Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

The Long Long Run

Posted: November 9, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

I apologize for the size of that photo up there, and for the fact that the goldish medal reflected on my teeth, making them look yellow. But I get to post one huge photo. I have earned this gigantic photo. Because this photo?

It was taken after I finished my first marathon.

On Sunday. The 2010 ING New York City Marathon. I averaged an 11:34 minute/mile pace over 26.2 miles, finishing in 5 hours, 2 minutes, and 48 seconds. I whailed into a wall at the 23rd mile, and was totally cooked when I crossed the line, but I ran 26.2 miles. And a year ago, I hadn’t even completed a 4-mile run yet. This is a fact.

I don’t know if any of you know any long distance runners (besides those of you who were out there cheering for me on Sunday, and to whom I am therefore eternally grateful), but they’re very interesting creatures.
Distance runners are constantly doing battle, waging war. We fight the weather, the elements, often running in the cold, the oppressive heat and humidity, or the rain/sleet/snow if we have to. We fight our friends and family members, who sometimes unknowingly make us think we can’t do it, or try to convince us to skip a run or not prepare properly the night before. We fight the distance, aiming to beat it and better it. We fight our bodies, our doubts, the pain and the sweat. We are constantly fighting.
And after all that work, most of us never even win. 44,829 people finished the New York City marathon this year. Only 4 of them came in first place. The rest of us? We did something that maybe we never knew we could do. I sure did.

50 weeks after I ran my first road race, I completed my first marathon. I’ve been training for 4 months. 3 times a week, every week, for 4 months, I ran. I didn’t drink on Fridays because I knew that I had to get up and do a long training run on Saturdays. I sweated through runs increasing from 9 miles to 20 miles. I covered 20 miles TWICE. And in the end, it all came down to 5 hours of my life. And I did it. I have never been as proud as I was on Sunday when I crossed the finish line. Except when they gave me my medal, and my mylar cape, and I was able to see my family and friends after and celebrate.

Sunday’s run was amazing. It was painful. It was difficult and it was glorious and I cried more tears than I knew I had to cry, and I am in more pain than I ever imagined I would be. I am grateful for every person in Bay Ridge, who gave me high fives and yelled “Go Yosie” at me, for getting me off to a happy start. I am thankful for every band that was out on the route, even the ones I didn’t listen to that closely. I am thankful for every single footstep, because I never knew I would take them all at once.
I ran 10 wonderful miles. I ran 8 Ok miles. I hit the Bronx and felt like hell, but somehow the pace picked up. And then I hit Central Park. And everything slowed way down. But I ran.

I am glad for every supporter in Brooklyn, for my wonderful friends who cheered me on in Queens. For the present Pretty Girls, all of whom were out to support me and cheer for me, who stood in the wind and held up signs and screamed. I am glad that when I hit the Queensboro bridge just before mile 15, I knew that I could get to the other side if I had to crawl, and I am glad that when I saw my friends again in Harlem, I apparently looked good despite how bad I felt 22 miles into the run. I am glad for Adi, who tried her damnedest to get to the City to see me, because others in her position absolutely would have given up or turned back. I am grateful to EDub, who also tried SO hard to see me. She did more than most would, and more than many did, and she didn’t even get to see me. But she was with me. I’m grateful to Mr K, to Grampa and to Pop, for lifting me up and carrying me when I thought I couldn’t run anymore, and helping me find that little bit more. I am grateful to every single person at First Congregational Church who kept me on the prayer list, and who sent their prayers and their energy to me around the time I started the marathon. I love every single person who couldn’t be there in person but told me they were pulling for me. I felt your energy.
I am blown away by my parents, my brother, my cousin Mike coming out to cheer for me. I am so glad that Erin, Jen, Marla, Rita, Bakezilla, Ben, Alyssa, Alex, Mom, Dad, Trev, KBam, EVo, John, and my wonderful, supportive, amazing boyfriend Jesse were there. I will never be able to thank you all enough.

Long distance runners are fiercely independent. We know that no matter what we say, the only things that are getting us through the next training run are our selves. We have nothing to rely on except for what we carry – our energy gels, electrolyte drinks, our clothes and our shoes. And what we carry inside us – grit, determination, independent spirit and the relentless will to finish. I trained with KBam for 4 months, and without her I would not have made it to the starting line. But I knew that the only way I could get to the finish line was to find it in myself. And I did. Even when I was sure I would stop, give up, never see Manhattan, let alone Central Park.

Even so. Every long-distance runner knows that we cannot do it alone. Without the crowds to lift you, you have no will to push. Without knowing that my family was out there, expecting me, I would have started walking the first time things got tough. Without Alex to run alongside me I wouldn’t have been able to push through the Bronx. Without the promise of hugs, and congratulations I would not have driven all the way to the finish.

Have you ever wondered what a runner eats?

Right after the race, I ate a huge plate of gravy fries, and 2 pints of Guinness. For my first dinner after running the race, my first proper balanced meal, I had broiled home fries, spicy black beans, and 2 fried eggs. This may not have been the most “from scratch” of meals, but it was hearty. It had protein and carbs. And in a world where being tired and sore does not mean you don’t have to get dinner on the table, it was just what the people I love wanted to eat.
And for that, as well, I am eternally grateful.


6 Comments on “The Long Long Run”

  1. 1 Leanne said at 3:07 pm on November 9, 2010:

    You are a much stronger person than I will ever be. When Alyssa and I looked at the route that morning I thought how incredible a feat this really is. I’m so sorry we couldn’t be there but we were thinking of you and rooting for you. We’re so proud of you, you have always been an amazing person, this just made that even more clear to us. Hopefully we’ll see you soon! -XOXO

  2. 2 bakezilla said at 8:09 am on November 10, 2010:

    You did it joh! What a feat!

  3. 3 Mom J said at 8:52 pm on November 11, 2010:

    OK, when I stop crying, I might be able, but not likely, to tell you how proud I am of you. But right now, I can’t see the screen or the keys, (sniff, sniff) so… just know for now, that I am completely “verklempt”!!

  4. 4 Nishta said at 9:34 pm on November 11, 2010:

    this is an amazing post and YOU are an amazing woman. so amazed by you! huge congratulations.

  5. 5 Joh said at 10:29 am on November 12, 2010:

    Thank you, everyone!!! Like I said up there, I both ran it alone and couldn’t have possibly run it alone. Bakezilla, thank you for the ADORABLE sign! I loved it soooo much!
    Mom, thanks for being there, and Leanne, thanks for thinking about me!!! It was great having Lyssa there, to represent the Mac branch of my fam!
    Nishta, thank you. Seriously. It was the hardest thing I’ve done to date, but I CANNOT wait to try again next year. Because now… I know I can do it.

  6. 6 Ben said at 1:00 pm on November 12, 2010:

    Great post, Joh. And congratulations on finishing your first marathon. We were all really proud of you.

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Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.