Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hi. I'm Me, Nice to Meet You

Hi, my name is Alex. You can call me Slappy. I like to run like a ninja badass wind! My boyfriend says that’s just a smelly silent fart. Ignore him.

When I was a child, I used to jump on my parents’ bed, and then leap as far as I could off the edge, convinced that if I practiced enough, one day I would miss the ground and learn to fly. I also used to sit in the backseat of my parents’ car and imagine riding a horse along the side of the road, convinced that if I wished hard enough, one day I would have a horse. I didn’t really think it would work. But then, after years of working on farms and bumming rides off friends’ horses and working through grad school to achieve real employment, I became airborne for two glorious, crazy, beautiful years.

The ending is that I crashed, magnificently. I competed in the high-adrenaline sport of eventing, in which one trains to a very high level and then gallops full speed over very solid jumps in large fields and woods and doesn’t seek psychiatric help for the condition. From the moment I got my (at first untrained) horse, I spent every waking and dreaming minute thinking about riding. My beautiful, surly, mare became a combination of child, trusted partner, and significant other. But, toward the end of Year Two, I broke my wrist (falling off my bicycle, ironically). With the medical bills came the realization that if nothing changed, I would be living on the same scary financial edge for the next 20 years. If I wanted to dig out of student debt, have a good place to live, and put the time into my career to achieve good things, owning a horse needed to wait another 5 or 10 years. Thus, I made the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life, and sold the furry creature that was a part of my soul.

So what replaced the 30 hours a week I spent training, exercising, and competing my magical pony? At first, the answer was 100% Netflix. But even Neil Patrick Harris cannot keep me in a chair and dissolve all the sadness. So I took to the streets.

I have always run for exercise and leaped about because I can’t sit still. In the first months after I sold my mare, I ran to exhaustion to forget my depression. But then…there is a moment, when a horse is galloping, that all four hooves leave the ground and it feels like the world is held in suspension. After a while, as my legs got faster and my breath got deeper, I started achieving that feeling from my own feet. It seemed the next logical step was to sign up for a marathon, and convince one of my good friends and my little sister to train for it as well. Dream small.

I ran the Philadelphia Marathon last year. My goal was to finish, and I was really super hoping to come in under 4 hours. I finished in 3:49:36. All the while leading up to the marathon I swore up and down I would never run another one. Before I went out for my one and only 20-mile training run, I sat rocking back and forth in a corner of my bedroom crying that it was too cold and I didn’t want to and the whole idea was stupid until finally my boyfriend threw enough pillows at me to force me out of the house. As I crossed the finish line of the race and looked at my watch, I immediately dissolved into happy sobs and then declared “next year, I will BQ.” I'm doing a lot of running right now, and my friends are starting to safe-word out of discussing it, so I need another outlet. Now everybody and the Internet's mother gets to listen!
 

Yay for medals and very large quantities of pasta!!!

Right now, I am 9.5 weeks into an 18-week training program and feeling pretty hopeful so far about hitting the 3:35:00. Most of all, I’m happy. Running is awesome. I’m flying a little bit.



Me sprinting to the finish of my 5k PR last May. My time projects out to better than my goal marathon…fingers crossed!!!

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