Clickbait: My Former Boyfriend

There’s an old adage made popular by both Woody Allen and my father that if you want to make God laugh, you tell him your plans.

I’m a strong believer that the big guy is also a fan of low-grade puns – “How does Moses make his coffee? Hebrews it.” – but I digress.

It’s true though: You can plan, prime and plot all you want, but when it comes time to put said preparations into practice (Editor’s Note: This sentence brought to you by the letter P), the outcome is often out of our hands. A few examples:

  • You plan to run a sub-4:00 marathon, but race day leaves you winded and you end up crossing the finish line at 4:15 instead.
  • You plan to order the fall beet salad, but when everyone around you orders the burger, you cave – and add bacon to boot.
  • You plan to spend the afternoon of your 30th birthday relaxing at home writing a blog post about how transformative your 20s were, but it turns out your boyfriend* had his own plans to get down on one knee in the Garden Court at the Frick, ask you to marry him, and spend the next two hours driving around town in a limousine drinking champagne and calling your friends and family to tell them the big news.



We forgot to take any photos inside the limo except this close-up of our hands, our bubbly and my lap. Just call me Annie Leibovitz.

I’m usually the kind of person who lives and breathes by my google calendar, and a disruption of my well-planned out day was once enough to throw me into a tizzy. But if Wednesday taught me anything, it’s that stepping out of preparation mode and letting someone else do the planning is not only freeing – it can be downright magical.

Of course, while I wasn’t involved in the planning of Wednesday’s surprise engagement, that doesn’t mean I’m off off the hook when it comes to the next stage of planning, i.e. the wedding. We have an awful lot to figure out — venue, date, whether gathering all 25 of my first cousins in one room will make it explode with Irishness — but we’re not worried about it all yet. We’ve decided to enjoy the holiday season and not begin wedding planning in earnest until the New Year. With so many other things on the calendar in the weeks ahead — a celebration of my grandfather’s very long life, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years — waiting until January to think about colors and flowers is a plan I can get behind.


Celebrating our engagement at Monkey Bar. It’s going to take me a few days to remember the ring is supposed to be in the photo, too.

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Mirror, Mirror

Human beings are hardwired to respond to each other using the same tone and emotion as the other person in the conversation. Think about it: You speak softly to a colleague, and she’ll lower her voice when replying to you, whether or not she even realizes it. Shout at a sales clerk and he’s going to want to take it up a notch, too. Enthusiastically exclaim that you finally achieved your lifelong goal of taking a 14-person selfie? Your listener will probably exude excitement right back at you (unless your listener happened to have his head cut off in said photo because even your impressively long arms weren’t sufficient to capture all 16 houseguests in the frame. I’m sorry, Ben & Tom. I really am.)


Feel free to hire me as your wedding photographer.

Mirroring each other’s behavior is a subconscious trait of humankind that helps us build empathy, community and rapport. It’s fascinating stuff, but – you may be asking yourself – what, exactly, does this have to do with running?

I’ll tell you what. In the 13 days since I finished the New York City Marathon, I’ve spoken to a lot of people about how my race went. Some days, I responded negatively, lamenting that I bombed my goal by nearly half an hour and never wanted to do a marathon again. Other days, I was more neutral in my response, saying while it was tough, I finished, and that’s what really counts. And even once or twice, I replied with the excitement I wish I’d felt all along: “I ran it, the crowds were amazing and someday, I hope to do it all again.”

And what do you know? Even though every single friend or colleague I talked to heard essentially the same baseline story – I ran a 4:15 NYC marathon – depending whether they heard me tell it with an upbeat tone or a self-deprecating one strongly influenced what kind of response I got in return. Case in point:

  • Q: Hey Anne! How’d the marathon go?
  • A: Ugh. I ran a 4:15 and I never want to set foot on the streets of NYC again.
  • Q: Sorry to hear that. At least you finished. What do you think went wrong out there?


  • Q: Hey Anne! How’d the marathon go?
  • A: I ran a 4:15 and I finished and then I ate the most delicious grilled cheese of my life.
  • Q: And you deserved it! Grilled cheese is amazing and so are you.

Both responses are totally valid – you ask for sympathy and you’re going to get it – but the more times I had this conversation, the more I realized I preferred hearing the second response better. I mean, what millennial doesn’t like to hear that they’ve done a good job? Especially because, despite my lingering disappointment, I know deep down inside that running a 26.2 mile feat is an impressive accomplishment in and of itself, clock-time be damned.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting everyone whitewash their negative race experiences and go all Mary-Sunshine every time someone asks about something that was a real let down. It can be cathartic to talk about difficult situations, and reflecting on and processing a tough day of running is an important way to improve your strategy next time around. But at the same time, I’ve learned these last two weeks that when it comes to excitement level, you really reap what you sow. If you want to hear back from others what a good job you did, you need to start pretending that you think so, too.

Who knows: you might even come to believe it. I finally did.

run crop

Now that I’ve finished mourning my race, tell me: How did yours go?

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2015 Marathon Recap: An Uphill Battle

In case you happened to be one of the people who saw me sobbing at the finish line of the NYC marathon yesterday in waves of disappointment (I’m talking to you, concerned German finisher with the judgy eyes), you should know upfront that the day wasn’t all bad. Yes, I failed to match my marathon PR by more than 25 minutes. Yes, I had to walk during a race for the first time in my life. Yes, I spent the final miles of the course humming the tune to Adam Sandler’s Cure-inspired love song from 1998 comedy the Wedding Singer: “Oh somebody kill me please/somebody kill me please/ I’m on my knees/pretty, pretty please/kill me.” What can I say? I’m a romantic.

But dramatic end aside, the day also had its high points, and I’m not just talking about the elevation. From the unbridled enthusiasm of the Brooklyn spectators to the roar of the crowd as we pulled into Manhattan to the thousands of moments of encouragement from volunteers, police officers and bystanders alike, Nov. 1 was full of extraordinary moments. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In the words of Maria von Trapp: Let’s start at the very beginning. (A very good place to start.)

6:00 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.: The morning began on a real positive note. Unlike on marathon mornings past, I woke up well rested and ready to take on the day. I got dressed, ate my customary peanut butter and banana sandwich and felt mentally and physically ready for the course ahead. I was confident as I walked to the subway, practically fist pumping with each step like I was in the final scene of a John Hughes movie. Nothing was going to stand in my way.

Let's do this!

Let’s do this!

7:30-9:30 a.m.: … Except for public transit, that is. I arrived at the Staten Island ferry terminal at 7:15 a.m., and the doors were locked as they waited for the building to clear out the earlier runners. When they finally let us in, only a fraction of us made it onto the 7:45 a.m. ferry, and I was not one of them. Doing the math, I realized it was going to be tight making it into my corral before it closed at 9:40 a.m., so I made friends with another runner and we elbowed our way onto the 8 a.m. ferry, which, with bus delays, got me to the race start at 9:32 a.m. I literally hopped off the bus and ran to my corral with minutes to spare. Nothing like sprinting a mile right before starting a 26.2-mile road race to blow your confidence.

You can't see the panic in my face here.

You can’t see the panic in my face here but believe me, it’s there.

10:15 a.m.- 11:30 a.m.: Shortly after my transportation-induced anxiety subsided, Wave 2 began, and me with it. We climbed the always breathtaking Verrazano Bridge, and my pace felt good and steady. We entered Brooklyn, and the crowds were absolutely invigorating. Kids were high-fiving us, church ladies were waving their hats and spectators of all ages called out my name as I raced by. It was so exciting, I looked down at my watch and realized I was briefly running at a 6:30 pace. Whoops. In fact, I felt so good between miles 1 and 8 that I secretly decided to register for the Philly marathon in three weeks and see if I could successfully run it without telling anyone, just for fun. I felt on top of the world.

Don't try to spot me in here. This photo is borrowed from a college friend who was spectating in BK like a boss.

Don’t try to spot me in here. This photo is borrowed from my college friend Ben who was spectating in BK like a boss.

11:30-1 p.m.: Unfortunately, things started to go downhill shortly after that, and I’m not talking about the race course. As I exited Fort Greene, I found myself unable to catch a deep breath, and that frightening feeling of breathlessness stayed with me through the remainder of the course. I started shuffling before I even reached the Pulaski Bridge – the same spot where two years ago I felt so alive – and I knew the rest of the race wasn’t going to be pretty.

I don't have a photo from this segment, so here is a dramatic re-enactment based on my 2013 race photo.

I don’t have a photo from this segment, so here is a dramatic re-enactment based on my 2013 race photo. Only this time there were no spectators and I felt like a thousand deaths.

1 p.m.-1:15 p.m.: I did a lot of practice runs on the 59th Street Bridge this year, and unlike during my last race, it didn’t shatter me. I kept a steady (albeit slower than expected pace), entered Manhattan on a high note, and enjoyed barreling up First Avenue to a sea of familiar faces. After hours of suffering, seeing my friends and family was a welcome reprieve.

A small, smiley sliver of my adoring fans!

My adoring fans! (f-Anne-s?)

1:15 p.m. -2:30 p.m.: Have you ever seen the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs? That’s how I felt during the last 10 miles of my race. I hit the Willis Avenue Bridge and was so out of breath that I had to stop and walk. And once I let myself walk once, it was hard to talk myself out of doing it again and again throughout the Bronx and into Harlem. At this point, I knew there was no way I’d finish in under 4:00 hours, and every time a spectator called out my name, I felt embarrassed and ashamed at how despondent I’d become. Fortunately, my runner friend Leigh-Ann passed me right before we started the cruel 5th Ave incline, and we were able to commiserate together how tough the day had been. We stuck together for a mile or two, then she pulled ahead while I shuffled forward and into the final stretch.


I swear I’m holding a fake gun to my head, not making a crude gesture, though really, both convey the message.

2:36 p.m.: I crossed the finish line at 4:15:53, and – you guessed it – burst into tears. It wasn’t all sadness – some of it was relief, some of it was joy, some of it was my exhausted body no longer behaving in ways my brain had approved. I was proud of myself for finishing – there were a few moments there when I thought I might not – but I also felt so disappointed in myself for failing to hit my target time by such a wide margin. I collected my medal and snack bag and poncho, and then hightailed it out of the park so I could meet my family. What’s interesting is while all the other runners were hobbling along, I was walking more or less fine. My limiting factor during the race had been my lungs, not my legs, which felt like they still had some juice in them even after crossing the finish line. I sped-walked down to the Time Warner Center, where I met my people and, yet again, burst into tears. You know, because my dehydrated body wanted to be sure to use up EVERY LAST DROP. My family and I then made it back to the Upper East Side, where I put on a dry shirt, we ate greasy diner food, and I crawled into bed before 7:30 p.m.

Me crying into my boyfriend's arms. Post-run Anne is a drama queen.

Post-run Anne is a drama queen.

So between all those ups and downs, was it ultimately a good day or a bad day? If I hear only the disappointed voice in my head, it was a bad day, but if I choose to listen to the hundreds of friends e-mailing and texting me their congratulations, I know that finishing a marathon at any pace is an accomplishment worth celebrating. And while I didn’t get the time goal I wanted, if I think about the day in a different light, I technically did achieve a new personal record in a sense: yesterday, I did my longest run EVER. Never before in my life have I run for 4 hours and 15 minutes straight, and while I hope to never do it again, you can’t say that isn’t a PR of sorts.

So there we have it, folks. I PRed yesterday in the NYC marathon, and I have the sore quads today to prove it. Yesterday, I also achieved something else very important to me: the clear affirmation that I will not be running a marathon in the 2016 calendar year. From the horse’s mouth: I am taking a season off this distance. See you all in the half marathon circuit!

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Raring to Go

If you’ve asked me any time in the past few weeks whether I’m excited about tomorrow’s marathon, I probably told you no. I may have said I’m not excited because of my recurring shin pain, or I’m not excited because I doubt I’ll finish in under 4 hours, or I’m not excited because I’ve been training for too damn long, or I’m not excited because – let’s be honest — it’s not the epic November 2015 event that I’m most excited about this month. This is:

Yes, they’re invitation magnets. No, the three of us aren’t engaged. Though we probably should be. Sorry, Keirnan.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been decidedly not excited for anything related to this road race save for the prospect of it being over. But then something started to change, and in such small, incremental ways that I hardly noticed it at first.

  • I stepped out onto 1st Avenue to discover they’d hung the infamous Marathon Route banners on the lampposts, and it made me smile.
Photo courtesy of Leigh-Anns instagam because I forgot to take one myself.

Photo courtesy of Leigh-Ann’s instagam because I forgot to take one myself.

  • I went to an early birthday dinner with my cousin slash bestie who pointed out how much I’ve changed from the beginning of my 20s to the end of them, and it made me proud that I’m capping off this defining decade with a marathon.

Wine = my pre-race beverage of choice.

  • I popped into the race expo to pick up my bib, and when the volunteer working the 20,000-25,000 booth wished me luck this Sunday, it for the first time hit me that this elusive event that’s been on my calendar for SO DARN LONG is finally here.


  • I treated myself to a pair of awesome stained glass inspired leggings at said expo, and for the first time in ages, it made me want to get outside and run in them. Not ‘til after the race, of course; no new leggings on race day, as amazing as they may be.

IMG_0017 (1)

  • I woke up to discover good luck flowers from my supportive boyfriend and a note wishing me luck this weekend, which is the sweetest, considering he’s been forced to wake up to my 5:30 a.m. running alarm all summer long, too.

  • I stopped by the marathon pavilion at the site of the finish line yesterday to hear my physical therapist friend Leigh-Ann give an awesome presentation on post-race recovery, which made me super excited about that BLT I already know I’m going to eat in my ice bath in exactly 31 hours.

All of these events – plus the well wishes flowing in from friends and family in e-mails, texts and cards – would have probably been enough to successfully propel me out of my funk and get me excited about the fast-approaching big day. But just in case I needed one more thing to get me excited about tomorrow’s 26.2-mile event, guess who else I met at the marathon pavilion yesterday.

<3 <3 <3

For those of you who don’t know (shame!), this is Meb Keflezighi, an Olympic silver medalist, the winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon, and — famously — the winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon one year after the bombing when it felt so symbolic that an American distance runner took home the title for the first time in more than 30 years. He’s a hero of mine, and hearing him wish me luck out there (and asking me not to beat him if I can help it — oh Meb, you jokester, you) got me more pumped than I ever could have imagined.

It may have taken me several months to feel this way, but now that the butterflies are here in my stomach, I don’t think they’re going anywhere until I step onto the Verrazzano Bridge in 24 short hours. The goal now is to get myself calm enough that I can sleep through the night, hold down some breakfast, and make it to the ferry on time.

After that, it’s all up to my legs. See you in Central Park, folks.

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Island Fever … Well, Tendinitis

New York City’s Randall’s Island is not just home to two psychiatric hospitals, a water treatment plant and several homeless shelters. This small landmass in the middle of the East River has also been the backdrop to some of my finest moments as a New York City resident — and several of my worst.

  • The Good: This surprisingly lush park-strewn island plays host to the Governor’s Ball music festival each year, which is my favorite kind of music festival — the kind where you get to walk home to your own shower and bed after the festivities close down at a reasonable hour.
  • The Bad: Randall’s Island was where I spent the better part of four terrifying seasons pretending I understood that handballs in soccer were a bad thing. Given my dribbling skills, it’s amazing we ever made the playoffs.
  • The Ugly: It was on Randall’s Island at this year’s company picnic that I ate too much delicious free food and ended up tossing my cookies on the ferry-ride home. And by cookies, I mean moon pies. What a waste of moon pie.

With Randall’s Island carrying such a variety of memories for me, it shouldn’t come as a surprise the gamut of emotions that transpired there for me on Saturday. It started good: I was signed up for a local 5K that I thought would be a good chance to practice running marathon goal pace one week before the big day. Then it turned bad: I planned to do the 5K as the middle miles of my final 8-mile long run, and by the time I arrived at race check-in, my left shin was acting up. And then it turned ugly: Post-race, I could hardly walk, and no amount of icing or stretching or pumpkin pudding seemed to relieve the pain. To be fair, pumpkin pudding isn’t famous for being a pain reliever, but I thought it wise to do experiments anyways. You know, for science.

Damn you, supposedly easy fun run. (Source: Randall's Island Facebook Page, because islands also like social media.)

Damn you, supposedly easy fun run. (Source: Randall’s Island Facebook Page, because islands also like social media.)

Unfortunately, the pain persisted, so I did what any runner does the week before the marathon: I panicked. I started googling symptoms. I convinced myself I had a stress fracture. I debated skipping NYC altogether and registering for the Philly marathon in late November in order to give myself time to heal properly before putting my body through that strain. I cried.

Fortunately, I was smart enough to solicit a second opinion, which came from a licensed physical therapist friend who knows more than google. She examined me in her lovely apartment, diagnosed some mild tendinitis, taped me up and prescribed a stringent regimen of ice, ibuprofen, rest and supportive shoes. I may not like wearing sneakers in the workplace — Silicon Valley chic, as I’ve dubbed today’s output — but I have to admit I’m walking much better with the help of their support.

The hardest part of her prescribed treatment? An entire week off running. Normally the week before a marathon, I’ll log a few 3 to 4 mile runs just to keep myself same and keep my head in the game, but I’ve been instructed to stay off of my feet as much as I possibly can. If you thought my taper crazies were bad in past years, imagine the withdrawal I’m feeling ramping down to 0 with just five days to go. It’s maddening.  Might as well write me into a Brontë novel and lock me in the attic.

The good news is it’s starting to feel a whole lot better — so good, in fact, that I’m still expecting to toe the starting line at Sunday’s race. My legs might be heavy for not having exercised all week, but at least they’ll function. And whats race week anyways if not a chance for everything to go terribly wrong all at the same time? Builds character, right?

Here’s hoping. Four days.

How is your taper going?

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Oh, Canada

I have a history of unabashedly recommending things that I myself have only done once before — a weekend trip to Austin, lunch at Duck Fat in Portland, dipping birthday cake in ranch dressing — so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m about to make yet another hardly tested declarative statement:

Ottawa is a runner’s paradise.

I say this after having only logged one single 5-mile run in the Canadian capital on what was arguably the mildest autumn evening the far north has ever seen. Were I to revisit this statement in, say, February, I might feel differently, but as of this moment, I can confidently say that 100% of my Ottawa-based workouts have been perfection indeed. Why, you ask? Because this Ontario city ticks off every single one of the “Three Fs” (patent pending) I’m looking for in a training route: flat, friendly and fair. 

  • Flat: There’s something to be said for cities built along waterways, and this quiet metropolis of less than 1 million people has two: a river and a canal. I chose to run along the canal, and literally the only time I encountered elevation was when I stepped up the curb to re-enter my hotel. What a welcome change from mountainous Central Park.  
  • Friendly: About two miles into my workout, I was startled to hear a voice coming up on my left. “Gorgeous night for a run, eh?” I looked all around me, assuming she was talking up her running partner or into a blue tooth. But there was no one else there — this Canadian runner was making weather-related small talk with me! To those of you reading this outside of New York, this may not seem unusual, but for those of us training in Manhattan, there’s some unspoken rule that conversation between stranger runners is supposed to stay, well, unspoken. Only after she started to pull ahead did I realize her observation warranted a response, so I stammered off something barely intelligible, tacking on my own “eh” in a futile effort to blend in. I then spent the rest of my evening giving in to my natural born inclination to acknowledge other runners as they passed and, my god, I felt humanized in a way NYC had almost made me forget.   
  • Fair: By fair here, I really mean gorgeous, but “The Two Fs and one G” of running routes doesn’t really have the same ring. And gorgeous Ottawa was. Old architecture, picturesque bridges, clean sidewalks and ample nature were the mainstays of my canalside run last night. Don’t get me wrong – Central Park is beautiful in places, especially when the cherry trees bloom in April and the leaves turn colors in fall. But I’ve run that loop hundreds of times this year, while this Ottawa landscape was something new altogether. For this mentally fatigued runner in the final weeks of marathon training, that change of scenery was just what the doctor ordered.   

But fear not: great running routes (and handsome new prime minister) aside, I will not be staying northside indefinitely. While Central Park no longer gets me excited after 20 weeks of marathon training, there are plenty of other wonderful things in the big apple enticing me back. So thanks, Canada, for the welcome breather, and now I bid you a warm farewell!

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The Big Day

This past weekend marked a significant milestone that’s been enthusiastically circled on my calendar for months.

No, I’m not talking about watching my little brother marry the woman he loves.

 (though, yes, that was awesome.)

(Though, yes, that was awesome.)

And no, I’m not talking about getting the angels back together.

(Though, yes, my mom, sister and I totally won the photo booth contest.)

(Though, yes, my mom, sister and I totally won the photo booth contest.)

And no, I’m not talking about spending 48 hours with the cutest ring bearer around.

(Though, yes, I secretly spent most of the wedding weekend devising ways to keep her from moving to Hawaii next year. I mean, what?)

(Though, yes, I secretly spent most of the wedding weekend devising ways to keep her from moving to Hawaii next year. I mean, what?)

I’m talking about the other, non-wedding related milestone that transpired during the first full week of October. Something not just near and dear to my family’s heart, but a date that’s been looming on the calendar for some 50,000 people worldwide for months and months and months.

That’s right, folks: Tapering for the NYC Marathon has begun.

Tapering, or the three weeks of gradually reduced mileage in the weeks leading up to a big race, is a crucial part of any training plan. But with my marathon training starting way back in springtime, I started to think it would never arrive.

Fortunately, it did, and not a second too soon. After months of structured workouts, I was nearly at that point that I never wanted to see a pair of running shoes again. Add to that the fact that my final 20-miler on Thursday left me nursing a swollen ankle that I [over-dramatically] self-diagnosed as a possible stress fracture, and I entered the wedding weekend not wanting to run again for a very long time.

Thank you Amtrak stranger, or maybe Ben, for letting me elevate on you en route to the wedding.

Three weeks ago, taking off a long weekend from training would have meant a huge step backwards in terms of my fitness, but now that tapering is in full gear, I gave myself permission to take it easy all weekend long, only making it to my feet for important events like walking down the aisle and dancing to Footloose. Ok, and Taylor Swift. Ok, and Shout. (Jeez, Tom, I’d be way more well rested if your wedding band had stunk.)

Sure, the first week of tapering isn’t supposed to be so dramatic — you’re supposed to reduce mileage by 20 percent, not 100 percent — but a wedding-inspired reprieve was just the break I needed to get my ankle and head back in the game. Kick-starting my taper with so much rest allowed me to return to running this week with a new bounce in my step, and good thing, too: I’ve got just two and a half weeks to go!

How is your tapering going? If you’re fueling it with champagne and wedding cake, probably a lot like mine.

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