Sunday, June 5, 2016

Who Would've Thought... Looking Back & Looking Forward

After an incredible month, I am still waiting for someone to pinch me and to realize this was all just a wonderful dream.  Over the past four weeks, I have managed to accomplish goals that I never would have imagined would be possible for me a year ago... or even a month ago.  I've always loved running, starting with cross-country in junior high and completing my first marathon at 18.  But I've always been a mid-to-back of the pack runner and never really had a ton of confidence in my ability to surpass that.  

Then four weeks ago today, I broke my marathon PR by over 16 minutes at the Sugarloaf Marathon, finishing in 4:25:14.  I felt SO strong from the moment I started until I crossed the finish line.  I have never felt more confident in my abilities as a runner, and more importantly, have never had so much fun running 26.2.  

Cheesy grin?  Check!
Beginning with Sugarloaf, I had set a goal to complete three marathons in three days, including two New England Challenge races - the Pine Tree Marathon in Portland, and the Granite State Marathon in Nashua, New Hampshire.  I was slightly terrified about this trio - never having even run two marathons in the same month, let alone three in the same week!   But you know what?  I had the time of my life.  So much so that I added a fourth later that week in western Massachusetts, and then ran the Vermont City Marathon the following week.  

On top of the world after 26.2 x 3!
Looking back, this week of marathons across New England feels somewhat like a dream.  I'm not sure where the endurance, the strength and the determination came from that week, but somehow it all came together.  I crossed the finish line each day with tears in my eyes, feeling like I was capable of anything in that moment, and ready to take on the world.  

Then, flash forward a week after Vermont City.  Based on some overly-optimistic planning, I had registered for two races this weekend - a hilly 10K for my running club's Grand Prix series on Saturday and a local 5K on Sunday.  Once again, I was nervous about running on tired legs on tough courses with some really talented runners.  I resigned myself to taking it easy and just getting it done.

First, Saturday came with the Middleboro YMCA Tispaquin Run.  It was crazy hot and humid, and I could feel the fatigue from Vermont in my legs throughout the hilly course.  I was nervous about the 10K distance, having never quite mastered pacing in between a 5K race pace and the half marathon distance.  So when I finished and realized that I had PR'd my 10K by 8 minutes, finishing in 56:23, I was nothing short of ecstatic. 

And then to cap off these totally unreal 4 weeks, I achieved my third PR today at the McGuiggan's Pub 5K in Whitman.  My finish time was 24:52, for a 7:56/mile pace.  Now, if you had told me a few months ago that I would EVER be running sub-8's, I would have thought you were crazy.  Honestly, even prior to today, looking back at my paces, I wouldn't have thought it was possible.  So when I realized that I had won first in my age group, I was pretty much over the moon.  
Matching trophies with my running buddy - so proud!
Needless to say, the past four weeks have been nothing short of incredible.  This month taught me that I am a heck of a lot tougher and stronger than I would have ever thought.  I have learned that my body is capable of persevering through seemingly impossible challenges, and of continuing to get stronger and faster with each passing week.  I have found that when I put the effort in and start to believe in myself, the results truly follow.

But even more, I am completely overwhelmed with gratitude for my running club.  The Colonial Road Runners has become so much more than a club to me - they have become my support system, my running family, and some of the most amazing friends I could ever ask for.  My running friends inspire me every day to continue pushing forward and setting new, seemingly impossible goals for myself.  I continue to learn every day from the wealth of expertise that this group of incredibly accomplished and experienced runners provides.  I am constantly challenged to push myself to keep up with some seriously fast folks.  And just as importantly, they make running SO much fun.  I have never smiled so much and felt as good as I do when I'm surrounded by these amazing runners.  They have taught me to change my default from "there's no way I could ever do that," to "I'd really like to try that."  They have me setting goals for myself that I am starting to believe I can really accomplish.

Colonials represent at the Middleboro YMCA Tispaquin 10K!
So after these four weeks of living in a running dream-world, I am ready to focus and get back to training again.  I have a challenging race schedule ahead of me this fall, and I am determined to push for another marathon PR in September.  And with the support of some incredible people around me and a bit of new-found confidence in myself, I believe I can do it.  So here goes nothing!