Let me start this post by saying that I am incredibly lucky.
I have a wonderful, supportive family and am overwhelmed on a daily basis by the amount of phenomenal friends I can count on in my life. I have two, strong legs that can carry me through what seems like an insane amount of miles to many people. I am not terrible looking. I have a great job, smart coworkers, and a cozy apartment in Hell’s Kitchen with a roommate who is nice and asks me about my day when I come home.
You should not feel sorry for me.
Of course you shouldn’t — especially if you’re a runner. Last Sunday I completed the New Jersey Marathon with a Boston qualifying time of 3:24:47. No, it’s not anything to brag about: A member of LetsRun.com reminded me on a public forum that my marathon time is a good half hour from being sub-elite. This particular time is also several minutes slower than my PR (personal record). Regardless, a Boston qualifying marathon time is something that many runners chase for years, sometimes to no avail. So I will think of it as an accomplishment — especially because fewer than two weeks prior to toeing the race start line in New Jersey, I crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon in a much slower time of just under 3:50.
While you could say the drastic time difference was due to the heat in Boston that day, or the challenging, hilly course, I know in my heart that neither of those reasons account for the time difference. Instead, it was the fact that I had no one waiting for me along the course or at the finish line of the Jersey shore race.
My personal spectator count at each marathon was as drastically different as my contrasting marathon times. I’ve run Boston for the last three consecutive years, and it’s become a family affair. My sister has run the past two years as well, and my parents come stay for the weekend to support us. This year, I was excited to bring my boyfriend along for the ride and have a personal cheerleader waiting for me at the base of Heartbreak Hill, and then again at the finish line. Running has always been incredibly emotional for me — I use this particular exercise as a stress reliever, a confidence booster, and a way to deal with both good and bad relationships. To bring someone I loved along for the experience was both exciting and incredibly intimate for me.
So when I finished the race, incredibly disappointed, and sprawled my body over the grass of Boston Commons to cry, I comforted myself with the fact that, no, this race didn’t go as I planned. But at least I had someone who thought I was a winner regardless.
In the days that followed, I abruptly found out that I had been wrong.
I’m not sure what happened exactly, still, but I found myself blindsided, hurt, and alone. Of course I had friends that were there for me, but unfortunately I no longer had the one person I thought I could always count on. I know I’m not the first person to have been dumped, and it certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve been ‘let go.’ But, how else can I explain it? I was, and remain, heartbroken.
I was also angry. I had sacrificed valuable training time to be with this person — my person — cutting 20-mile runs short to cuddle longer, and skipping certain workouts completely to spend time with him. I know there needs to be compromise in relationships, so at the time, I chalked it up to being a good girlfriend. But after everything that happened, all I could think was that he had wasted my time, and weakened my relationship with running.
And no one fucks with me and running.
Desperate to do something, anything, I desperately searched for upcoming fall marathons I could sign up for, with the idea that I would train differently and finish with better results. But since I’m signed up for Ironman Maryland on October 1, many races conflicted with my training. Soon, I came up with a better/crazier idea: The New Jersey Marathon was that Sunday, and I was already in marathon-ish shape. My plans to spend the weekend with my ex and his brother were now cancelled, so I had no conflicting offers. As a bonus, I had the advantage of being incredibly angry and emotional, which I hoped would help fuel my miles when my legs got tired.
I took the plunge and signed up. Why the hell not?
I didn’t tell many people that I had signed up, in fear of blowing it again. (Or, they would think I’m crazy. The race was Sunday. I purchased my bib entry on Tuesday. Oops.) Plus, I hadn’t broken ‘the breakup’ news to my parents just yet, so they assumed my now ex would accompany me to the race and didn’t alter their already-scheduled plans. So as I waited in the starting corrals, I contemplated the fact that I would see no friendly faces on the course, and would have no one to hug at the finish line. I threw myself a pity party, but quickly told myself not to be a baby. I would run that BQ time and feel better about everything after it was over. I knew I would. I had to.
During the race, as I steadily chased a 7:50 per mile pace group (which I eventually lost somewhere between mile 20 and 21), I cried intermittently, and had many thoughts: If he really cared he would be here. If there was any hope left for the relationship, it would reveal itself at the end of this race. If he loved me, he wouldn’t let me do this alone. They weren’t all so whiney: Fuck him, and fuck his late nights at work messing with my training. Fuck his constant nagging about when I would be done with my long runs. They’d eventually turn desperate again, though. I can’t imagine life without him. Why, why, whywhywhywhywhy.
I didn’t look out for friendly faces, and I didn’t see any. Instead, I high-fived strangers. I made friends with a man during the last mile, who told me it was his second marathon and he was also from New Jersey. We fist-bumped before finishing the race side-by-side.
As you can probably guess, crossing the finish line (soaked, since it had been raining, and freezing, since it was cold) in a Boston qualifying time did not instantly cure my sadness. It did not make me feel accomplished. In fact, it made me even more upset. As I hobbled around to receive the various post race offerings (gatorade, pretzels, water) I thought one earth-shattering thought. And that was, ‘Being fast won’t make anyone love you.’
It’s depressing, but it’s true.
As I re-analyzed what I had done as I limped for a mile, shivering, to the train station to get back into New York, and then over the next few days as I still failed to hear anything from him, I grew even more upset.
Even though I had accomplished my goal, my redemption race left me feeling more alone than ever.
Right now, as I think back about my experience, and my very pitiful and sad thought, I’m realizing something. And that’s that it doesn’t matter if running a decent race time won’t make anyone love me. It makes me love me.
The next few weeks and months will be hard and I can’t say those depressing thoughts won’t creep back into my mind, but I try to take comfort in the fact that everyone goes through hard times, and I am far from being the most upset person in New York City. I will get over this, even if it takes me running three more marathons to do it.
In the meantime, I will try to better my relationship with myself, and restore my relationship with running. Did I mention that I have two legs, and they are strong enough to carry me far distances?
I am incredibly lucky.