Races Running

Goaling, Goaling, Gone

They tell you to shoot for the moon because if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars. I’ve seen Gravity, though, and I know overshooting the moon didn’t work out so well for Mr. Clooney.

Likewise, overshooting when it comes to fitness goals is a dangerous endeavor. At best, setting a lofty goal and failing to achieve it can be downright demoralizing, and at worst, it can leave you drifting off into deep space with not even a chance of a supporting actor nod unless you return for a narratively jarring dream sequence in the penultimate scene of the movie.

Sorry, guys, but you know my blog’s “no spoilers” rule doesn’t apply to 90-minute 3D space thrillers. See article 2, section S, categorized under Space.

Don’t be me wrong: I, perhaps to an unparalleled degree, appreciate the value of a good fitness goal. A results-driven athlete with a Type-A personality and a love affair with her google calendar, I value nothing more than setting a target, defining a plan and spending the next six weeks to six months getting myself across that finish line.

Ambitious goal-setting was what got me off the couch in 2011 and training for my first 10-miler, what encouraged me to break free from the half-marathon circuit and run a full 26.2, and what inspired me to teach my niece how to make a crafty and sustainable pinecone birdfeeder from items found in her own backyard. Unfortunately, we never got past step one.

You say this things might attract squirrels?
You say this things might attract squirrels?

But while goal-setting is a key motivator in my workout routine, it also has a downside: If I divert off course, even for a few days, on my path to an objective, this one-track mind tends to throw in the towel altogether rather than getting back up and picking up where I started. For me, when it comes to reaching my goals, it’s all or nothing.

Take, for example, my Ash Wednesday declaration that I was going to plank for one minute every day in Lent. I was off to a good start, making it through Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday. And then on Saturday morning, I boarded a flight to Hong Kong and realized I hadn’t yet planked — and wouldn’t be touching down again until Sunday afternoon. For a fleeting moment, I debated planking in the aisles, but international terrorism laws and/or that little personal TV on the seatback in front of me nipped that idea in the bud, and I just like that, I missed my first day.

In Hong Kong, I got partially back on track, planking at least a handful of times while awake at 2:30 a.m. and squeezing in a jetlag workout. But “planking for 39 days of Lent” just doesn’t have to same ring to it, and once I’d allowed myself one free pass, the subsequent excuses flowed faster than the River of Slime in Ghostbusters II. I can’t plank today: I have to be at work at 5:30 a.m. I can’t plank today: I have debilitating Hong Kong-induced stomach flu. I can’t plank today: I’m kind of lazy.

Good-bye Lenten resolution. Hello, Judas. I didn’t even get paid thirty pieces of silver for my betrayal. I did, however, get two Easter baskets last Sunday, so maybe Jesus isn’t so mad about the whole planking thing after all.

On a totally unrelated note, no idea why my favorite jeans don't fit.
On a totally unrelated note, no idea why my favorite jeans don’t fit.

Knowing that failing to reach my goals sometimes threatens to divert me further off course than had I not even set any in the first place, I’m oftentimes hesitant to articulate my ambitions.

But we can’t live in fear – except of cockroaches and New York’s summer garbage stench, of course – so despite my distaste for disappointment, I continue to set goals season after season. Sometimes, I fall short, like when I tell myself I’m going to PR in the New York City Marathon (nope) or stop after one Reese’s Easter Egg for breakfast (nope) or watch Forrest discover Lt. Dan’s magic legs in a moment of pre-wedding intimacy without bawling my eyes out (oh hell no.)

But every now and then, I set a goal and actually achieve it, and that feels downright wonderful. Like resolving to lose 30 pounds in 2011 and doing it, or applying for an editing gig at a media powerhouse and getting it, or waking up this morning with a dream of PRing at the New York Road Runner’s Run for One four-miler in Central Park, and – despite telling my pacer to go on without me as I thought my lungs would burst around mile 2 – somehow racing myself to a new (eleven-second) PR.

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This is the face of victory, or possibly exhaustion. You be the judge.

And with that, one of my 2014 goals is complete. Oh, hell yes.

Are you a goal-driven athlete?



Boston Strong

Though I’ve never spent more than a handful of weekends there over the course of my life, the city of Boston has always had a soft spot in my heart.

In college, Boston was the airport that helped me return to my beautiful campus in the great state of Maine.

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On my 23rd birthday, Boston was the town that saw me ring in another year with two of my all-time favorite friends.

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Fifteen months ago, Boston was the city where on a trip with my sister I resolved to throw caution to the wind and pursue my co-worker, consequences and all, when I returned to New York because I had a sneaking suspicion that this thing was going to be more than just a passing crush. I was right.

India 268

Boston has brought us all sorts of cultural treasures, from Mark Wahlberg to cream pie, and while I may tease it for its wicked accents and Masshole drivers and adorable belief it wears “big city” pants, this is one metropolis that’s always been alright in my book.

Unfortunately, as we now know all too well, the Tsarnaev brothers did not feel the same.

If you’ve turned on any broadcast in the past 24 hours, you know today marks the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. I myself wasn’t running in the event or cheering on the sidelines or volunteering along the race course, but I’ll recall the deeply personal horror I felt when I heard the news of the explosions for the rest of my life. I had just landed in South Carolina for a work trip and turned on my phone to a deluge of missed calls, and as panicked messages streamed in asking whether I had been running that day, I started to piece together what had happened. I called my mother, then my runner best friend, in tears from the Charleston baggage claim.

The truth is, I was 1,000 miles away from Boston and severely less impacted by the event than so many hundreds of spectators and athletes competing and cheering that day. But as a marathon runner, I nonetheless felt personally targeted and victimized and furious and scared from the events of that day, and I was left wondering whether our sport – and its most elite competitive event – would be forever changed.

In some ways, it has been. Gone are the days of rolling up at the starting line of a New York Road Runner’s race minutes before the starting gun and tossing my backpack into bag check. No longer are camelbacks allowed for hydration on marathon Sunday in New York City. Never again will racing bib-free be a shrugable offense.

Running as a sport has changed, and when 36,000 participants gather at the Boston starting line next Monday, they’re in many ways going to be running an entirely new race.

But at the same time, they’re not. They’re still going to be tracing the legendary route from Hopkinton to Boston. They’re still going to be plowing up Heartbreak Hill with six miles to spare. They’re still going to be turning right onto Hereford Street, left onto Boylston Street and then propelling themselves over that finishing line to a roar of cheers, to a sea of high-fives, and – if they’re anything like me after 26.2 miles – to the sound of their own gratified tears.

A lot has changed in the past 365 days, but the resilience of the running community – and the Boston running community in particular – has remained reassuringly constant. If post-JLo Ben Affleck has taught us anything, it’s that Boston rebuilds stronger, and when it comes to Boston marathoners, I think it’s safe to say that’s doubly true.

How are you remembering Boston today?

Races Running

History Lesson

When I reflect back on my formative years, it becomes clear that earlier versions of me made some pretty terrible judgment calls.

  • My 2006 self believed driving from Maine to Orlando overnight was a wise travel decision.
  • My 1995 self thought “party dude” Michelangelo would make the best Ninja Turtle husband.
  • My 1991 self dressed herself monochromatically, let her parents choose her haircut and thought it amusing to outfit her poor old dog in headgear.


My 2014 self would never do something like that.

Please call child services.

But while I generally think my current decision-making skills are more refined than those of my past identities, there’s one voice of reason I just keep coming back to: my November 2013 self.

My November 2013 self had just completed the New York City marathon, and despite all the excitement and success and adventure of the day, had walked away convinced she wouldn’t run a marathon in 2014.

“Take the year off,” she said as she limped down the finisher’s shoot. “Bask in a training-free summer,” she dictated as she collected her cape. “Return to the marathon circuit in 2015 refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to PR,” she commanded between mouthfuls of post-race poptarts, “and don’t take no for an answer.”

November 2013 Anne made a really good point. She knew this summer was going to be too busy to train well, she knew her knees needed a rest and she knew that not racing a marathon every year does not diminish one’s status as a runner. She made her friends and family promise not to let her run another marathon until the following calendar year, and she even managed to make it through the NYC marathon lottery process against all odds without throwing her hat in the ring.

November 2013 me knew a lot of things, but one thing she didn’t know was how racing her first spring 10K would leave her feeling strong and motivated, or how discovering her finisher’s shirt among her summer clothes would see her overcome with excitement, or how hearing everyone else plot out their marathon goals for the new year would have her itching to complete alongside them.

Current me didn’t know something either: how to hide her credit card number on race registration day.


Whoops. I guess I’m running a 2014 marathon after all.

What questionable judgement calls have you made today?