I reflect on the summer of eagerly anticipated training that was stopped dead in it's tracks before it even really began. Fresh off the high of the Boston Marathon and well deserved time off, I felt like I could fly. This was to be my launching pad into stronger, faster racing. Really showing myself what I was made of, pushing my body and my mind more than I ever had before. I was ready to delve again into the deep, dark cave of pain that happens during a marathon.
After all, if it doesn't hurt at some point along the way, you aren't pushing hard enough.
Instead I was left broken once again - a foot that refused to heal, endless stopping and starting of running. Each start hopeful and then left hurt and disappointed once again. I finally realized that the September marathon had to go, throw it out the window already. Take the time off (4 solid weeks) and look toward a December marathon. YES, that will be the answer...
My coach and I had a big discussion at the end of July as I was coming back from four weeks of rest. I was to race a half marathon in Vermont as a stepping stone to my December goal marathon. We talked, planned and talked even further about the future and some short term goals.
"I'm not ready yet." It kept telling me. "When?" I pleaded. "When I am good and ready", it replied with quite the haughty attitude.
After many more hiccups along the way, I finally started running again at the end of August. I realized that this was an exact replica of what I had gone through last summer - only then I knew what would happen.
My heart was excited to travel nearly three thousand miles to the other side of the United States, to a beautiful place called Vermont. I couldn't wait to see and meet nine other women who loved running as much as I did. Women who were great runners, writers and wonderful people. Many of them I hadn't met in real life, yet I could tell they would be just as genuine in person as they were on their blogs.
I pushed aside thoughts of running the half marathon that all the women would run on our last day together. I wasn't sad anymore, in my mind it just wasn't reality.
The speed shorts that I love to train and race in were suddenly super snug on my bottom. As I gazed into my full length mirror, I shook my head. It wasn't in disbelief, because I knew night after night (after night) that as I placed my hand into that bag of incredible chocolate, I wasn't running the miles to back it up. I was swimming and putting in some strength work, but it wasn't the same. My body never responds quite the same as when I am throwing down 16 mile long runs, combined with 7 mile tempo runs or mile repeats. My butt knew the difference, my shorts knew the difference and so did I.
The re entry into running had to be careful and very slow. Even though our family home is nestled in the mountains directly above the ocean with trail access practically right out the door, I was told to run on flat ground for a while.
Fast forward four weeks later and suddenly I am in the green mountains of Vermont running on a stunning, yet very hilly trail with nine other women. I knew it was real, yet I felt like I was in a fog all at once. We started running uphill from the very beginning, and it kept going and going. I was so out of shape and my lungs, legs and entire body was protesting. We start chatting a bit and then another hill leaps into the path. "How was that hill Ladies?!" Allie (who I love!) says with confidence. I am cursing inside a bit thinking: "How can I possibly not stop and walk right now?"
Photo credit: Angela from Happy Fit Mama
Sarah and I had never met and at that moment she is running next to me, starting a conversation. I tell her (through ragged breath) how hard this is for me right now. I feel comfortable saying it - it's hard. She kindly begins to talk about running, my last race and then the races that she has coming up. It was so welcoming, refreshing and fun. Before we know it, we have made it to the halfway mark.
All the women come together and we are laughing, talking, admiring the beauty around us and marveling at the fact that we are running. Together!! We take pictures and laugh some more - there is so much joy and we forget about the fact that we have to run back...
I drop back a lot on the way back, my body again protesting at the fact that I am doing this right now. We arrive at another punishing hill and all at once I see Angela at the top, looking back at me. Silently encouraging me to keep pushing. You can do it Nat - she seems to say. Again, She and I had never met and the kindness in that gesture gave me the confidence to keep going. Just. Get. To. Angela.
If I can make it to Angela, I will have a friend to run with. We chatted for a bit about the craziness of the hill and before I knew it, the run was over and suddenly I didn't want it to end.
This is what happens when you bring runners together - great things happen. Friendships are born.
Allie from VitaTrain4Life
Angela from Happy Fit Mama
Christine from Love.Life.Surf
Jes from RunLadyLike
Kara from One Redhead and Lighthouses
Laura from This Runner's Recipes
Sandra from Organic Runner Mom
Sarah from Run Far Girl
Sue from This Mama Runs For Cupcakes
I have so much yet to tell you about our incredible weekend of running, friendship, sharing, food, swag and people that traveled to come and speak to us. It was all very surreal.
Jes and Sarah had an amazing vision and it all came together beautifully over 4 memorable days in the mountains of Vermont.
The power of friendship and running...
Have you ever been on a running retreat?
Happiness Is Running Life.