True life: I’m addicted to running.
I officially quit my job last week -- a whirlwind of a week sandwiched by a pair of incredibly exciting Sunday races.
Last Sunday was my first Seneca 7 -- a 77.7-mile, 7-person relay around Seneca Lake. My team, Liar Liar Feet On Fire, projected an aggressive pace of 7-minute miles -- a pace I honestly wasn't sure I could keep, even though I, as a last-minute fill-in, had the shortest total distance of the 7-man team.
But I was wrong. In each of my three legs -- a 2.7-mile dash, a 2.9-mile stretch and a taxing 4-mile jaunt through the wet woods (and a prison yard?!) -- my frail, under-conditioned legs crushed the 7-minute pace. Despite having the shortest total distance to run, I led the team in “roadkills" -- that is, other teams passed during your legs.
Of the 222 teams running that day, LLFOF crossed the finish line in sixth place -- a remarkable achievement more than worthy of the slew of deluxe cheeseburgers and loaded French fries that awaited us near the finish line.
But the time to celebrate was short. Seven days later, I’d lace them up again for the Greater Binghamton Bridge Run Half-Marathon -- 13.1 miles through the streets, and across the bridges, of the city I call home.
The Bridge Run will *always* hold a special place in my heart. When the inaugural race was announced in 2010, I had never run anything competitively (correction: in 2007, I got my sarcastically chauvinistic ass kicked in a ‘Battle of the Sexes’-style 400m by my track-and-field-star high school sweetheart).
Working at the Press & Sun-Bulletin -- a major sponsor of the race -- I knew I couldn’t let the Bridge Run go by without me.
So in May 2011, I ran. Comically. With no idea that I even should keep track of my own pace, much less any clue what that pace should be, I put my head down and gave my then-25-year-old legs the green light.
I crossed in 1:59:50 -- a 9:09-minute pace; not too shabby, especially for a first-timer, but not as fast as I would’ve liked.
It was that afternoon, my poor legs in full recuperation mode, that I knew I’d be back for more.
So in 2012, I ran faster -- 1:48:03. (For fun, I threw in the Oct. 2012 Empire State Half Marathon around Syracuse, and ran 1:44:21.)
In 2013, I ran faster -- 1:44:03.
This Sunday, you guessed it … I ran faster. A lot faster.
1:37:48, to be exact; a time more than two minutes faster than my aggressive goal of 1:40:00.
As I lay here, sore-leggedly typing 48 hours after finishing, my only regret is that I didn’t push harder. As one super-clever Court Street sign-writer put it: “Pain is temporary; Internet race results last forever.”
This year, though, I don’t have 52 weeks to think it over.
I’m traversing the United States this summer, by myself, one state at a time. And in planning this 90-day journey, I built everything around one thing:
Honestly, I didn't care where they were, or even if they were back-to-back weekends -- as I just proved, nothing I haven’t done before. Pin that bib and a chip to my chest and let’s go -- I’ve got a new archrival, and his name is 1:37:48.
On June 12, I’m visiting an old friend in Cincinnati. Every couch I can stay on helps my wallet, for sure, but instead of partying the next day -- a Friday, nonetheless -- I’m heading four hours southeast into the hills of Kentucky, finding a hotel to call home for the night, just to be ready for the Hatfield-McCoy Half Marathon that Saturday morning.
Less than three weeks later, I’ll take on what is bound to be my biggest challenge yet -- a half-marathon at extreme altitude in Denver, on the fourth of July. Oxygen is tough enough to come by in the Rockies -- the predictable haze of thousands of spectators’ smoldering joints notwithstanding -- but at the Half on The Fourth, damnit, I will be ready.
And if that wasn’t masochistic enough, just nine days later, I’ll be back on the course for round 3, this time in Dundee, Oregon, for the Fifth Annual Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon. (I have to admit, this one sounds like a lot of fun.)
Full disclosure: there was a fourth race on the docket -- on July 20, which would’ve made a grueling three races in three weeks -- but I read that the NAPA to Sonoma Half Marathon has been sold out for quite a while.
As word spreads about #TeamStrub, maybe there’s a race around the country that I’m missing. (Or maybe we can convince those NAPA organizers to squeeze in one more?)
Mind you, I am not straying from the itinerary at this point (save for an hour here or there), and there don't appear to be many races across the Southeast through August (I heard it’s a little hot), but if you know of one that I’m missing along my route, by all means Tweet it to me and I’ll see what we can do.
No matter what happens in Kentucky, Colorado and Oregon this summer, I will be back for the 2015 Binghamton Bridge Run. I will stare down that 1:37:48, and I will crush it.
And I will keep running. The camaraderie amongst the running community, and between the runners and the crowds, embodies exactly what #TeamStrub is about. Cheering on your fellow competitors at the finish line. High-fiving the little future runners along the sidewalks, so excited to see you fly by. Congratulating runners of all ages and skill levels on their accomplishments -- from the eight-year-olds dashing through a 5K, to the local hero who tethered himself to his blind compatriot so he could finish 13.1, to the 67-year-old BU professor (and racing machine) who cruised past me in Mile 12 on Sunday … running isn’t just about winning the race. (Although, Kevin Borrelli, if I keep shaving six minutes a year, you’re going to be in deep trouble pretty soon.)
Running is about finishing, and being proud of your accomplishments. And this August, when I’m done running -- and driving -- across the U.S., you better believe I’m going to be damn proud of what I’ve done.