Some thirty years ago, when I started running, I was running trails. These were trails in the woods that were across the street from my home in my native state, New Jersey. Being in the woods was an escape for me. It was a chance to think. It was a chance to get away from an abusive environment that I was captive in. A sad consequence of this environment, my brother committed suicide. September 16, 2016 will mark 30 years since I found him. Having no form of therapy, I turned to running. My therapy was my running. Another sad consequence, I have eliminated from my life those who created this environment regardless of their biological link to me. The heart creates thin scabs that fall off once in a while, but the running continues. And…I am stronger because of it.
The one thing that I take away from the environment I was raised in was that this biological donor was a cross country coach. I remember going to meets and watching his athletes. I remember listening to him coach them and thinking that I can do what he is telling them to do. So I did. In my healing, I found that the happiest I was happened to be when my feet were on the trails. I did not have special shoes. We could not afford them. They wouldn’t be bought for me even if we did have the money. There were no hydration vests or fuel belts, they were not around yet. I just ran. My ankles would be caked in crud and filth from the earth that I ran over. My legs showed the scratches from the wild blueberry bushes and fallen branches. My heart grew lighter, my chest opened up, my shoulders got broad and I found myself, again.
Flash forward to Sunday, July 10, 2016 when I found myself loving every single inch of a trail run that I signed up for with Baytrail Runners. The past few years, my focus has been on road running as I have been trying to qualify for Boston. I have only tried three times to qualify (December 2013 (hit mile 20 in sub 3 hours but lost it at mile 22 – hip flexors), December 2014 (broke down early-bad pacing mistake) and November 2015 (sick with the flu)), but I can see how addictive it is to beat that last time or run the same race a year later, differently, thinking that the BQ is right there. The truth is, it is downright hard to qualify. My training runs are there and everything points to qualifying, but darn if that brick wall doesn’t show up at mile 22 and fall on top of me.
So here I am, eyeing my first 50k. Okay, more information here….here I am eyeing my first 50k trail run! [insert cheshire cat grin here]. This all started out so innocently. I run trails at least twice a week and have been for years. I am on hills a lot (2x a week). This is not something that I am just introducing myself to all over again. I need the time away, the one-on-one time with the dirt and stones, where my office is.
My goals have NOT changed. I am going to give that old BQ notion a shot again here soon, but for the next month, I am eating, breathing and sleeping trails. We have to challenge ourselves to grow. We have to face tough obstacles to test our mettle. Believe me, what I endured in this lifetime is more than many can even imagine. Running 31ish miles is just another obstacle for me to take on.
I set a goal for myself to run a 50k by 50 years old. I am running to support a friend who is celebrating her 40th birthday with a 50k. I can’t think of another way to celebrate that milestone than to be there with her and to check off a bucket list item too. A friend stated to me that it [running a 50k] is a slippery slope to the 50 mile, 100k and 100 mile. Will I be writing a similar blog entry a year from now? Who knows. I know I can’t wait to find out.