There is a moment this past April where I’m finishing up the last interval of a strength run, 2 x 3 miles or 3 x 2 miles (I can’t remember which) at 10 seconds faster than marathon pace. I look at my watch, the seconds ticking along as I feel my legs rolling over beneath me like a metronome. Left right left right left right left right at a steady 186 strides per second. I’m going to nail this workout, I realize, as the end point for this interval looms in the early morning fog. I have had this thought during almost every workout in the last month as I keep hitting splits. It hits me that I fully believe that I’m going to do it, that I’m going to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the Cleveland Marathon in May. I don’t think I am going to do it, I know I am, that’s how I feel. As I click my watch at the interval’s end (my time right where I want it) I take a moment to savor that feeling, that utter confidence. Then I remind myself to enjoy this, this feeling of invincibility, that the road before me is mine to conquer. It has been years since I felt like this…
I began writing this at my desk the day after Lebron left my city again and in the two weeks of reflection since I found much of the experience of watching him the last four years mirrored my own recent running success. I expected him to leave, I prepared for it, but that does not lessen the pain. All-time great players do not come around often to a city like Cleveland. I took for granted the opportunity to watch him play his first time here and so when he returned I knew it was a moment to savor. Lebron would inevitably be gone again, whether through free agency or as a victim of Father Time, so it was important to recognize the moment for what it was: a second chance to behold the extraordinary.
A lifelong Clevelander, I took Lebron’s first stint here with Cavs for granted. I believed no one could stop his ascension to best player in the league. Clevelanders, all of us, took it as certain that he’d win us the championship we’d long craved. We’d win with him, you’d see. And then he was gone, wearing a black and red Miami Heat jersey.
I was similarly confident during my first years of serious running. After an up and down few years getting to know the sport, I really came into my own in 2014 and 2015. I crushed my half marathon PR multiple times, was running free and easy and fast and dammit nothing would get in the way of my progress. I signed up for the 2016 Cleveland Marathon and surely a smashing marathon debut was in the making. Instead I physically broke down, maybe from a sporadic training plan, maybe from a pattern overload as years of bad form caught up to me, maybe because an imbalance from a previous glute injury, hidden and festering for years, finally caught up to me. Whatever the cause, where a fast, steadily improving runner had entered 2016 raring to go, I crossed the finish line of that 2016 Cleveland Marathon broken and diminished.
Like those intermittent years after Lebron’s leaving were a disaster for the Cavs, full of starts and stops, so too was the time that came after the disappointment of my marathon debut. Yet both events helped me reset what I expected from my experiences as a fan and as a runner. Moments that might seem small during the moments when everything is clicking become treats when little seems to be going right. My basketball team was one of the worst in the league? Well at least that draft pick seemed to be panning out. Hey, we put together a short win streak. Fantastic, we beat Lebron’s Miami team (and on the day before my birthday no less!). I’m an injured wreck and haven’t been able to run consistently in a year? Suddenly that 6-mile run, a short jog when training is going well, became a luxurious long run that enabled me to see something, anything, more than the mile or so from the door I’d been running while trying to get back to full health. The opportunity to even jog through a race, an actual race with other devoted runners was heavenly, when it had been nine months since I last dared to toe a start line. Yes, during those bad times for the Cavs and during the moments in 2016 and 2017 when I was a shadow of my former running self, I learned and embraced the need to be mindful of anything good I could experience. It is why when Lebron announced he was returning in 2014 I was keenly aware that I was being given a second chance to enjoy watching the sport being played at maybe the highest level the league has even seen. For Clevelanders it culminated on June 19, 2016, with the city’s first pro sports title since 1964. After entering Game 5 of those NBA Finals down 3-1, the week that would encompass Games 5-7 would be, for many Clevelanders, the great sports week of our lives. And it is why the last eight months or so, when I have returned to that strong runner I once was have been equally rewarding.
Which brings me to why I am writing this post and why I have returned to this blog. It has been roughly two years since I wrote about my running and as much of those two years were full of frustration, starts and stops, nagging pains, and trips to doctor’s offices, I lost touch with the purpose I had for writing this blog, the idea that I could help others with their running if I shared my own ups and downs as a runner. One of my biggest faults is that when I lose track of my purpose I tend to stand still and I am most guilty of that right here, in this space. However, by being far more mindful of the highs running can provide, even in the darkest of times, I have returned to reconnect, to share my running journey with any readers I may have. I have enjoyed several successes in the last few months but I am not back to brag. Rather, I am back to perform a sort of autopsy on the last two years of my running, to share what didn’t go well and the required adjustments I had to make to get myself back to being the runner I have always wanted to be. In the coming months, as I share my preparation for the Columbus Marathon, I will also be sharing information on those two years, including:
- How I built back to full strength and fulfilled a life-long dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon in the process
- Why strength training is so important for runners and why I am a believer in Jay Johnson’s SAM programs
- Why daily mobility work is so important and why I am a believer in the work that people like Kelly Starrett and Jill Miller are doing
- Why I run using the Hanson’s Method and why I believe a progressive program is important for meeting your running goals
- Why I love the Cleveland Metroparks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the great race series the Canalway Partners put on every year
- Why I see a chiropractor and why I believe one is a solid investment for any athlete
- Various thoughts on running, runners, competition, performance, and really anything that goes through my head as it may relate to improved running or performance
Two weeks after he left it doesn’t feel any better that Lebron is gone, that the run I have enjoyed during the last four years is over. However it is a run that provided some of the best sports memories in my lifetime. I am mindful of those memories and mindful that more good can come, that while the coming years will be different, there will be bright spots. Luckily in my running life I still seem to be in the middle of a good stretch, where each day I feel strong and capable of taking on whatever workout I have planned. I will be mindful of that too because I have slogged through the long, trying wilderness and I am trying to avoid it again for as long as I can.