22 Oct 2012 Candy Canes, Candy Stripers and the Last 10 Miles
I started my last long-run before dawn on a Friday morning in Central Park. It wasn’t a team practice; it wasn’t even a team practice *day*. It was a weekday, and the decision to get out and do it had been last-minute – the result of fortuitous circumstance that gave me an unusual morning free. I grabbed it.
I’d so wanted to run with the team that Saturday – the final long-run before our 3-week taper; I needed the support. But the last few weeks had bent my schedule beyond recognition, and I couldn’t get free; life was still twisting.
Four days after the funeral of John’s dad, my father had a stroke – a small one, thankfully, but it landed him in the hospital for what we thought would be a brief recovery. Another small stroke a week later pushed that back on its heels, and I found myself scrambling to figure out when – amidst all of the rescheduled jobs and responsibilities that had been piling up – could I get back up to New England, back up to see my father. Saturday, after a morning recording session that had already been pushed back three times, was the day. There would be no running; John and I were headed north again.
So Thursday afternoon, the universe gave me an opening. I seized on a route: the candy cane – an *almost* seven-mile route along the bridle path that they’ve had us run several times in practice. I would do three of them. Three candy canes would put me a little over 20 miles. I mapped it out. The weather would be cold but clear, and I loaded my gu’s into my running clothes and laid everything out, ready for my 5a start in the morning. (The unexpected benefit of this last-minute decision was that I had *no* time to get nervous or anxious – I actually slept the night before; miracles never cease!)
The sun came up gently during the first part of the first candy cane. I’d adjusted my route a bit to stay on the better-lit roads while it was still dark, but moved to the trail as soon as the light allowed. And it was a beautiful morning – a perfect autumn day. I kept it slow and easy, and there were no major hills on the course. I took breaks at each lap, and hit the drinking fountains along the course. And four hours and thirteen minutes later, I finished with a 100-yard sprint to the finish.
I ran for four hours and thirteen minutes by myself on an October Friday in Central Park. It still doesn’t seem real. I keep saying it out loud, checking and re-checking my route to confirm what I did. I did it. I did that. I think it’s the longest solo run I’ve ever done. And the strangeness of that event only reflects that strangeness that has been our lives over the last few weeks.
Dad is getting stronger, though not yet out of the woods. And though we’ll be up at Thanksgiving, I wonder if I’ll need to be up there again before that. I am keeping my options open.
And I am going to practice. With all that has been happening, being around such focused and positive people, and putting my strength to useful purpose, is keeping me going. They keep me strong.
This last Saturday, a week after my solo 20-miler, we ran the last ten miles of the marathon course. We ran up 1st Avenue, into the Bronx, and back down 5th Avenue. And we had a chance to stop, to look back and reflect on how far we’ve come.
My pace is slow, but the trip is gorgeous. And I’m so grateful for my legs, lungs, heart and spirit that allow me to keep going. Because really that’s all it is: just keep going. I will run. I will finish. And I will enjoy the journey. Every last loop and turn. Just keep going.