Categories
Running Training

Novice No More

Since retiring my XL lounge-pants three years ago and committing myself to the sport of running, I’ve run 37 road races, two sub-4:00 marathons, thousands of miles and nearly out of goldendoodle photos to populate this blog.

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Just kidding. I’ll never run out of those.

I wouldn’t call myself a running expert, per se — I only claim expertise in such indisputable areas as Upper East Side bagel shops and Cory and Topanga’s teenage love — but I would go so far as to claim that when it comes to running, I am no longer a mere novice.

Why, then, is it every single time I begin training for a long-distance running event, I choose to download and follow one of online coach Hal Higdon’s novice training plans, rather than one of his more advanced workout regimes?

Because I’m a scaredy cat, that’s why. And that’s the worst kind of cat, which — believe me — is a designation this dog-lover doesn’t award lightly.

I’ve been following Hal’s online training programs for years, starting three years ago to the month with his novice 5K training plan, which had me jogging less than five miles a week as I learned the basic mechanics of putting one foot in front of the other. I finished that eight-week plan with a base level of fitness and immediately dove into Hal’s novice 10-mile training plan with the goal of running the entire 2011 Broad Street Run without stopping once.

As many of you know, that race ignited my passion for racing, and two short months later, I found myself doing the previously unimaginably and downloading Hal’s novice half marathon training schedule in anticipation of my first ever 13.1 mile event. Fast forward a year, and I was using his novice marathon program to prepare for the Marine Corps event.

When it came time to train for the New York City marathon the following year, it felt somewhat disingenuous following the same novice marathon plan again, since I already had one marathon under my belt from using that identical training schedule. So I mentally prepared myself to leave the comfort of novicity behind, went online, clicked on Hal’s library of marathon plans — and found that he’d added a second-tier notice plan to the offerings. “A slight step upwards in difficulty from Novice 1,” the description read. “It is designed for people with some background as a runner.” The Novice 2 marathon plan still offered me two rest days and less than 35 miles a week on my feet, plus the familiarity and security of a novice plan. Done and done.

But as you already know, even though I followed the schedule nearly to a T, I still crossed the finish line in New York some seven minutes slower than my marathon PR. I know a whole host of outside factors can dictate a race pace, from the elevation (hilly) to the weather (cool) to how many times your eyes well up with emotion along the race course (I plead the fifth), but I couldn’t help wondering deep down inside if my plateaued fitness had anything to do with the fact that I was still training as a novice, despite my growing experience.

Proof I ran the marathon. Also proof I didn't buy the $80 marathon foto.
Proof I ran the marathon. Also proof I didn’t buy the $80 marathon foto.

So when I recently signed up for this March’s Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon, I decided to step out of my comfort zone once and for all and put the novice training plans behind me. With that aim, I’ve opted to follow Hal’s intermediate half-marathon training program, intended for “individuals who have left their novice roots behind and who want to improve their performances.” The description of its target audience might as well have had my headshot posted next to it: “You should be capable of running 30 to 60 minutes a day, five to seven days a week, have competed in at least a few 5-K and 10-K races, if not a marathon, and at least be willing to consider the possibility that some speedwork might help you improve. Better yet if your name is Anne and you love Zac Efron films. Also, don’t forget to pick up your dry cleaning.”

Ugh. Speedwork. I prefer to pretend that word doesn’t exist, much like cockroaches and the Kardashians. Running hard and fast outside of a racing environment is never fun, but my real apprehension when it came to the intermediate schedule had to do with the letter X.sched

As in, my schedule read “8 x 400 5-K pace,” and that terrified me. What the hell does an X mean in a workout? I associate Xs with dreadful things, like X-rays and Vin Diesel’s American action XXX and the totally unnecessary Goldfish cracker remake, “Goldfish® Flavor Blasted® Xtreme Cheddar.” No, thank you, Pepperidge Farm. The regular blasting of cheddar was just fine.

But leisurely jogs in the park does not a competitive runner make, so I finally went online to ask the running community what “8 x 400 5-K pace” meant. Turns out (as most of you may already know), that means running 400 meters (i.e. a quarterish mile) at your 5K race pace (for me, 7:30ish) eight times, with a slow jog or cool down in between each repetition. Ok, I guess I didn’t really need to look that up, but I was secretly hoping the internet would tell me it was something significantly lazier, like eating 8 packs of 400 donuts while sitting cross-legged. No such luck.

So yesterday morning, I dragged myself out of bed, went to the gym, cranked the treadmill up to a blistering pace … and surprisingly enjoyed myself. Maybe it was the House Hunters International marathon on the gym TVs distracting me, but I actually found myself smiling every time I hit a rhythm at that faster pace. I haven’t pushed myself hard in entirely too long a time, and while I don’t pretend I could run an entire 5K at my “5K pace” at this specific juncture, knowing I have it in me for even 400 meters at a time is still an accomplishment indeed.

An intermediate accomplishment, dare I say.

How are you pushing yourself this January?

Categories
Running

Welcome Insignificance

After completing my inaugural marathon last fall, you may recall I found myself struggling to generate canine-free copy to fill this space. Following months of long runs and speed work and unbridled excitement, this running blogger suddenly found herself out of the running circuit, giving me all the time in the world to write but few topic ideas of substance and even less motivation to flesh them out. After spending one-third of my year training for and blogging about the lead up to the most exciting 3 hours and 51 minutes of my adult life, nothing in my post-marathon lifestyle seemed big enough to document.

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Fact: This actually says “bug” if you only consider my arms.

Fast forward to the weeks following the Boston Marathon and suddenly my ramblings seemed more immaterial than ever.

I certainly haven’t meant to disappear from the blogging world these past few weeks. In fact, I’ve been snapping photos left and right in hopes that something would inspire me to re-engage with the online running community. In recent weeks, I raced a 4-miler, spotted Alec Baldwin and finally met (the always lovely) @DCRunster face to face, but in the wake of Marathon Monday and my subsequent responses, nothing since has felt nearly noteworthy enough to warrant your time or the use of this space.

Hence the radio silence. This is a radio I’m writing on, right? Good, just checking. Technology, amIright?

But the truth is, whether or not I have anything material to say, I miss this (occasionally thought-provoking but more often silly) part of my life. Sure, my recent afternoon with my brother’s goldendoodle may be exponentially less important than Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s ongoing interrogation, but today it hit me: in the aftermath of last month’s events, my small but loyal community of running blog readers could probably use a little lighthearted triviality right about now.

And what better way than via a pictorial re-enactment of Ludwig Bemelmans’ 1939 classic, Madeline? Bring it on.

Last Sunday, Keira and I smiled at the good.

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And frowned at the bad.

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And sometimes she was very sad.

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Insignificant? Sure. But if if my ability to post the above photo series means that nothing so terrible has transpired that I have to forgo my usual buffoonery and blog about fatalities and terror and heartbreak instead, then that’s fine by me. I’ve learned this month that trivality can be a blessing, and it’s one that this re-awakened blogger is very happy for indeed.

What silliness brought a smile to you this week?

Categories
Races Running

Let Me Count the Ways

I love number crunching nearly as much as I love number munching–and most other educational 1990s computer games, to be fair–so I’d like to take a brief reprieve from my typical verbosity and break down my last year in numerals instead.

  • 1,048: Miles I ran in 2012, or about the distance from my Manhattan apartment to St. Louis, Missouri. And here I was, thinking I’d make it all the way to Meredith. #HumbleBrag

12 months

  • 26.6: Longest run of 2012, in miles. This is the final distance my watch read after the Marine Corps Marathon, meaning I look my turns too wide and tacked on a few extra hundred yards before crossing the finish line. And who said I was an underachiever?
  • 13,894: RiledUpRunner blog views last year. Thanks, everyone, for the support!
  • 12,798: Estimated number of those views that came from my father’s iPad.

618

  • 727: Most blog views in a single day. I reached this impressive tally–coincidentally also the model of my favorite Boeing Co. mid-size narrow-body three-engine jet aircraft–on Nov. 8 after Ashley at HealthyHappierBear featured me in a guest post. I’d suggest checking it out, except I make all the same jokes I always make, so reading it is going to feel a little like déjà vu. Reading it is going to feel a little like déjà vu.
  • 58: Countries that visited my blog in 2012. Well, more likely, individuals sitting at computers in those countries, but I can never be sure. It’s possible the state entity of North Korea is an avid reader. What up, Kim Jong-Un?
  • 3: Half marathons I ran last year.
  • 1: Half marathons I ran last year in the snow.

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  • 7: A prime number. Thanks, Number Munchers! Watch out for troggles.
  • 21: Races I ran in 2012.
  • 1: Races I ran in costume in 2012.

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  • 21: Races I wished I’d run in costume in 2012.
  • 4: Readers who stumbled across my blog by searching “dog with captain hat.” I knew I liked you guys.

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What number best sums up your 2012?

Categories
Races Running

A Year in Review

There are probably ten or twelve movies that – if unwittingly stumbled across while channel surfing on my couch – require I watch them through to the credits, despite having seen them dozens of times before. A mismatched mix of sappy rom-coms, 90s blockbusters and Tom Hanks’ entire cinemagraphic repertoire, these films pull me in time after time again, offering me the chance to quote entire Bill Pullman monologues and threatening to rob me of my precious free time for 90 minutes to three hours in a single sitting.

While the elitist in me wishes I were about to rattle off a list of Oscar contenders and foreign language masterpieces, my list of feel-good films are all from a simpler time when Russell Casse always gets past the alien shields, Alan Parrish always rolls a three and every Tom Hanks protagonist – from Josh Baskin to Sam Baldwin to Joe Fox – always gets the girl.

In honor of that last film – which was You’ve Got Mail, but I’m sure you knew that – I’d like to post a throwback to my own dial-up AOL days, from the meticulously crafted, quote-laden profiles to the loosely concealed declarations of love in every AIM away message.

And let’s not forget the e-mail surveys.  Oh, how I loved the e-mail surveys.

But what does this have to do with running, you ask?

You caught me: Very little. Basically, I’d like to fill in this 2012 running survey making its rounds across the blogosphere, and – like BuzzFeed – am physically unable to post anything without making an obscure 90s reference.

So after a very long and unnecessary lead-in, I bring you a recap of my year in running.

Best race experience? The Marine Corps Marathon, hands down. Big shocker here, I know. But I’ve never before trained so hard for something, or had so many friends and family come out to cheer me on, or high-fived so many strangers or, you know, run 26.2 miles at a time. I’m already counting down the days until I get to do it again on Nov. 3.

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Best run? My pre-marathon 20-miler. I’d done a 17-miler, an 18-miler and a 19-miler in the months preceding the MCM, but something about hitting that 20-mile milestone gave me the confidence to know I’d be A-OK come race day. To be honest, it wasn’t my smartest run, since I zoomed through 10 sub-8:00 miles with a speedy friend before eating anything that morning, but it was monumental nonetheless.

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Best new piece of gear? My Garmin Forerunner 210. Sure, it stinks to wait in the cold while it locates satellites and yes, it’s sometimes nice to forgo all technology and just get out there and run, but knowing my distance and pace and all that jazz has been pretty instrumental. Runner up: this (partially obscured) medal from a Texas 5K, that I actually won for placing. That doesn’t happen in Central Park.

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Best piece of running advice you received? Don’t try anything new on race day. Unless it’s puffy-painting your name on your marathon shirt, which is an absolute must. Twitter handle optional.

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Most inspirational runner? Everyone who raised thousands of dollars for charities to run the 2012 New York City marathon, and – when canceled last minute due to Hurricane Sandy – opted to still run 26.2 miles on their own to honor all the wonderful organizations they had signed on to support. I wholeheartedly stand behind the decision to cancel the organized race, particularly when parts of the course are still today in dire straits, but the backlash against those “selfish” runners who chose to honor their charity sponsors anyways by running four Central Park loops sans water stations and spectators was wholly unfounded. She thinks so, too.

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If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? Unremarkable in the overall scheme of things, but pretty darn impressive for me.

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How was your running year? Feel free to steal this survey for your own recap. If you don’t, you’ll have bad luck forever, or something.

Categories
Running Weight Loss

Back on Track, Again

As I walked in on my brother’s dog polishing off an entire crockpot of gravy suspiciously left at mutt-level during post-Thanksgiving clean-up, it became immediately clear that she and I are related.

Just call me MaryKate.

Sure, I might not down a gallon of turkey grease in one fell swoop if left unsupervised in the garage,* but without constant monitoring and self-regulation and a little public accountability, I’m just about as disciplined as an eight-month-old goldendoodle when it comes to my nutrition and exercise goals.

*Who am I kidding? I totally would.

Tomorrow, it will have been a full month since I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, and I have a confession to make: in the four weeks since crossing that finish line, I have yet to run a single 15+ mile week.

Also, I ate half a pie for breakfast on Black Friday. Whew. Feels good to get that off my chest. If only getting that off my hips were as easy.

Fortunately, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself these last 27 years, and I know the best way for me to get back on track is to lay out a specific target to work toward achieving. On October 28, I attained my 2012 New Year’s Resolution of running a marathon, but with five weeks left in the waning year, there’s no reason I can’t lay out some small, supplemental goals to sustain me until January 1 rolls around. So here goes:

  • Achieve a new PR. After much metaphorical dragging of feet, I’ve signed on to run NYRR’s Join the Voices 5M this Sunday and NYRR’s Ted Corbitt Classic 15K on December 15. Despite having raced more 10Ks than I can count (because I can apparently only count to five), I’ve only run one timed 5M and one timed 15K since first lacing up my racing shoes in early 2011, meaning a new year-end personal record may actually be in the cards.
  • Eat more homemade food. I love New York, but if I’m not careful, whole weeks go by without my kitchen seeing any action. It’s not only difficult to get five fruits/veggies a day when I’m sourcing all my meals from falafel peddlers and burger shacks; it’s also downright expensive. I just spent all my disposable income on a plane ticket to India (more on that development later), so I’m back to bagged lunches for the time being.
  • Steal this dog.
Come now, readers. You didn’t really think I was going to spend three full days with my niece this holiday season and only include one photo of her, did you? 

How have your 2012 resolutions fared, and what are you targeting for these five final weeks? Let’s all go out with a bang. And possibly a dognapping misdemeanor.

Categories
Running Training Weight Loss

Marathon Weight Gain

There are plenty of good reasons to run a marathon: the sense of personal achievement, raising money for a cause, offending a bear on a 26.1-mile-long chain.

There’s also at least one bad reason to run one: to lose weight.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, signing on to run a four-hour-long road race is not a sure-fire path to watching the pounds melt off. In fact, if my statistically sound survey of one respondent tells me anything, it’s that 100-percent of runners actually gain weight during marathon training and the subsequent recovery process. (Note: I may or may not know the definition of “statistically sound.”)

But you just spent an entire summer running more miles each week than most Americans run in their entire lives! How is marathon weight gain even possible?

A lot of things don’t make sense in this world, dear reader, and marathon weight gain is one of them. Also, cats.

Any coach will tell you some modest weight gain during marathon training is normal, since you’re amping up your muscle density and keeping more hydrated than ever before. And when you really start carbo-loading in the final week of your taper, you can expect to see the scale spike as much as four pounds, this Runner’s World article says, since your body’s retaining three extra grams of water for every gram of carbohydrates stored. As you make your way to the finish line, those extra pounds of water weight will quickly melt away.

Try to spot me! Also, try to find Waldo’s binoculars.

Unfortunately, the other weight gained during marathon training – the real, tangible weight – is a lot harder to get rid of. And how did those extra pounds get added in the first place? Well, let’s do some simple math:

Conservative estimates tell you a runner burns about 100 calories per mile, meaning a would-be marathoner on a 40-mile peak weak is burning an additional 4,000 calories every seven days. Sounds like a get-out-of-vegetables free card to me. But when you break it down, spread over the course of a week, that’s only an additional 571.4 calories a day, or 83% of a basket of ShakeShack cheese fries. Add in your voracious marathon runner’s appetite and you’ll shift from a calorie deficit to a calorie surplus faster than ConEd restored power to the Rockaways.

What’s that, you say? Rockaways homeowners are still without power 15 days after the hurricane? Oh. Awkward. Hey, let’s all take a page from New York Road Runners and donate to the very-much-still-ongoing recovery efforts. Cool? Cool.

But beyond keeping tabs on your fueling during marathon training, it’s even more important to step back and re-evaluate your nutrition and exercise routines after the race comes to a close. Not for the first 72 hours, mind you – those days are unquestionably meant to be spent cramming your face with bacon cheeseburgers – but in the weeks that follow, you’ll need to reteach your suddenly less-active self to once again ignore the caloric cravings your high-intensity marathon training had allowed you to indulge. Once the post-race aches and pains subside, you’ll also need to reintroduce moderate movement into your daily routine. Burning 300 calories on the elliptical doesn’t give you free reign to, say, butter your cheese curls (that’s what she said), but it will help you get back on track now that your 26.2-mile achievement is a thing of the past.

Pysche! I wasn’t even in that first photo! But I’m in this one, I promise.

Of course, if you do find yourself needing to shed a few pounds post-marathon, the most important thing to remember is this: be kind to yourself. You didn’t train your body to run a freaking marathon in a week, so don’t expect to get back to your goal weight in a blink-of-an-eye, either. Drastically cutting down to a 1,400 calorie diet is not going to help you maintain all that lean muscle you built over the course of your training, and there’s no greater crime than skipping the cake(-flavored vodka) at your 27th birthday party this Saturday.

As I always say, moderation in all things. Except crepe cake.

Here’s your damned shout out, Keirnan.

How do you keep your weight under control during or after a big race? 

Categories
Running Training

Life After 26.2

You know that feeling when you’ve been writing a blog about running for almost a year in anticipation of your inaugural marathon and then after running that marathon can no longer think of anything interesting to write about and consider just posting photos of your brother’s goldendoodle on the internet instead?

No, you don’t know that feeling? Uh, me either. Moving on then.

As many of you may be aware, 10 days ago, I ran my very first marathon. It was emotional, it was invigorating and –  apparently – it was proof that I don’t keep my eyes on the road.

Hindsight is 20/20.

As much as I rocked the race itself – coming in a respectable 3,198th place (no, you don’t get a podium slot for that) – I rocked recovery even more. For the first week after the race, I followed Hal Higdon’s “Zero Week” training plan like it was my job. That is, assuming my job is to sit immobile in a chair for 14 hours straight stuffing my face, which – oh yeah – it kind of is. Find an abbreviated version of his recovery recommendations below:

Monday:  No running today! No exercise of any kind! Take it easy. (If you insist.)
Tuesday: No running! (I might have fought this, but – hey look! – a hurricane. Guess I’ll stay indoors.)
Wednesday: No running! And don’t substitute cross-training in a mistaken belief that it will help you maintain fitness. … You earned this period of rest. Take it! (Fine. But I’m taking a walk around the block and you can’t stop me.)
Thursday: Okay, you’re cleared to run again, but don’t overdo it. (I didn’t.) Two miles of gentle jogging … sounds about right for Zero Week. (It was.)
Friday: Now is the time to cross-train. The best cross-training discipline for a recovering marathoner is simple walking. I recommend bringing your neighborhood goldendoodle along for the ride. (Wise words, Coach.)

Cheaper than a mink.

The week after the Marine Corps Marathon, I did exactly what I was told: I relaxed, I re-hydrated, I re-fueled, but now, I’m re-al bored.

I know I knew life before marathon training, but  life after it suddenly seems downright dull. Plus my blogging ideas are suddenly flowing slower than a Manhattan-bound L train. Oh. Too soon?

So, dear readers, help me out here. Assuming I don’t run right out and register for another marathon (odds are 60/40, but I’m not a betting man), what should I start doing to pass the time and maintain this new caliber of fitness I’ve achieved? Swimming? Yoga? Competitive eating? (The latter is something I could totally get behind. 26.2 chicken wings? Count me in.)

Categories
Running Training

Accidental Recovery

After four months of painstakingly disciplined marathon training, I had big plans to throw caution to the wind this week and disregard everything I’d ever read about post-marathon recovery.

Look! I’m stretching! In the middle of Wilson Blvd!

A tad hubristic, sure, but after 16 weeks of scheduled workouts and calculated nutrition and near-religious adherence to a calendar, I wanted nothing more when I crossed that finish line than to go off-book for awhile. Wise or not, I wanted to do recovery my way.

But the world had other plans.

Case in point: every trainer out there, including my cyber-coach Hal, told me to do nothing but rest in the first three days following the marathon. No running, no cross training, no nothin’.

Yeah, right. I laughed to myself. After four months without stepping foot in my gym, I’m going to start getting my money’s worth again this week. See you at kickboxing. And pilates. And in the spectator stands during the under-40 men’s basketball league practice. I mean, what?

Nothing was going to stop me from resuming my normal workout routine after Sunday’s race.  And then, oh yeah, this happened.

“Sandy, Sandy’s his name if you please. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone of the fleas.”

Stranding me in Maryland and forcing me to stay off my legs and inside the house for three days straight? Well played, Sandy. Well played.

Likewise, most marathon recovery guides tell you to continue refueling your glycogen stores in the days following the race with a high-carb diet, but after a couple weeks of taper-induced weight gain, I had other plans.

Celery! Rice cakes! Vodka sodas!

Foiled again.

Safari hat? 10,000 pieces of candy? Don’t mind if I do.

Putting me on the Halloween candy distribution committee was a clever way to force feed processed sugars back into this recovering body. You win this round, world.

How’s your recovery going? And any more tips to pass my way that I can arrogantly attempt to ignore and then end up accidentally following to a T?

 

Categories
Races Running

Oh hey, I Ran a Marathon.

I’ve been planning out my post-marathon blog post for probably longer than I actually trained for the marathon itself.

I figured I’d start by reminding everyone that I ran a marathon, and then tell everyone I didn’t break 4:00 but would get there next time and then post the following video clip to sum up my overall feelings about the whole thing:

Solid game plan, right? Alright, here goes.

Guess what, everyone! Yesterday I ran a marathon. (Ok. We’re off to a good, if predictable, start.)

Check out that back.

And … this is where I have to go off script. You know why? Because I did break four hours! And I’m not pretty tired! And I don’t think I’ll go home now, although that’s really just because Hurricane Sandy has grounded me in Baltimore. Sorry, New York City. Please hold down the fort.

The race yesterday – the 37th Marine Corps Marathon – was everything I’d hoped for and more for my inaugural marathon. The air was crisp, the crowds were rowdy and the marines were extremely good-looking. I felt strong straight up until Crystal City, ran into my favorite NYC blogger, saw nearly every spectator I was looking for and crossed the finish line – perhaps with tears streaming down my face, although I’ll never tell – at a surprise 3:51:51. All in all, the perfect conditions for my first-ever 26.2-mile run.

Maybe Bigfoot really is blurry.

I’m not going to lie – miles 20 through 26 in particular were some challenging s.o.b.s – but I eased down my speed (Whoops. No negative splitting here.), chowed down on some extra calories, double-fisted every water station I passed and started reciting cliché but inspiring mantras over and over in my head:

  • Trust your training.
  • They didn’t say it would be easy. They said it would be worth it.
  • Mom said we could get fast food for lunch if you finish.

Speaking of Mom, she hopped in and joined me during a particularly difficult stretch after the 14th St. bridge, keeping me nicely distracted from the blister forming on my right foot and giving me that extra boost I needed to plow through to the end. Thanks also to my Dad, my cousins Liz and Nate and the slew of friends who made it out to cheer me on. And a special thanks to my marine brother who lent me his Halloween costume/favorite running vest as I tried to warm up after crossing the finish line. Your fashion sense is always avant garde.

No goldendoodles were harmed in the making of this vest.

Also, THANK YOU to the unnamed spectator who handed me a fistful of Vaseline in Crystal City. In most situations, a handful of petroleum jelly from a stranger is cause for alarm, but in this case, it meant immediate relief for my chaffing underarm. So thank you, sir. You are an unlikely hero.

Also, thank you to this post-race spectacle for making me laugh. Although please be warned I’ve called PETA on your backpack’s behalf.

Anyways, if you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I entered 2012 with two New Year’s resolutions: to run my first marathon and to regularly floss. And by regularly floss, I clearly meant floss at least once a month. So, yeah, you could say we’re 2 for 2 here.

But enough about me. How was your race?

Categories
Races Running

A Salute to My Troops

With the starting gun of the Marine Corps Marathon just a few short hours away, I could use this space today to talk about this morning’s two-mile shake-out run (refreshingly brisk), my post-run stretching routine (deplorably inadequate) or my candy corn-filled carb-loading breakfast (scientifically nutritious.)

But for once (ok, for twice), I’d like to take a moment to hail the accomplishments of – brace yourselves – someone other than myself on this blog: in this case, my family and friends serving in the military.

I signed on to run the Marine Corps Marathon, as opposed to some other 26.2-mile event, mostly because it was conveniently located within an hour’s drive of my parents’ house and I could skip the lottery by guaranteeing entry through a St. Patrick’s Day 10K. But something else invariably also attracted me to this specific event – that running it would allow me an avenue to recognize the network of Marines, Naval officers and members of the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard that make up much of my immediate and extended family and many of my closest friends.

When you spend four months training for a marathon, it’s easy to fall into a bit of a narcissistic mindset. MY nutrition strategies, MY race plan, MY (and 30,000 other runners’) special day. After dinner last night (consisting of MY favorite meal of salmon and Brussels sprouts and couscous), I jokingly said I couldn’t help with dishes because I had to rest my legs ahead of the big day. And then I really didn’t help. Ha! Hilarious!

Oh right, and selfish. But you know who wasn’t/isn’t selfish? My two grandfathers, both my parents, my little brother and dozens more cousins, uncles and friends who served or continue to serve our country in the pursuit of safer, increasingly tolerant and – here’s hoping – more peaceful times ahead.

If I were to call them all out by name, this page would become longer than the ‘Annotated List of my Favorite Gramercy Park Dogs’ post I assume I’ll write some day in the very near future. So here is a short selection of some of the uniformed men and women who I’ll be channeling as I make my way tomorrow from the startling line near Arlington National Cemetery to the finish line at the Marine Corps War Memorial to the nearest cheeseburger:

My cousin, Sam, who returned from Afghanistan safe and sound this month to be greeted by his very patient and pregnant wife.

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My brother, Tom, who was commissioned into the Marines by my Navy captain mother. No big deal.

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My great uncle Austin, who earned two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star with the US Army. He passed away on Oct. 6 and asked that in lieu of flowers, contributions be given to the Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue League. Clearly, this great man was a blood relative of mine if ever there was one.

Who are you running for?