During another shit day I’m barely surviving I remember how if I’m running Boston I’d better figure out how to get myself there. It’s been months of slow, disappointing training runs after I seemed to be doing so well. I remember squealing jubilantly in the morning as I got my confirmation from BAA that my registration was accepted and how Kevin told me he was proud of me–and I cry some more.
It’s just a fucking race. Why bother? It isn’t going to change anything. I can’t stop crying. I’m frustrated by my apathy, frustrated by my need for more support than I have, frustrated by my neediness and vulnerability and my intensely shitty life. I don’t even know who to discuss this with; my one close runner friend has tried and tried qualifying for Boston–it would be really unkind to bring this to her. Then I remember how I’ve joined this Boston Marathon training group on Facebook. What the hell. I’ll see if I can get some meaningful feedback from strangers.
I compose a long post about my situation; how I left an abusive marriage, joined the fundraising team for the Center Against Domestic Violence, ran New York, qualified for Boston. I talk about the stress fracture and the concussion, how my training has been affected, how much hope this relationship gave me and how much it meant to be supported running this race, how I’m apathetic and want to give up and I know it’s an opportunity many runners covet.
Over the next 24 hours, support floods in from all over the country. That post gets over 100 comments. I cry and cry reading them; I can’t believe how much the encouragement from all these strangers moves me. I exchange messages with other survivors and the moderator changes the group’s cover photo to me grinning, running New York. I feel claimed and held by these people.
In the morning I wake late again and lay there, apathetic, until dawn light peers in the window. I rise grudgingly and prepare erratically–but I suit up to run. I drive to the nearby high school. I run through the ankle-deep snow near the track then make one circle at the perimeter while worrying about the speed I haven’t been able to deliver for months now. Once I’ve been dicking around for ten minutes I cross into lane one, press the lap button and take off. After the first 100m I check my wrist: 6:00. I’ll take that. I crunch through wide swaths of track covered in snow. No previous footfalls show me the way; I make my own path. When I’ve run 300 m Garmin counts me down and I slow, recover and go again and again. I watch a path emerge as I run round and round the track, noting my well-chosen curve and how I flatten the angles just like I used to riding my motorcycle.
I open my awareness to internal sensations. There is a growing warmth behind my pulsing pectorals, a deep blazing throbbing heat. Feeling it connects me to my steaming, panting breath and the sensation of being oppressed by my shirt. I’m actually unbearably hot, so snowy landscape notwithstanding, I whip my wool shirt off during a recovery and tie it around my waist. The chill in the air feels good against my skin and I relish connecting to the world around me undefended.
When I start to get tired on repeat four I remember the words of my new friends;
“Come to us and we’ll support you.”
“Your honesty and truth will inspire someone else.”
“We will be by your side, every step – think of us as your wings.”
That finds a well of determination in me, and I dig in to pick up my pace running out here alone. I remember, painfully, the promise of support I thought I could rely on and then something new happens; I say no. I feel my jaw set with bitterness and resentment. I glare at my final hundred and go–fast and snarling. When I slow to recover I turn over more words from my new friends;
“My heart breaks for you.”
“NEVER let anyone take your spirit! I know it’s still there because you had the courage to tell us your story.”
“Think of us as your wings.”
My eyes fill with tears and the sun comes out from behind a cloud. I squint against the glare and then run a while with my eyes closed. I think about my fear of abandonment and the way people are responding to me. Juxtaposed against all the hesitance and pulling away I noticed last year, I see my friends over the past two months. I have been afraid but they have been available–my friends have reached out when I have retreated. Kevin pushed me away but everyone else seems to be staying. I hear Nadeesha audibly relieved discovering the final card of a tarot reading, “Laura, there is no more hopeful card I could have turned over to depict your future. Look at this!”
After my fifth repeat I make a wide turn and change directions, a faux pas I’d be glared at for on a busier track. I have this one to myself–I don’t have to tolerate the awkward imbalance in my pelvis I can’t believe other runners don’t notice. I watch myself running against the flow of the path I’ve created, and when some geese wander down the straightaway I charge right at them.
I’m starting to get tired on repeat 7. I tune in to my body, driving the heads of my femurs from my obturators. I feel my ass absorb the impacts as my sacrum shimmies rapidly. My long braid swishes across my mid back as I pull with my arms. At the end of the repeat I cry out, and I feel a familiar impulse from my right shoulder. I throw a right upper cut at nothing in particular. It feels good, so I do it a few more times.
I recover and go again. I picture Jesse Owens flying up from starting blocks and drive myself. 6:45. Come on, Laura. I pull and feel my elbows digging the air behind me, hands relaxed, hips oscillating. Against the silence I hear the soft fast crunches of my footfalls, the whispers of my feet shifting the snow and the soft patters as it lands somewhere behind me. I speed up rounding the corner and imagine I hear the crack of my elbow hitting Thai pads as my friend Adam exclaims “Oey!” With 100m to go I hear my own voice screaming in my ear at my friend Hannah during a fight. “Yes!” as she pushes away from the cage and lunges. I grunt loudly launching myself through the last steps of the repeat.
This is the work Lisa tries to get me to do during therapy sometimes; feeling memories where I’m strong and active, surrounded by friends. Holy shit, I resource myself while I run.
In my excitement, I start to speed up in my recovery and catch myself. There’s one repeat left and I intend to make it count. I slow down and amble along, noting how patches of snow are smaller than when I started. Garmin counts me down and I haul ass, taking off markedly faster than every other repeat. I have something left; I shift to my sprint breathing: in one, out two. I drive forward and check my speed; 5:30. I don’t smile so much as bare my teeth, and my breath becomes a deep growl. I’d rather run from happiness and love but when I’m short on those, anger will do. I blaze down the last 100 and cry out as I slow down. I suddenly can’t see at all and my lungs burn so I scream again and keep moving. I make one circle on the track and then head to the exit. I enjoy the damp cold biting my feet as I splash through puddles running ten more minutes and when Garmin sounds workout complete I look; my average speed was 9:07. I laugh spontaneously and continue, startled that this sound of happiness is coming from me–then I cover my mouth with a gloved hand and cry. “Fuck you,” I spit at everyone who’s ever provided impetus to doubt myself. “Fuck you, I’m going to Boston.”