castles in the sky

The discussion we were having over this topic last week…it got me thinking about some stuff. Warning: this will be long. I might be rambling. You don’t even have to read the whole thing or anything. Us bloggers all know how therapeautic (sp?) writing can be and I know it will just help me to write about this.

Though as a little one, i did enjoy playing sports (dabbled in soccer one year and softball for a few years up until jr. high,) I never really thought I had any natural athletic talent-those traits were given to my younger brother. I never tried out for anything-when you were young you only had to participate in a team by signing up. And i knew I wasn’t good enough to play any sports in high school. Running never crossed my mind…I dreaded the weekly run-and yearly mile run-in high school gym class…and in college and a coupla years after, my only idea of running was an extra 25-30 minutes on the treadmill to supplement a cardio class at the gym because ya know, 45 minutes to an hour was just not enough.

Then in the summer of ’03, I found out my company was participating in the Corporate Challenge. 3.5 miles? No problem. Don’t know how fast I’d be, but I could do it. The weather that day was pouring rain, but instead of passing it up, I ran the entire time and actually enjoyed it a lot! My boss even said to me after I told her my time “that was pretty fast, you should do more of these races.” (My time was 36 and change clock time. Knowing what I know now, it was actually a few minutes faster, as it took me quite a few minutes to cross the start. How much faster, I will never know!) Her words did stick in my mind…no one ever called me fast before!! I didn’t do any racing in ’03, but would run to and from the park from my midtown apartment and do a few miles in the park every weekend that summer. Then at the end of the summer, I moved to the UWS…and with Central Park in such close proximity, my addiction only intensified. Then I remember one day running through the park the day before the ’03 NYC Marathon, seeing the park all done up…and the next day I saw the finishers walking around the city in their mylar capes and wearing their medals and looking so accomplished. or the friends and family on the busses or walking around with their signs to cheer the runners on. I told myself “this is something to shoot for, I WILL run this someday!” (whether that someday was the next year, or the year after, or whenever…)

I pretty much took the winter off, scared off by the unusually brutal NYC winter, and realized how much I missed running outside. Ran my first NYRR race in April, the Niketown Run For the Parks and really enjoyed the whole festive atmosphere of the races…and taking my first step towards getting entry towards the ’05 marathon. After a couple of more races, I noticed the camaraderie that all the local running clubs seemed to have at the races, and I was looking for some running buddies, so hey, why not? And so I became a Flyer. And with that a transformation seemed to happen…my first race with them was the Mini 10K, I expected a pace in the mid 8’s, and but wound up going sub-8 pace. It was surreal. Like that wasn’t even me running. Like that was some fast girl who was wearing my race number instead of me. Convinced that was a fluke, I ran a 5-miler a week later…not a fluke-was even faster then, and even won a team medal. All of a sudden I went from being “anonymous” to being “the fast girl.” And me thinking…was this actually athletic talent I never knew I had?

Speed can be a double-edged sword. When you get that high, of performing at a high level like that, you just want to do what you can to stay there. if you’re slumping…well I had a few Center Stage moments…as I put it. Was I liked because I was the “fast girl”…or because I was me? And every race that I didn’t PR, that I didn’t win a team medal (except for the club points ones) was a little bit of a disappointment.

But getting back to last fall. I was in the best shape of my life…as I mentioned before, won 2 age-group awards, PR’ed at 5K (twice), 4 miles and 10K (the 10K being probably the best race I have ever run. negative splits, feeling so easy and effortless…like i was just gliding along on autopilot pretty much the entire time…felt more like a “fun run” than a race.) I did it by pretty much keeping up the consistency after the Manhattan half, I didn’t want to “lose my edge.” But others still questioned, if I’m not training for the marathon, why am I still out there running 30-something mile weeks or whatever? Like the marathon (not even just NYC, i guess any fall marathon) is the only distance that exists? I’m NOT trying to knock marathoners and what they’ve accomplished at all. I’m really impressed and will be one of you someday. But I just felt like comments like that…i dunno. I was still out there training for me, because I felt I still had something I could chase down in shorter distances that fall. (hell, i was still out there because I wanted to make sure I could still fit into my clothes come holiday season…lol!)

but what goes up must come down as I crashed hard this year…succumbing (sp?) to overtraining and injury. i guess my “don’t give up, get revenge on the distance next time” attitude finally did me in. as a couple of my friends would vouch for, I was truly an emotional wreck. “why me?” I thought. “why now? all this hard work I put in for the last coupla years, gone just like that. it’s just not fair.” and i thought i was being smart by using last year for shorter distances, then working my way up to halfs and the full-“respecting the distance.” I wouldn’t get to achieve my goal of running the marathon. Hell, I was just a pale shadow of what I once was in shorter races as well. while everyone was working on their long runs for whatever marathon or goal race they had in the fall, i had to content myself with cross-training, which did not bring the same level of enjoyment it once did. i felt like an outcast, not being able to participate in group runs or long runs or whatever. yeah, i could still go to non-running social events, but felt like i was still missing out on so much.

ya know, when I first started running…I didn’t even think too much about times and being competitive and stuff like that. but i guess it did bring out the fact that i am, in fact, very competitive with myself. Especially here in NYC, a very competitive city in so many ways…i was just never satisfied. I always had to do better. i knew i was capable of doing better…if i just kept up the consistency, and tried to give that little something extra…plus i thought “damn, the one thing i thought i was actually talented in, and now it’s gone.”

One of my running friends said to me “Honestly…what separates a competitive runner from someone who simply goes to the gym and works out casually… I swear…sometimes I think most of us runners are compensating for something, even if we don’t know exactly what it is.” (if you’re reading, i hope you don’t mind if i quoted you!! i thought it was a good quote.) i think i figured out what it was for me…i was hoping to have accomplished a lot more by this time in my life than i have. “a lot more” included being married and settled down…since it seems like everyone around me is. and i guess part of the reason why i wanted to run the marathon, why i was upset that i couldn’t…was because i wanted to at least have something important accomplished to compensate for and to be OK with the fact that i wasn’t married yet. to say “yeah, all those girls are married with kids or whatever, but can they run 26.2 miles?” or in my family…my brother was the athletic one, my one cousin was the smart and successful one, my other cousin was the pretty and popular one…and i wasn’t any of those…until last year, i sorta became the athletic one too. don’t get me wrong, i was definitely proud of what i accomplished last year-i knew i had come a long way…but felt like that was behind me…been there done that…and had to shoot for a new, bigger goal. and as i commented previously, are people more impressed by the one who runs the kick-ass 10K, or the one who runs the kick-ass marathon?

where am i going with all of this? i guess running-wise, i am feeling a little lost right now. i am on the road to recovery, but not entirely sure where that road is leading me. i don’t know if i can ever go back to who i was before running competitively. i can’t always bring myself to “leave the stopwatch at home.” i am a changed person…for better or for worse…

dance music isn’t always known for its lyrics…more for the pulsating beats and rhythm and just its uncanny ability to make you feel so damn good. but listening to this song last nite while getting ready to go out…i felt this is definitely the theme of my post here.

do you ever question your life?
do you ever wonder why?
do you ever see in your dreams,
all the castles in the sky…

oh tell me why…
do we build castles in the sky…
oh tell me why…
all the castles way up high…
please tell me why…
do we build castles in the sky…
oh tell me why…
all the castles way up high…

what is my castle in the sky…the marathon? pushing myself to exceed in other distances? or something else entirely?

and if you have read through this entire post i simultaneously thank you and apologize 😀

now playing: “castles in the sky” ~ ian van dahl


7 thoughts on “castles in the sky

  1. I see you breaking 35 in the five-mile next year, along with a sub-1:40 half. you can do it! this is no time to get discouraged.

  2. Read the whole thing! I identify with where you were two years ago. Never ran more than 3 miles at a time but love the idea of running a marathon after just watching it last week. But why did I get this urge all of the sudden? Possibly because I want that feeling of accomplishment, possibly to compensate for a lack of other things. E-mail me sometime : philabramson -at- gmail -dot- com

  3. hey guys-thanks for the comments and support. i knew this was the right place to go…derek-you just have way too much confidence in me, dontcha? 🙂 seriously, if we really had to talk times, i’d be happy with just breaking a 7:30 pace in the 5-miler and going sub-1:45 in a harder half than vegas. i don’t have the natural talent that a certain mutual friend of ours has 🙂

  4. Wow. Running can be so sweet and yet so agonizing. I think so many of us can relate to what you have written.

  5. It sounds like you might need a new goal, whether it be running a marathon distance race or setting a new PR. It’s important to be concrete about your goal, though. “run a sub-1:45 half-marathon” is not a concrete goal. “Run 1:45 or better at the 2006 Grete’s Great Gallop Half-Marathon” is a concrete goal. Just remember, even though you’ve completed the race distance before, doesn’t mean that you needn’t work on targeting your training toward that one goal.PF sucks. I went down that road (plus the overtraining bridge) a few months ago. You’re doing great, though. Take it easy until you start feeling confident about your abilities. It might take a race or two. I was really disappointed with my comeback races, but they really put things in perspective for me and got me to rethink my goals, and therefore establish new ones to train towards.Don’t forget that you have plenty of time ahead of you to mature as a runner. I can’t believe I’ve only been racing for a year (it feels like two or three), but there you have it. I’ve heard it said, and agree, that developing as a runner is a slow process, much as weathering away a rock is.

  6. I think the reason why runners are so down to earth is precisely the reasoning behind your post…there’s just such a variety of up and downs. I think of running as a similarity to life in general. What you’re going through is only natural…and mentally you need to work through that “barrier.” I’ve read the next entry already and it seems you’re on the right track by having some races in mind…Sounds like you’re on the road to recovery not only physically but mentally…and honestly I’ve found that the mental part of running can be just as important if not more…

  7. Wow!!! I can so relate to your ramblings. I found running within the last 2 years. I was the one labeled, “doesn’t live up to your potential” by my parents. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Isn’t it strange how 20 years later that can still affect you? Anyway, I love the feeling of accomplishment I get from running. I found your blog through Danny Farkas “Training for my 1st..”. I’ll be back.

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