Knowing I'm giving blood on 9/11 and knowing I have to try and get a 5 mile run in before I give blood, I decide to go out on Sunday morning.
I'm scared of doing a five mile run - I've never run that far before and I've never run for more than 40 minutes at a stretch. I've been out longer than 40 minutes, but that was doing walk/runs and there are still times when I struggle running three miles. So with all that in the back of my head, how am I supposed to do a five mile run?
My answer is: where do I face all my challenges? On Heartbreak Hill of course.
Running up the Commonwealth Ave carriage road isn't as hard as it would seem, it's really more of a mental thing because of the nick name and what it means to runners in the marathon. But because of that mental thing, I'm able to get past a lot of my demons there. My inner loser gets a severe ass kicking everytime I do a run there. No wonder it's become one of my favorite running spots.
So around 8 am, I pulled up at City Hall and walked to my starting point and stretched. As I stretched, you could begin to see the runners coming two by two down the road. Running along encouraging or just chatting with each other. Some were fresh, just starting their runs. Others had that sweaty gleam from exerting themselves.
I made a deal with myself that I would run at least 2 miles or 30 minutes up the road - whichever came last. I had to keep reminding myself of that deal as I went along because I wasn't mentally ready to run for some reason.
Centre Street - the 1 mile point - is really a mental barrier for me. Once I get past that point it really gets easier. The hill is still climbing at that point, but it's like there's a piece of me that says, "Good job - you've got a mile done and that's the hardest point." The other mental barrier is Hammond Street, which is the crest of the hill.
I made it past Hammond on the way to Boston College and I was feeling good. The runners are still coming solo and in good sized groups - but mostly they're running in pairs. I can hear their chattering to each other over my Funk soundtrack because I really don't have the volume up when I run since I like my soundtrack to be more background music than anything else. As I come down the hill toward the BC campus, I feel like I can go six miles. I feel good and I don't want to stop.
Is this the "runner's high" I hear people talking about?
I can smell breakfast all around me. The scent of coffee from Dunkin' Donuts - perhaps among one of my favorite smells ever - and frying bacon and toast from the greasy spoon on the corner. I run over past the green line stop to the wall of the former Cardinal's residence. Touching the brick wall marks 2.5 miles - the halfway point. It doesn't matter if I don't run all the way back, it matters that I'm putting in 5 miles total. As I touch the wall, I call out, "I fucking rock!"
A couple of sleepy people on benches outside of the shops look up with a puzzled expression. I don't care, I'm smiling and happy. I've just run 2.5 miles in 35 minutes. It may not be a speed record, but I did it and I'm thrilled as I turn back and start up the hill again.
Now this is the problem with running up and over a hill... you have to run back over it before you can run down the other side. The grade from the Cardinal's residence to Hammond is pretty steep and I'm shuffling along thinking, "I promised myself I'd do 4 miles - I have to make it to Centre Street."
There is a strong breeze blowing in my face. I know that this isn't ideal but it feels great. I keep going up and up and up and up, keeping my eyes on the street ahead of me instead of looking down. I'm scanning the road signs as I shuffle along watching for the one I know will make a difference. I'm looking for the Hammond Street sign as I run one of the longest 3/4's of a mile in my life. Finally I see it and I heave a sigh of relief because, from here on out, it's downhill all the way.
I keep going down the hill, past the synagogue and Kosher strip mall to Centre Street. I did it - four miles and I'm still in pretty good shape. Not great, but feeling OK. I start down the last mile of the hill and I want to tell everyone I pass on the road, "I just ran more than I ever have in my life!" I'm that excited because every step past the four mile mark and I step I haven't really taken before. Instead I can feel the grin on my face as I work my way down the road - the only indicator is when I pass the Johnny Kelley statue calling out, "I did 5 today Johnny." I can hear him say, "That's what I'm talkin' 'bout girl," as I go past.
I run across the crosswalk at Lowell Ave - my start and finish line - with my hands in the air again. I've done it, another personal milestone. As I stop my watch I realize I've broken two barriers because flashing back at me is the time: 1:10:06... a 14 minute pace and pretty even up and back... 35 out, 35 back.
Every time I do one of these runs, I feel that much more confident that I can do the Tufts 10k in a few weeks. Until this point I've been thinking I couldn't run 6 miles, but now I'm seeing I possibly can and it feels good.