My 16-week blogging culminated in the 2011 New York City marathon on Sunday.
An interesting mind thing happens the week preceding a big race. First, you're just praying that nothing weird happens that will cause bodily injury to prevent you from running the best race. For example, some chick on the subway makes a sudden move and stabs you in the toe with her Jimmy Choo-stiletto boots. Then, you start to really listen to your body and question what you hear ..."What's going on with my I.T. band? My left ankle seems awfully creaky ... that right calf muscle seems a little hinky ..."
These are all things that may have been minor nuisances during training, but over 26.2 miles, particularly during the last four -- these are the things that can break you.
I actually had a mild freakout on Tuesday, while running on the treadmill at the gym. The tendon in my left ankle started killing me and I actually had to stop running. I calmly got off the treadmill and did some light indoor cycling. I have been thinking, chanting and praying over this ankle all week.
Background: When I was 8, I twice sprained my ankle very badly. Two bones have since been fused in the ankle which means it can get very stiff. The tendon thing has happened once before, but not for a while, not acutely, and certainly not while I've been training for the marathon. I thought to myself, why is this happening now, my marathon week? What does this mean? Will I be able to run? I addressed these concerns by putting as little pressure on the ankle as possible, did no more running until race day, and did a lot of work stretching my calves, which I believed was affecting the issue with the ankle.
Then I had to let it go. Let the ankle go, let concerns about my tweaked right hip go. Let any thoughts of not being prepared enough go, and just get out there and run. When you're standing there in your corral, after weeks and months of prep, having gotten up at 4 a.m. to be ready to go to Staten Island, and your coach isn't there, your friends aren't there -- it's just you, your legs and your sneaks, and you have 26.2 miles bridges, hills and concrete road ahead of you. You have to believe that you're ready, and then run your own race.
For me it was actually a very pleasant race. Please don't misunderstand ... I was workin' HARD out there. To get the time I wanted to get, I knew I would have to get on and stay on my pace.
The New York City marathon is very challenging -- in some ways, harder than Boston. First, it's hella crowded -- 50,000 people jockeying for position on bridges and streets. It's very hard to get on your pace without navigating the crowd. The problem is you don't want to use up energy bobbing and weaving from side-to-side. You only want to move forward.
Sid advised me the night before to run the first 10 miles slower than my pace, then get on my pace, then make up at the end.
I definitely took his advice to heart and it served me well. I bided my time during the first half and was able to pick up speed during the last miles, a time that is really difficult for anyone running the race.
I did a 3-hour-37-minute marathon. This is a little slower than the somewhat arbitrary goal I set for myself of 3:30, but I'll take it. In an effort to not blow my legs up on the bridges, I probably lost some time but had more energy at the end. I'm proud of this time for a few reasons: 1) It's a good time and one I worked hard for; 2) I trained on a schedule that worked for me, allowing me to cross-train, train my friends and teach my fitness classes in Harlem; 3) When I finished, I was tired but not destroyed. It felt like I had just done a long run. My recovery will be very quick.
Last and most importantly, it is the product of a partnership and friendship I have with Sid. WE accomplished this today. I think he was more thrilled with the time than I was.
As I state in the video, today was an amazing fitness event. It marks the culmination of several weeks of work, and to a certain extent, my lifetime of work. I will take the moment, enjoy it and move on. For in health and fitness, there is no end -- only chapters, moments and events, but your commitment to investing in your health must continue until there is no you.
Sid and I are already planning my next fitness endeavor: track. Sid seems to think I have a little Flo Jo in me at 37. I'm a little skeptical but am excited to explore it. The one thing I am sure of is we will have a blast working on this next project together and I'm excited that Sid is going to invest his time in me. The only thing cooler than accomplishing a fitness goal is when you help someone else accomplish their goals.
With that, I want to thank you for reading my blog posts over the past few months. I would be thrilled if you've been entertained and inspired to be more active by this blog. I would be even more thrilled if you felt inspired to help someone else live a healthier and active lifestyle. Remember to always keep it moving and inspire someone else to move with you.
I'm Jennifer Turner and these have been my Marathon Diaries.
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Jennifer Turner is a veteran television executive in New York City. A certified group fitness instructor and self-proclaimed "fitness activator," she believes that everyone has ability, with the right tools, social support, and inspiration to be able to connect to fitness in an emotional way. Her mission is to activate that ability and to inspire communities across the country. Jennifer blogs at madcoolfitness.com.