Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The day after my Boston Mararthon "what goes up, must come down"

April 19: 7:00am.  After a night of strange dreams and restless body, I'm awake an hour before the alarm.  I went to bed thinking 7.5 hours of sleep would be enough to put my body right...but I guess it feels 6.5 will do.  Go figure.

As I step out of the hotel bed that I've FINALLY gotten used to sleeping in, I stumble slightly as my feet try and balance my rigid body.  My legs are stiff: my quads are sore and the upper part of my hamstrings (just below where they connect into my glutes) are destroyed.  I struggle to keep my balance as I hobble towards the bathroom.  If my legs could talk, they would be screaming at me in protest.  Lowering myself onto the toilet was as painful as the entire last mile of the marathon.  Damn this hurts!  I turn my head to the left and find that the pain is not limited to my legs: the kink in my neck from yesterday morning persists.  It's getting a little easier to look over my left shoulder, but sleep did not fix the problem.

Dear body: you're not the boss of me!  As I crawl back into bed intent on catching a few more zzzzz's, my mind plays over the events of yesterday.  It feels like it was all a dream - or at least it does from the neck up.  Did I really run the Boston Marathon yesterday?  Did I really survive the freezing cold wind in the Athlete's Village?  Did I really run the most famous marathon route in the world?  Did I really spend the last three kilometers averaging a sub-5:00 pace?  My heart races as I recall the events of the day before. 

What goes up...must come down.

I'm not sure if other runners experience this, but I sometimes experience an emotional crash after a big race.  It's kinda like crashing off of a sugar high.  So many people sent me warm messages telling me to enjoy my success, but I couldn't ignore a niggling worry that I felt in my heart after the initial thrill of the moment wore off.

I have yet to come to terms with the roll running plays in my life.  It gives me confidence.  It shapes my body.  It sharpens my wit.  It keeps me sane.  But as an existential thinker I'm always looking at how things plug into the big picture.  Yes, it keeps me confident, fit, sane and more; but these are all personal benefits.  Does that make "runner Jessica" selfish?  If I spend 15 hours/week training to be a better runner, is that 15 hours spent on a selfish pursuit?  Could that time have been better spent helping others?

Maybe it's just that race day leaves a bit of an empty cavern in a runner's mind - a cavern that was, for the previous 12 - 16 weeks filled with thoughts about training, nutrition, strategy and sometimes worry.  Then comes race day, and it all comes together - all of the thoughts about training, nutrition and strategy are extinguished in a puff of triumphant smoke as you barrel across the finish line - leaving space for other thoughts to rush in.  In my case, it's questions that rush in...

April 19: 2:00pm.  As I drive out of Boston, the negative thoughts begin to dissipate like rain clouds being burnt up by the radiantly warm sun.  Heading West on the I-90, I pass the exits for the various towns that a Boston Marathon runner passes through on the way from Hopkinton to Boylston Street in Boston.  Newton, Wellesley, Natick, Framingham.  Each name brings me to the edge of happy tears as I recall my 42 km journey.  I felt proud again.

Life is a complex marathon in itself, and we can look at the journey of running the way we look at the journey of life.  Sometimes it can mean things to others, but sometimes you have to run it just for you. 

It's a great feeling when you can strike a balance between the two.  Although Boston was mostly a personal experience, I'm comforted with the idea that maybe my marathon journey was a positive experience for others.  If one runner learned something from my mistakes during the course of my training...if one spectator felt special because I "low fived" their outstretched hand as I ran along the race route...if one person dares to dream of their own proverbial "Boston Marathon" while witnessing me live mine, then I'm a success.  My biggest wish is that my Boston Marathon journey meant something to others.


  1. Your experience absolutely affects tons of other people; watch closely and you'll see minor (and major) shifts in perspective, attitude, health, diet... everyone around you is better because you run. (and I know that post-race crash of which you speak... but focus on this fact: you. ran. boston.) ;-)

  2. Thanks for confirming that I'm not alone. As much as it sucks that we runners experience this crash, I feel better knowing it's kinda normal. Your perspective means a lot to me - thanks for sharing it. *hugs*

  3. well said, jessica.

    i like your description of getting out of bed the morning after. very detailed. ha ha.

    i, too, have the crash afterward. i guess it's all the build up and then it's done. luckily, we have other races and goals planned. that forces you to stop worrying about the crash and get moving again.

    lastly, like myron says, you are having a wonderful impact on others through your running! keep at it, you're great.

  4. You are a part of the whole and that means a lot! Let me explain.

    A few years ago I watched the Boston Marathon on TV. At that time, my life was going forward, but with no true direction. I was out of shape, overweight, and out of focus. Seeing these runners and hearing their stories made me realize that we can achieve anything if we put our mind to it. I would not have realized this without people like you who are already on that journey.

    So now I've started to get my life in focus and plan on running my first marathon in Portland later this year. Once complete, I hope to pass my experience on to others, just as people like you are passing it on to me. The fact that you blog about it makes 'runner Jessica' generous... Generous to let us feed off your thoughts and experiences! So thank you for sharing your life with us 'blog readers' and 'runner wanna-bs'.

    I'm definitely not going to look over my shoulder too often when I'm out running and I know I'll be thinking of you and your Boston race when I run mine!

    Again, thank you for sharing.

    Blaine @

  5. Thanks, Bill and Blaine! I really apprecaite your words of understanding and support.

    I've often wondered if it was weakness that caused the crashes, but I'm comforted to hear I'm not alone.

    Blaine: I'm so happy for you! Just like your first love, your first marathon is something you never forget. It will change your life! I wish you luck in your training journey. Thanks for your kind words. I'm happy to help if you have any questions along the way.

  6. It meant something to me!

    Honestly I am so happy to have met you and learn how you traveled all the way to Boston on your own to run! That is truly inspiring my friend!!! And sub 5's WOW that is amazing!!!

    Where is the race recap? I am itching to read it ;)

  7. Hey Fit Bee!!

    Thanks for your kind words. It was super great to meet you too!! It was great to hear your story - you have amazing strength and a positive fire within that very few have. You're daughter has an amazing role model!! :)

    I'll work on the recap this week. Stay tuned! xo

  8. aww thanks hun! It was nice meeting you too and I hope to see you in Philly ;)