Marathon Monday: Conquering the final long run!

With three weeks to go until the 2016 Boston Marathon, this weekend marked Erica's final long run before she begins to taper. 21 miles is no small feat - read on to hear how she planned for the day and got through the mileage!

As I sit down to write my blog post, it's quiet in the house for maybe the first time all weekend. The kids are asleep and my husband just left for his Sunday evening bowling league. I love and appreciate having this outlet to write down my thoughts on my marathon training. My legs are a little sore, but my heart is overflowing with joy. I did it! The longest run thus far in my marathon training and the furthest I have run in over 7 years. 21 miles from Hopkington to BC! And I feel good! I feel really good. I hope and pray that 3 weeks from today I am feeling the same. Running is at least 50% (dare I say 75%) your mindset. These training runs not only condition your muscles but also condition your mind. It's why I love the quote "God has given me the ability, the rest is up to me. Believe, believe, believe!" I have to remind myself of this quite frequently and especially while I run.

At 6:45am on Saturday morning, my friend Emily picked me up to drop me off at the start in Hopkington. I had slept (not all that well) the night before, waking up numerous times from anxious dreams (like having my wallet stolen while on vacation with no way to board the flight home - crazy stuff). As I'm getting ready in the morning and my husband is making my breakfast smoothie, he reminds me it's just a run. I'm just running and I can always stop if I need too. Of course I know this, but sometimes to hear it out loud from someone else brings me down to earth. And I remind myself to just "believe, believe, believe.”

Back to Hopkington and the start, the BAA had set up a police detail, complete with ports potties (thank God!). Just the sight of porta potties was a welcome relief of my anxiety! Runners, you understand this - I know! I went through my physical therapy warm up exercises and stretches and then began my run. I knew at mile 10 in Natick Center my friend Sara was meeting me to run from 10-21 and that Colleen from the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation would have water and re-fuel. This was my focus for the first 10 miles. And it helps tremendously! So as I started on the downhill course that is the beginning of the Boston Marathon route, I reminded myself that I just needed to focus on this first 10 miles. As this was the first time I have run the route in my training, I picked up on some memories from the first (and only) time I ran Boston back in 2009. I remembered seeing a college friend out in Ashland, and then my dad and my husband at the Framingham train station. And I never felt alone during those first 10 miles. The camaraderie from other runners & charities along the course pushed me through and as I neared Natick Center I found Sara & then Colleen and geared up for the second 11 miles.

After a quick re-fuel & bathroom break, Sara & I set out from Natick to mile 17. At mile 17 (the fire station in Newton - just before the hills), Colleen would be there again with more water & food, and my friend Ashley would join Sara and I for the hills and the final 4 miles. I set my mind on this goal and Sara and I ran together. We ran and we chatted. We paced each other really well. When I expressed fear and doubt, Sara helped me push those thoughts away. I started to worry about the hills, and she reminded me to just think of mile 17. And as we neared the hills, she reminded me that those final 17-21 miles is just a distance I am familiar with (loop around the lake from my house) and that I can do it. She cheered me on and kept telling me how great I was doing. She helped me to "believe, believe, believe".  I'm not sure if I was running those miles alone that I could have kept feeling so good if it wasn't for Sara. And, as we crossed over 95 from Wellesley into Newton (which is a giant hill, mind you), I felt strong and ready for the hills that lie ahead from 17 -21: Heartbreak Hill!

We made it to the fire station and found Colleen & Ashley! Quick re-fuel (& some pictures of course) and we headed for the hills. Heartbreak Hill is on Comm Ave in Newton and ends just before BC. It's a series of 3 hills (with the last being the longest & hardest). As we neared the end, I fought back tears. I knew my husband and kids would be at the end of the 21 miles. I felt so grateful to have Sara & Ashley make the trek out to run with me, for me! I felt blessed to have friends willing to wake up extra early on a Saturday morning and drive me out to the start line. And I felt thankful to all my friends and family for the support they have given me during this journey to get me to where I am in training and fundraising. These thoughts pushed me through mile 17-21 where I ended my final training run feeling happy, strong, and ready for the final 5.2 miles on Marathon Monday!

So now, I focus on tapering and staying healthy. This weekend, I will run approximately 10 miles. I will continue with my physical therapy treatments to keep me healthy and look forward to teaching classes and cross training during the week. 3 more weeks until race day. I can hardly wait! Anticipation is a killer sometimes (especially to an anxious person). But I am reminding myself to "believe, believe, believe". Thanks again for all your support. I hope to make you all proud on Marathon Monday!!