie.  It's more like a love/hate relationship, but through it, I've been able to do some pretty amazing things.  Things that I never thought I'd be able to do or even want to do for that matter.  I've also seen incredible things by hitting the pavement in new places that I visit.  Here, I chronicle some of my past experiences, future ones, and the gear and friends that got me there.

Marine Corps Marathon 2015

Washington, DC

Pictured from left to right: Nicole, Brianna, Lisa, Michelle, Lauren, and yours truly.  We really did want to be at brunch and for those wondering, we dubbed ourselves "meatballs" after one very long (10 hour) brunch.  The majority of us are Italians from New Jersey and Long Island.  Fahgeddaboutit!

my first marathon

Do you ever feel like your only accomplishments are work related and your personal hobbies include drinking wine and sitting on the couch in order to decompress from said work related activities?  Sure, I was doing some pretty cool things with work like traveling the world.  As my 30th birthday loomed on the horizon, I desperately needed a personal accomplishment that wasn't easily obtained.  

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Gear must have: gps watch

For years I thought that running gear was only for expert athletes like career marathoners.  I never put much thought into any of it and just went about my runs using the Nike+ app on my iPhone.  It wasn't until I started running with Team in Training and saw that nearly everyone had some form of a running watch that I started to consider buying one.  After all, I am notorious for buying an activity's "accoutrement" despite being a total novice like that time I took a surfing lesson and proceeded to buy a $600 board and rash guard (I've used the board twice and that was 15 years ago..)

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my first marathon

Do you ever feel like your only accomplishments are work related and your personal hobbies include drinking wine and sitting on the couch in order to decompress from said work related activities?  Sure, I was doing some pretty cool things with work like traveling the world.  As my 30th birthday loomed on the horizon, I desperately needed a personal accomplishment that wasn't easily obtained.  Having run a half marathon the year prior, I decided that I needed to run a full marathon before I turned 30.  My cousin joined me in this endeavor and we decided on the Walt Disney World Marathon because -- do I even need to explain why?!

We wanted to be distracted and we'd heard tales of people jumping on rides mid-race.  Having crushed (alright, I use this term loosely) the Disney World Half Marathon the year earlier, we both agreed it'd be a fun one to conquer.  Just like the half marathon, we committed to running with Team in Training, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's athletic fundraising program.  For us, it was a no brainer.  We would run again for those who can't.  We signed up and quickly tried to forget about how "fun" training was going to be.  Sure the race was in sunny Florida in January, but that meant training in freezing cold temps in New Jersey the few months prior.  It was going to be no easy feat.

The first month or two of training was relatively painless.  We did our weekly runs at 5:30am with our usual running crew and saved the long runs for Saturdays with Team in Training.  The support they provided was invaluable, especially once the weekly mileage got higher, but more on that later.

When the day arrived where I had to run more than 13.1 miles I was nervous.  Up until then, it had been smooth sailing.  8 miles?  Ha!  Been there done that many times.  But 15?  15 scared the lights out of me.  What if I couldn't do it?  What if I was only meant for half marathon mileage?  I took my time, making sure to stop at every water stop to stay hydrated.  With each step, I came closer to that magical number and I will never forget the last mile.  It was a long stretch of boardwalk that ran parallel to the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty was so close I felt like I could touch her.  I looked down at my Garmin and realized that each step was the farthest I had ever run.  Suddenly, I became so overwhelmed with emotions - elation, shock, accomplishment, but mostly with gratitude.  I felt so grateful that I had the ability to run.  That I could move my legs, one in front of the other, without any issues.  And I could do so whenever I wanted to.  I thought of all the people in the world that I was running for.  Those who were unwell, bedridden, wheelchair bound, or those who had lost their battle entirely.  That feeling is something I will truly never forget.

As the months got colder, I took full advantage of the fact that I needed some warmer running clothes and proceeded to melt my credit card (thanks, Lululemon!).  In early December, I was slated to run 20 miles.  Feeling like this marathon was actually going to happen, I felt like I could take on any mileage thrown at me, however 10 miles into the 20, something happened.  It felt

like a hot poker in the joint of my knee causing me to no longer be able to bend my knee.  I'd had IT band issues before and knew that this was something different.  This wasn't good.

For the next month, I could barely run at all.  A visit to the orthopedist told me that the pain I was experiencing was simply overuse of my knee and the pain was brought on by going up and down hills.  Running was not recommended until I got through some physical therapy.  I was distraught.  There was no way I was going to come this far to see my marathon dreams slip away from me.  I told myself that even if I had to walk the whole race I was going to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

every medi-tent to apply Icy Hot.  However, the best part about running Disney World races and exactly the reason why we chose it for our first half marathon and full marathon is the distraction factor.  With the race kicking off so early, you are running through the parks before they even open.  The first stop was Magic Kingdom and everything was lit up and waiting for us.  We ran directly through the castle, at which point the girl next to me yelled "were in fucking Disney World!!!"  Her rally cry echoed throughout the castle tunnel and everyone started cheering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Magic Kingdom, we did a quick spin around the track at the Disney World Speedway.  The highlight of this was the guy in front of me dressed like Captain Hook, complete with curly wig and fake parrot on his shoulder.  By the time we got to Animal Kingdom around mile 12, the parks had opened.  Some people jumped on the Expedition Everest roller coaster before continuing on.  I considered it for a minute, but then I didn't want to act too confident.  Let's face it - I'm not a speedy runner and didn't want something to happen, like the ride getting stuck and causing me to run out of time (Disney, like most races, has sweeper buses to pick you up if you don't maintain a certain pace).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up was ESPN Zone or should I say the dreaded ESPN Zone.  Or so I thought.  So many people during training had warned us of this place.  Long stretches of nothing but baseball fields resulting in tacking on another 3 or so miles.  When I reached ESPN Zone, I was in a good place mentally.  Upon entering, I saw my cousin running down the other side of the highway having just exited.  It gave me a boost which carried me through the next few miles, knowing the end was approaching.

Hollywood Studios was also a boost for me.  The crowd support was great and we ran through a long dark tunnel which is part of the backlot tour.  Costumes and sewing machines were on display in the windows of the work rooms and it changed up the scenery in a nice way.  This leg was made easier for me because it meant that Epcot was next.  And so was the finish line.

A few miles more of highway and Epcot was displayed in front of me.  It was go time and I was prepared to give it everything I had.  Then my butt made its presence known.  Imagine a hot knife jabbed directly into the side of your butt cheek.  Graphic yes, but that's exactly what the pain was like.  The entire run past the Epcot resorts I was stopping every 100 feet or so to grab a lamp post and try and stretch out my behind.  To say it was awful was putting it lightly.  The worst thing was that this was at about mile 24.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What followed was pure comedy.  Our family greeted me and cheered, my cousin joining them having finished the marathon about an hour ahead of me.  Her butt was also in severe pain.  The two of us had to cross the parking lot to make the shuttle back to our hotel.  Forget the 26.2 miles, this was the hardest part of the entire day.  Moving about three inches with each step, we couldn't stop laughing and screaming.  

The next two miles were painful, but I powered through.  Rounding the lake in Epcot was thrilling.  When I got to Mexico, my friend Gabby was waiting with a margarita.  I clutched that margarita like it was the last one on earth and I crossed the finish line holding it up on the air (see picture for proof).  I was in utter disbelief that I had just run a marathon.  I couldn't wrap my mind around it and I also couldn't stop moving my legs.  My legs took me directly to the medi-tent to get ice for my knees.  Sitting there while they iced me up, I took a sip of the salty margarita and it was the best thing I've ever tasted.

My family cheered me on at mile 13

My cousin and I boarded the plane and headed to Orlando with our moms, aunts, sister/cousin, and grandmother in tow.  Our own personal cheering squad.  Race day arrived at 2am for us when our alarms went off.  We had to be to our corrals around 5am and because we were running with Team in Training, we were all going over together.  Standing in my corral, I pretended this was just a half marathon.  No big deal!  I tried to distract myself by thinking of all the things I was going to see.  My thoughts were interrupted by the blasting of fireworks, signifying the start.  Corral after corral began and before I knew it, my feet were moving one in front of the other.

 

The rest of the race was a blur of pure elation and shock.  I couldn't believe I was doing it.  It's not to say that it was easy.  My knee began to act up, causing me to walk on the incline and decline of the highway overpasses and to stop at

Gear must have: gps watch

For years I thought that running gear was only for expert athletes like career marathoners.  I never put much thought into any of it and just went about my runs using the Nike+ app on my iPhone.  It wasn't until I started running with Team in Training and saw that nearly everyone had some form of a running watch that I started to consider buying one.  After all, I am notorious for buying an activity's "accoutrement" despite being a total novice like that time I took a surfing lesson and proceeded to buy a $600 board and rash guard (I've used the board twice and that was 15 years ago..)

There are many models out there and I would be lying if I said that I've tried them all or even did a ton of research before I bought mine.  I chose my Garmin Forerunner 220 because all of my running friends were raving about it.

The Garmin Forerunner will measure your distance, pace, and some models even monitor your heart rate.  It connects to an app on your phone so you can track your workouts and routes.  The feature that I love most about it that has proved to be 

invaluable to me is the walk/run interval feature.  Early on in my training, I learned of the amazingness that is walk/run which, for me, consists of two minutes of running and one minute of walking.  This watch tracks all of that for me and buzzes and vibrates when it's time to slow it down or speed it up.  Once you learn to pay attention to your watch, you won't miss a reminder.  On my first few runs with it, I was used to just tuning into my music and not having to be aware to an alert so I missed quite a few, but that quickly stopped once I retrained my brain.

The Forerunner has since evolved into newer models and you can find the one that works best for you.  I will be using my 220 until it decides it's had enough of me.