My romance with running

Written on Dec 3rd, 2017 by , Category Marlene Farrell Blog, Training

By Marlene Farrell

My relationship with running changes over time. Sometimes I feel the height of passion, when running takes precedence and monopolizes my thoughts. Other times the relationship is very platonic, like I could take or leave it, and runs are a version of “going through the motions.”

I can’t predict what will make me swoon all over again. It’s often an accumulation of little things.

That’s what happened recently and led to my decision to sign up for a road race three-and-a-half months from now.

Signing up for a race — not a big deal, right? But stakes grow when you consider: 1. I’ve run this race (Mercer Island Half Marathon) before, back in the days when I was training for Olympic marathon qualifying times; 2. It’s a cornerstone race in the Seattle region, a jump-start to a new racing season; and 3. It’s the first road race I’ve signed up for in over a year.

So what led me to type in my credit card number and push return on this nonrefundable registration? It took a dose of humble pie, followed by an irresistibly soaring imagination.

My family spent our Thanksgiving holiday cross-country skiing at altitude, surrounded by elite athletes — at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. I skated and classic skied for six days, fast and slow, with my family and alone, constantly crossing paths with trains of fit-bodied twentysomethings cruising through their second or third workout of the day.

I loved all the time on snow, even as it turned to icy slush by the end of the week. Every afternoon I needed the rejuvenating coolness of the hotel pool and the massaging bubbles of the hot tub. I felt worked, even though we weren’t following a regimen like all those ambitious teams were. We followed our whims and sought out well-groomed trails.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a fitness “plan,” a weekly schedule with a goal looming at the end. But I could feel it in the air around these skiers. Their eyes betrayed their eagerness. Their chatter about workouts and kilometers revealed it.

When I returned home to Leavenworth and no snow, I could still run on dirt with willing partners-in-crime. My friends and I sowed the seeds of spring racing as we climbed the new trail at Ski Hill, warming quickly and shedding hats and mittens.

I had returned to a pedestrian elevation (Leavenworth at 1,200 feet compared to West Yellowstone’s 6,700 feet) and had new shoes on my feet; I flew over the spongy soft ribbons of dirt.

The next day I ran alone, midday. Sunshine raining down on my shoulders, and feeling the jolt from an Americano, I made the spontaneous decision to run hill repeats, 4×3 minutes up a descent grade. Despite the impulsiveness, it felt purposeful. The brightness of the sun was reward enough as I jogged downhill after my last repeat.

But, there at the bottom, on the flat stretch of road between me and my parked car, was an automatic radar detector.

Listening for cars, but hearing none, I raced past it trying to trigger it like a compact car, size extra small. My wish was granted; it flashed 11 for a half second.

Eleven miles an hour? How generous! The radar detector lied, but I smiled anyway. My thoughts whirred and plotted the possibilities.

Then I came home, and pulled up the Mercer Island Half Marathon website. I could envision the preparatory intervals, tempo runs and long runs to come. My mind paid no heed to the idea of pain, icy roads or frigid temperatures. It focused on the thrill of speed.

Every now and then I have a day like this — so full of optimism I could burst. Thank you, running! With each new goal, each chance to succeed or fail, I learn about myself and reach inside, striving to be the best I can be. A bit like how it feels to fall in love.

Marlene Farrell is a writer, long-distance runner and coach. She lives in Leavenworth.

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