Meb wins Boston. First American in 31 years. What a moment!
The Ocean Drive Marathon in Cape May was my boldest running experiment yet. Hypothesis: I can run a marathon just as well as any without training, eating right, teetotaling, or otherwise preparing in a healthful and conscientious manner. Hypothesis DISPROVED.
It began when I awoke Saturday morning and realized I had left my wallet at the office the day before. Patty’s boyfriend drove us to Cape May so no need for train fare, but still. Then the hotel manager gave us keys to the wrong room so we had a big to-do about what to do. Then around 6:00 PM, we ate our pre-race meal—of spicy boneless chicken wings, loaded curly fries, clam strips, and Blue Moon. Then at 9:00 PM we ate again: pizza and red wine. Then at 2:00 AM we were forced out of bed for an hour by a fire alarm. Then I spent another hour trying to pick a shard of glass out of my left big toe while instead simply driving it deeper into my skin. (No idea how it got there.) Then we awoke at 8:00 AM to opaque fog, a temp in the low 40s, and Patty had packed the wrong shoes. Then we actually started running.
I made the mistake of running six miles on Friday in brand new minimal shoes (more on those later), and on Sunday morning, my calves were still killing me. They hurt from mile one. Everything else felt heavy and slow, as if I was still in recovery from my ultra—almost six months ago. And mentally, I wasn’t there. I wasn’t anywhere else, but I couldn’t find anything to love about the Ocean Drive route. It was totally flat, covered in fog, gray as steel, and sleepy. Crowds were scarce; Everyone looked miserable. Still, I hung on.
Around mile 18, I started to walk. I counted my paces to 100 and suddenly felt a hand on my back. A woman with whom I’d been neck-and-neck yelled, “Come on!”, tapped me again, and ran alongside me until I found a groove. At mile 22, I stopped again to walk up a short incline—one of the many bridges we crossed. She tapped; she wouldn’t let me walk. I didn’t try to walk again. I finished in four hours and three minutes, my fourth best and fourth worst time ever.
If that woman (whose name I never caught) had not kept me going, what might have? Would I have actually kept walking? Would I have bowed out entirely? I knew my time would be abysmal regardless, but I have never needed so much help before. The Ocean Drive Marathon was terrible, but it also taught me a valuable lesson: Arrogance and overconfidence in my own ability mean nothing if I don’t train and mean even less without the help of other runners. Onto the next…
"I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air."
the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, 9:26
Eight weeks till the Cape May marathon (!!!), and I am finally getting around to training. Let me tell you, it is not easy in this cold weather. It’s not easy to do anything in this cold weather! Anyhoo, I borrowed the above plan from this gentleman and will officially kick things off this Saturday with a twelve-miler in Central Park. Wish me luck.
Fresh sounds, every day.
- Now that I'm back in marathon mode, I need new jams to keep the pace...:
- Avicii: "Hey Brother"
- Dixie Chicks: "Sin Wagon"
- Lady Gaga & R. Kelly: "Do What U Want"
- Ellie Goulding: "Burn"
- Calvin Harris & Ayah Marar: "Thinking About You"
- Kaskade & Mindy Gledhill: "Eyes"
- Nero: "Reaching Out"
- Rascal Flatts: "Fast Cars & Freedom"
- Britney Spears: "Work Bitch"
- Touch Sensitive: "Pizza Guy"
And when you run, pretend they are escaped convicts.
When I realized about a month ago that, between ultra training, a promotion and unexpected upheaval at work, my sister’s engagement, and holiday travel, I would not have the time to devote myself to my Camp Interactive marathon project, thereby likely missing my $3,000 minimum goal, I emailed the race organizer at Camp Interactive for help. Could I donate less than the minimum, I asked, or have an extended period of time to meet my goal?
The answer for both questions was a flat no. I started to sweat. Through CrowdRise, Camp Interactive will automatically charge my credit card for the difference between goal and monies raised on November 2. That amount is currently $1,500. That isn’t pocket change; that’s more than a month’s rent! Thus for the past several weeks, I have lain awake at night racking my brain for ways to raise money for a charity I frankly no longer care about. I have emailed every ex-boyfriend, top-level executives at my company, family members, Facebook friends, FrED fans. I have shouted into the void.
If you read Mary Pilon’s article "Hitting the Wall" about marathons and charities, published Friday in the New York Times (or if you are running the ING New York City Marathon for a charity or were asked to run for a charity but declined or have been hit up repeatedly by runners looking for donations), then you know that the run-race-to-do-good bubble has officially popped. My roommate sent me the article today after a heated discussion about how sick and tired we are of fundraising—and feeling guilty and resentful for not raising enough—even though months ago, we (perhaps stupidly) pledged thousands of dollars in exchange for a race bib.
Here’s what I know about the act of charity: Give what what you want. Tithe if you wish to tithe. If you pledge $3,000 dollars to an organization and can’t meet that goal but raise, say, $1,500, you’re still giving $1,500 that the organization didn’t have. And maybe you’ll give more later or you’ll work to earn money for another organization. And everyone gives now and then, and now and then, they cannot, or it’s not their top priority, and this is how people remain generous without going bananas.
Reading Pilon’s article yesterday, I realized that I’m not alone in my pre-race fundraising frustration. And that the very friends and family who I hit up for cash have already given and are still inundated with requests. CrowdRise’s motto is: “If you don’t give back, no one will like you.” But why should anyone feel obligated to give over and over again? And do organizations like Camp Interactive truly believe that locking voluntary supporters into set fundraising goals—with the threat that they will be held accountable for any money not raised from outside sources—is sustainable? That it will breed goodwill toward the organization? When is enough enough?
That answer, for me, is now. I’ll never again support another charity that raises funds through CrowdRise. I’ll probably never want to work with Camp Interactive again. And I’ll definitely never again marry fundraising to my long-distance running hobby. In this past month, all the joy and anticipation of training for and potentially finishing the ING New York City Marathon has been sapped and turned to blood-boiling resentment. I’m pissed off at CrowdRise, at Camp Interactive, at the system in general which allows runners to buy their way into a race by asking friends to help chip in, using charity as an excuse. But most of all, I’m furious at myself for signing up for this goddamned race in the first place.
Five days ago, I ran 50 miles. In two weeks, I will run another 26.2 for Camp Interactive at the ING New York City Marathon. If everyone who sees this donates just $10, I will get so much closer to reaching my $3,000 goal. Please click here to help me cross the finish line!
Fresh fuel, every day.
- Stuff I ate along the way at the CanLake 50 ultramarathon:
- 8 Gu gummy blocks
- 3 Health Warrior coconut chia bars
- 3 mini Reese's peanut butter cups
- 3 Gu gel packs
- 1 peanut butter and jam sandwich
- 1/2 banana
FINISHED! On Saturday, October 12, 2013, at six o’clock in the morning, I set off with a group of 27 runners, cutting a path around Canandaigua Lake 50 miles long. The first hour was pitch dark, the first thirty miles, a piece of cake. By 35, I wished I was somewhere else, and by 46, I became convinced that my vital organs were shutting down. Still, I ran. I ran the bulk of the race, walking only up hills and stopping for a couple minutes at each of the eight aid stations. Mom, Dad, and Boyfriend met me at four of those; seeing their faces and their arms waving as I crested each hill was like a magic elixir to my fortitude.
There came a point in each marathon I have run when I seriously considered dropping out at the halfway mark or a little bit after. That never happened at Canandaigua. I never once feared that I would not finish or tried to convince myself to quit. Every climb (and there were many) just promised another gorgeous view. Every ache in my legs, my hips, my back just urged me on. Move faster, finish sooner, I told myself, and it worked. I crossed the finish line in 9 hours and 41 minutes—9th place out of 27 women, and 46th in a field of 100.
Thanks to everyone who supported me in this crazy endeavor. It was painful and ugly and hard, but those nine hours (and change) were some of the best of my life. And runners, if you can run a marathon, you can run an ultra. Trust me.
Photos, from left: mile 23, mile 38, finish line.
- Mom: Do you feel ready?
- Me: Do YOU feel ready?
- Mom: I don't know.
- Me: Yeah, I don't know either.
- Mom: You'd better get ready.
- Me: I don't know. I'm hungry.
Opening scene from Chariots of Fire.
T-minus 42 hours till the ultramarathon gun goes off!