Land of the Free

This Fourth of July, Americans gathered around the world to celebrate a holiday that has come to mean different things at different points in our shared history.


To our forefathers in 1776, Independence Day meant fighting for freedom from tyranny, oppression and persecution.

To Bill Pullman circa 1996, Independence Day meant fighting for freedom not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution — but from annihilation. Fighting for our right to live. To exist.

To my brother and me this past weekend, Independence Day meant fighting for our right to have beer delivered via crab net straight to our inflatable raft. Thomas Jefferson and/or Will Smith would have been proud.


Beer delivery aside, the Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. As a kid, it was a chance to ride in the local parade, then catch chlorine-doomed goldfish from the neighborhood swimming pool. As a teenager, it was a chance to light sparklers and watch fireworks from my best friend’s front yard. (You know, ’cause we’ve totally outgrown that.) As an adult, it’s a chance to reflect on all the things that make this nation great, from freedom of the press and universal health care to country music and women’s rights, Hobby Lobby be damned. And with my marine cousin returning from Afghanistan this summer, it’s also an important chance to reflect on all those who serve our country to protect those freedoms we so enjoy.

But while millions of Americans around the world were celebrating July 4 for all the traditional reasons, several thousand people — U.S. citizens and foreigners alike — were acknowledging this past weekend for a different reason altogether. If you’re running the Philadelphia Marathon and following a 20-week training schedule like me, this weekend was our last weekend of flexibility, spontaneity and, you guessed it: independence. Fitting, huh?

I had originally planned to follow Hal Higdon’s 18-week Intermediate 1 marathon training plan, since his Novice 2 plan had successfully carried me through two 26.2 mile feats and I was looking for a new challenge. But when I opened my Runner’s World magazine this month to find a 20-week schedule laid out for me explaining this was a good plan for runners who had plateaued, I knew instantly it was the routine for me. Didn’t hurt that the layout included an infographic telling you what day to start the plan if you were running any of the big fall races, from Chicago to NYC to, you guessed it, Philly. July 7, and I didn’t even have to do the math myself. Thank you, Runner’s World.


So with Monday officially marking the beginning of marathon training, I did what any good runner would do on her last weekend of freedom: I laid in the hammock. To be fair, I did a 7-miler on the 4th itself to make sure I was ready to tackle 8 miles during my first long run next Saturday and an easy 3-miler yesterday to take advantage of the glorious Baltimore weather, but when it came time today to lace up my running shoes, I opted to curl up with my trashy summer read instead. Between now and November 23, my opportunities to take a surprise day off are going to be far and few between, and on this glorious Independence Day weekend, I wasn’t going to miss a chance to be free.

How did you celebrate the holiday? This year, Fourth of July was also a chance to restock my Keira photo coffers. You’re welcome in advance.



One thought on “Land of the Free

  1. I sensed a certain lack of sincerity in your reference to Bill Pullman’s immortal monologue from “Independence Day.” To my way of thinking, his speech was one of the truly great “overdidyousayoverwasitoverwhentheGermansbombedPearlHarbor” moments in film history, and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried during that scene (sort of, you know, a la William Hurt in “Broadcast News”). It was that powerful. — Vaughan

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