The Runner Diaries — Lorna Chaulet

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Inspired by Refinery29’s Money Diaries and The Cut’s Sex Diaries, welcome to The Runner Diaries, where we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look into a week of training with runners of varying ages, paces and GPS coordinates.

This week, we have Lorna Chaulet, a 25-year-old from Boston, Massachusetts. Despite Chaulet’s claim that she is anything BUT a runner, below, she documents her week running back-to-back marathons in Paris and Boston.

The RUN DOWN:

Name: Lorna Chaulet
Location: Boston, Mass
Age: 25
Training For: Paris & Boston Marathons
Occupation: Marketing at Reebok
Goal race? Paris Marathon
Following a training plan? No
Part of any running communities, clubs or training programs? I’m a member of Janji Corps
How long you’ve been ‘a runner:’ 2016
Goal weekly mileage: One long run per week

Ask anyone I know and they’ll be the first to tell you that when it comes to running, I am the least passionate. Yet, here I am, training to compete in back-to-back marathons; one in Paris, one in Boston, just 7 days apart.

RUNNER’S STATEMENT:

Ask anyone I know and they’ll be the first to tell you that when it comes to running, I am the least passionate. Boxing? Yes. Soccer? Absolutely! Weight training at the gym? Sign me up! Running? Hard pass. And yet here I am, training to compete in back-to-back marathons; one in Paris, one in Boston — just 7 days apart. I’m a walking oxymoron in all forms, but I assure you I have my reasons.

They are as follows:

  1. My brother Alan has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He was once able to walk when we were younger, however his muscles have depleted as he’s gotten older and he is now wheelchair-bound. He needs help with everything from feeding himself, to turning over in bed — the cruel nature of this progressive disease. Walking and his independence were both taken away from him. As for running? Today, that’s a foreign concept he had to leave behind in fourth grade, before his first wheelchair. It is my duty to run. It is my right to run. It is necessary that I run.
  2. It’s Boston. Everyone knows that you can’t talk about marathons without naming the iconic Boston Marathon. In 2013, however, I wanted nothing to do with the place. A victim of the marathon bombings, I left Boston three months after the marathon and swore I would never live there again. I suffered PTSD from the attacks, and dealt with it by isolating myself and fleeing entirely from the scene (I moved to Kansas City). It wasn’t until two years later that I decided I was not going to let the city of Boston be taken away from me. I moved back, but still could not make my way to the Back Bay area, never mind Boylston Street. However, on a whim (and honestly, I was looking for a way to get in shape) I entered a company contest to run the Boston Marathon. I didn’t think about it again until three months later, when I had found out I won a bib. I considered it a sign. I’m by no means a very religious person, but I knew this meant something that would be bigger than crossing the finish line — it would mean I am taking back the finish line.
  3. The race is on my bucket list. All my life I’ve had a bucket list, which includes to see the Northern Lights, go cage diving, pray amongst the monks, etc. It hadn’t originally included running, as I had no interest in running and did not believe there was any glory in a showy display of running 26.2 miles at once. This changed once I got my bib for Boston in 2016 — I realized if I was going to run Boston, I would like to run Paris the following year. Paris is more than a city to me; it’s my birthplace, it’s where I grew up, it’s where my soul feels at peace — there are no thoughts of the bombings, there is no anger for my older brother, there is just me and my love affair of Paris.

So how do I get from Boston in 2016 and Paris in 2017, to Paris AND Boston in 2017? Well, my mom didn’t see me cross the finish line in 2016 — she was traveling for work. Unfortunately, she also could not travel to Paris this year as she had to take care of my older brother. She has been there for everything — from my PTSD, to the general struggles of training for Boston in 2016 — and I wanted to show her what I had put in all of my hard work for.

So, when I got the opportunity to run Boston in 2017, knowing it was a week after Paris, I knew that I should say no. I knew that was not something most people can demand of their bodies. I knew that I should be happy to just be running one marathonas that’s a major accomplishment in and of itself. But I couldn’t say no. I thought of my brother, and how he’d run if he could, and that he’d appreciate every second of it. I thought about the bombings and the impact they have had on me, which I reflected on my family, and I thought about how this was my opportunity to do something most can’t say they’ve ever even fathomed. Plus, I could finally cross the finish line with my mother watching. And so I decided to run.

My approach to each race can be best described as, “Not my best work.” My training included cross training during the week (boxing, elliptical, etc.) and keeping long runs to Saturdays. It’s still hard for me to run with other people around me due to my PTSD (I tried my best to stick it out for race day), so was limited mostly to the treadmill on Saturday mornings. It was, admittedly, a very “lone wolf” approach. Though one would think this minimalistic approach to training would be manageable, my training schedule was hindered by weeks of last minute travel for work, which made fitting everything in difficult.

Side note: Have you ever run 23 miles on a treadmill with no TV? Try it, I dare you. Again, not my best work.

Day One 

6a.m. (…in Paris) I couldn’t sleep, I’m still jet lagged, and I have to get to the train station to drop off my aunt by 8a.m. My first thoughts of the day is, “How on earth am I going to do this run tomorrow with no sleep tonight?!” I’ve only worked out twice this week — does that mean fresh legs, or laziness? I keep thinking I should have run more during training. I can’t believe I only did long runs. I’ve had one outdoor run and it was yesterday. Hills are going to SUCK.

8a.m. — Ok, the coffee is working!

Noon — I choose a game plan: go grocery shopping, do some walking, get to my Airbnb, make dinner and be in bed and asleep by 8p.m., since tomorrow’s wake up call for the race is 7a.m.

7p.m. — Well… the game plan didn’t go, um, according to plan. The reality? I walked 6 miles, over thought EVERYTHING, was too nervous to eat, and didn’t drink enough water. I get in bed at 7p.m.

1a.m. — And… I don’t fall asleep until sometime around 1a.m., after continuous Instagram-scrolling, unnecessary Facebook refreshing, and attempting to watch inspirational documentaries.

Total Daily Mileage: 6 miles walking

Day Two —  Race Day: Paris Marathon

7a.m. — My dad picks me up at 7a.m to bring me to the race start.

7:45a.m. — We are parked underneath the Champs Elysee and headed over to the starting line. How do I know I’m in France? Well, everyone was eating croissants and heavily breaded breakfast pastries rather than the protein bars, bananas, and other “typical” race-day fuel I’ve seen before in Boston. Us French folks are onto something, I’m sure of it! ☺

8:30a.m. — I start lining up for my wave, and am feeling… unprepared. I didn’t have breakfast, forgot my water bottle, and decided to skip on the coffee in fear of a too time-consuming bathroom break. I think it still hasn’t registered to me at this point that I was about to run a marathon. That’s how I approached this challenge—I pretended I was just going on a run, and I was going to be told when to stop. Thankfully, despite my lack of sleep, I find myself feeding off the crowd’s energy and my own adrenaline beginning to build. It still hasn’t registered that I’ll be taking off soon, but I truly welcome this. Self-perseverance is what I’ll call it!

Denial is a defense mechanism that works for me: In all honesty, I think that’s how more things should be approached: you have to just think of it as nothing; a simple task that you just have to get done and be done with it.

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8:30a.m. — The race begins!

It only hits me at the 6k mark that I’m running a marathon. Why? Because that’s when my headphones die. I had bought brand new headphones to wear, but hadn’t trained with them so instead, I wore the headphones I had received from the airlines on my flight over (now do you get why this could be titled, ‘Not my best work’??).

I have never been a runner who can run without music. Kudos to everyone that can, but I myself need as much motivation as I can possibly get to keep my legs moving. I tried to pretend that the techno version of my playlist was playing (my headphones were skipping every other syllable), but I loathe techno, so clearly it was not a promising approach. They lasted about another 5k before they died completely.

11(ish)a.m. — At this point, my headphones are dead. Pair that with 80 degree weather, a scorching hot sun, cobblestones that made me want to ‘dip, dive, dodge, duck’ a la Dodgeball, and a course without much shade, and you’ll understand why by 30k I was on the side of the road throwing up. I’m not sure who’s experienced this, but to convince yourself to keep running after throwing up is no easy task.

3 hours and 52 minutes after the start — I finally cross the finish line. I was completely dehydrated. I threw up once more and felt unsteady, so I planted myself on the grass by the finish to wait for my dad. This wasn’t my sexiest run, but it was a personal record!

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Day Three

6a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I leave my Airbnb to catch my flight back to Boston — time to get ready for marathon #2!

…THE INTERIM WEEK…

I don’t document my daily goings-on of my week between marathons, because it’s a lot of: rest, eat, repeatHowever, I did document some thoughts:

After crossing the finish line of a marathon, I’m sure many people feel confused. There’s that sense of, ‘What do I do with myself now?’. After 3 or 4 months training, all of the sudden, it’s over. After a few days off, you resume your normal routine and bask in your accomplishment. Since I was headed right back to Boston to run again, I didn’t have that anxious feeling about what to do next — but I didn’t have the luxury of being finished, either.

I’d be lying if I said I knew what to do with myself during this week. I struggled with wanting to take care of my body by fueling and resting, and going absolutely stir crazy. I didn’t know what to anticipate, and couldn’t find much online about other what other people who had run back-to-back marathons did during this weird “interim” week (of course there were those that ran 7 marathons in 7 days, or 2 marathons 2 weeks apart, but no happy medium where I fell).

I finally decided not to train, but to rest instead. It drove me nuts! I don’t remember the last time I took two days off from all forms of physical activity. I also decided to load up on protein and carbs, treating myself to foods like bread, granola and Nutella that are usually banished from my “clean” diet. ((I might have just been using this diet as an excuse to eat the Nutella). I found myself eating enough for a family of four! 

I tried to appreciate this week, and think of how this was my only time in the near future that I’d have six full days off from training to do whatever I wanted and tried to stay positive. But my jet lag and worry about conquering Heartbreak Hill made me start to panic. So, I went back to the plan that had worked for me in Paris: denial

This became increasingly difficult, as friends, family, and coworkers all began to ask how ready I was feeling. Though this is so greatly appreciated and I am so fortunate to have the support I do, I was happy to send out my traditional ‘going ghost’ text on Friday — a text I send to all family and friends to tell them I won’t be responding to anyone over the next two days unless there’s an emergency so that I can focus on the task ahead.

 

In conclusion, I survived these 6 days slightly less sane than I had approached them.

Day Seven — Pre-Marathon #2

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The recap — After attending the expo on Saturday and getting through all of my “To-Do’s” the day before race day was finally upon us. While I wanted so badly to celebrate by gorging on Easter candy (including my coveted marshmallow peeps!), I knew I would deeply regret it if I did. I drove the 45 minutes home to say hi to my family, staying for a little over an hour before heading home with the ‘Sunday Scaries.’ I made a quick pit stop at a pub down my street for a running group event before heading to Whole Foods to hit up the delectable hot bar. There, I overloaded my plate with roasted veggies. Later on I would find myself at home devouring several bowls of cocoa puffs. Remember when they said NOT to try anything new before a race? Caution was thrown to the wind in that bowl of cereal.

Day 8 — Race day: The Boston Marathon

7a.m. — I had plans to meet up with two Reebok associates and friends who were also running at 8a.m. at Boston Common. I had woken up feeling fuller than I expected, which meant I was already stressing out. I headed to the Common in an Uber, and, after trying to find a CVS, Walgreens, or open electronics store and draining about 10% of my phone battery while doing so, I found a 7-11 (I tried not to have a panic attack while waiting in line for an arm band — you know how they tell you to lay your race day essentials out beforehand? Don’t lay everything out except for one thing and expect you’ll remember it the next day. You’ll end up stressing out in a convenience store line 10 minutes before you need to board a bus!).

10:45a.m. — After taking the bus to Hopkinton and hanging out in Athlete’s Village for a bit, it  was time to line up! Since I had only received my confirmation 5 days prior, I was seeded in the last wave, in the last corral. The volunteers at each corral should probably work in the security business because they are like iron walls. I was caught trying to sneak into corral 2, then corral 4. I finally found my way into corral 5.

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11:15a.m. — Guns off, here we go!

  • I don’t remember having to move around so much.”
  • “Wow, 70 degrees is hot!”
  • “Oh yeah I remember this part of the course”
  • “Does everyone realize we’re literally running TO Heartbreak right now?”
  • “You’re all nut jobs”
  • “I’m surprisingly feeling OK”
  • “How fast am I going?”
  • Mile 15 is where I can bow out if anything”
  • “God I hope no one I know is at heartbreak to see me die”

These were many of the thoughts running through my head as I ran. Did I want to quit? Absolutely. Did I have every excuse to quit? Of course! But did I quit? Not a chance. My body felt okay, the anticipated aches and pains were not on my radar, and to be honest, I think I was still convinced I was just going on a long run. By mile 10 I was struggling — the heat was getting to me (though Paris had been 10 degrees warmer, it also had more shade), I needed to weave far more than I usually did and so already had run more than 10 miles, and as much as I wanted to ignore it; my body felt tired. I knew I had to at least get to mile 12, where the Reebok team was volunteering at the Clif station. I hoped they would give me a second wind.

During hard race moments, remembering that I posted that I was running this race all over the internet kept me accountable (if I didn’t finish, everyone would know!). I put one foot in front of the other. I hit points in the race where I remembered feeling worse last year, an uplifting sentiment I was happy with. I turned on Hereford and booked it to the finish!

(Side note: Something I’ll always appreciate about marathon running is the crowd. Not just the fans, but the other runners, to. It’s amazing! There are people from all walks of life, all countries, all abilities — and you’re all here to do what only 1% of the population ever achieve. There’s something about that that makes the marathon extremely special).

3 hours and 44 minutes after my start time — This actually was, officially, my best work. Not only had I run a personal record (PR), run back-to-back marathons in two countries in one week, and had my mom finally see me cross the finish line — but I had cracked 3 hours and 45 minutes, something I had set out to do since last year.

After the finish line — Finishing a marathon prompts odd sensations: You have to fight for 26.2 miles to convince yourself to keep running, yet once you finish you can’t wait to run another one. I couldn’t believe I had run two marathons and had negative splits that led to two personal records (PRs).

2:30-ishp.m. — My friends all missed my finish, since I had told them I was probably going to come in around 4 hours and 30 minutes (I even shocked myself!). My reservations for lunch weren’t until 3:45p.m, so I had time to spare. I claimed my medal and immediately called my family and tried to round up my friends to go celebrate.

The city was vibrant, the crowds were loud, and my heart was full. I had done it! And now, I could celebrate.

A Look Back — Thoughts On The Week:

Running will never be a love affair for me, but pushing myself to achieve difficult challenges and sharing moments of glory with my friends and family always will be. Now off to London to run my third marathon in 2 weeks! …. Just kidding ☺

It turns out, you don’t actually run a marathon for yourself — you run it for others. You run it for your brother who can’t walk, for the pride you want your family to feel, for the accomplishment you get to share with your friends, and for the people that love you. The pride you feel in yourself is just bonus.

Lorna Chaulet

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Lorna Chaulet works in Marketing at Reebok. Originally from Paris, she has taken on Ragnar Supers, Marathons, and continuously runs for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in honor of her older brother, Alan. Boxing, soccer, and family are amongst her passions.

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