It's BOSTON Marathon weekend
...and as I am writing these words down, I am on the bus, about 2 hours away from Boston. I am travelling alone and after spending a full day in New York yesterday, it was time for me to pack my running gear and head up top. Although I only set out to do two things yesterday, I still ended up walking around wayyyy too much and seeing friends all day, which was amazing but also somewhat exhausting — especially after that eventful Berlin Half Marathon weekend.
I had the opportunity to interview 26-year old pro athlete Sifan Hassan (World Record holder in the 5K, European Record holder in the half marathon on the roads), bond with the Berlin crews Berlinbraves and Kraftrunners, connect with old friends from Canada and London, new friends from South Africa (the 94 crew) and Amsterdam, celebrate together with our eight team members of our WayvRunKollektiv as they accomplished their first ever half marathon (definitely feeling like a proud mum, so big congrats to everyone again!) and execute my own last training run...
Initially I played with the idea of pacing friends for the Half going for a 1:45 (as this was my idea of going slow knowing that my PR is a 1:33 set at the Brooklyn Half a year ago), but my running coach had something else in mind, which now — 4 days after the Berlin Half and 4 days to go ‘till Marathon Monday — makes complete sense. He did sound a bit harsh when he said I shouldn’t pace or run with anyone. Instead he wanted me to stay focused and relaxed, controlled: ‘run easy and comfortable for the first 10 miles, and the last 3 will take care of themselves.’ It was challenging to stick to a slower pace especially on this fast and flat course of Berlin, but with the heat and humidity going on that day, I managed to stick to the plan. I did write down the words: slow down on my wrist hours before the race, and ended up looking at it literally the whole time.
I see now, what coach did right there as I talk to more and more friends who ran Bostonpreviously. They all agree: run the first 16 miles comfortable and easy, try to run it slow, preserve your energy for the big hills from 16 - 21 miles and know that it’ll be a nice stretch afterwards, but that’s when you want to tap into that energy. While I was extremely eager to run fast this past weekend in Berlin, I held back, stuck to the plan, reminded myself that ‘it would define how the next few days go’ and with this, he mentally prepared me for Monday.
Let’s hope I will stick to this!
On running fast and slow
One of my friends Daniel Kwon recently ran the LA Marathon, placing 4th in the open men's field with a stellar time of 2:36:03, and I couldn’t help but look at all his marathontimes which lead me to scrolling all the way back to 2009 to when he started out as a (4-5hr) marathoner. It's been ten years of half -and full-marathoning! WOW! I messaged him and said it was so nice to see his progress over the years. That it put everything into perspective, that we runners are not only running long distances, but that we're here for a long-time journey as well. My words in that text message were: It gives me hope! Running for the long game and being patient... to which he answered: "I was pretty slow for many years! Now only partially slow!"
Last weekend, I also had a similar conversation with my WayvRunKollektiv team members (who had some time ideas and expectations for their first race) and my friend Michelle Kay. We talked about how, no matter the time it takes you to finish a marathon, we're all sharing the same pain! At the end of the day, fast or slow, it is all relative. We're all in this pursuit of becoming better together anyway, and we're all working hard, so let's not forget, it's about us as people and us as a community.
Thus, a couple weeks ago, I kind of let go of a time goal. I wanted to let go of a time pressure. It is only your 3rd marathon and not every race will be a PR. This time, more than anything, it was about getting back to where you were before your injury last year. So take this time, take the time you need on Monday, to celebrate your work, your journey here. You're not more or less of a person with a specific time stamp on.
On this self-full journey
This is more personal.
I was sitting on the bus yesterday and had to reflect on the 4 past journeys I took up here for the marathon. There was one year, when I came up to Boston to cheer my former teammates the Black Roses NYC and the ex-boyfriend on. Another year, I was abandoned from that mentioned ex. It felt terrible and I remember that weekend too good. The past two years I came up to still represent that team in the BAA 5K, but moreover, I was up there to work for District Vision. In 2017, we built a 5 day pop-up store; in 2018, we lead a meditation in one of the biggest churches in Boston.
I have been always up here for someone else, cheering and supporting. Screaming my heart and lungs out for the many friends and teammates. It is incredibly weird to be preparing for my own race this weekend now. It is incredibly weird to be heading out to pick up my own bib. This weekend, I came for myself. For me.
Then, for some reason, probably because society and the world, continues to tell us (women of color, people of minorities) that.. this narrative of 'not being enough.' It's such a blessing that I am running my 3rd marathon, and all of them are world majors. New York, Berlin, Boston on Monday. Nevertheless there is this underlying feeling of: wow, I am so lucky to run this weekend. To be here. To have qualified. But I try to remember that I never believed in luck. Things were never given or passed on to me. It takes some self-talk, some motivational cheering to be able to tell yourself all of this: This weekend is a culmination of hard work and preparation. Of Your hard work and Your preparation. You are meant to be right where you are. You deserve this spot and you deserve to be here. Do not think of anything else. You are enough and whatever will happen Monday, so be it. See to it. Give it your best. This is all you.
I must say, I like training, because I am allowed to be selfish and self-full. It is the time committed to me. I am allowed to have big goals and big dreams. It was the other day, back in Berlin at the after-party, where I smiled when someone was like: are you drinking? No, not right now, I responded back. And it didn't make me upset, nor was I feeling like drinking. In that moment, I thought: to be honest, I like training so much, I could do this forever. The overcoming of your own mental and physical challenges. The discipline. The commitment. The time alone. It's weird and runners can be weird. But I really do like it.
I am currently reading Women's Sports: What everyone needs to know by Jaime Schultz. Kind of a scientific approach including a ton of references and literatures, which takes some time to read, thus I haven't finished, but I like the fact that she points out nuances such as the conversation around Muslim female athletes and the coverage of black and brown women in the sports media. When jogging around Cambridge this morning, I was reminded of the bigger cause I am running for. Apart from personal goals, I am running to create access to these opportunities. For women and girls to exercise, work out and move. To gain confidence. To do what I am doing. I hope that with my participation, and as we all move the conversation forward, it will inspire one or two girls to pursue sports as well. I once didn't care about sports at all. I mean, I also had to work, take care of my sibling and deliver good grades. There was no option for a first generation immigrant to participate in sports. I hope we can change that for the next generation to come.
"The process of becoming is better than being. Set big goals and learn to love the work that gets you to them. Even if you fall short, you'll still be winning." Des Linden, women's champion in the 2018 Boston Marathon
It is time for me to leave the house and head towards the Expo and pick up my bib :) I am also trying to preserve some energy and not do too many things this weekend.
I see you all on the other side and sending much love,
as always stay up and keep it moving!
P.S.: I switched to a new US number, so if you'd like to reach out, you can do so on Instagram plusss I'll be posting some more updates there.. although not too many. Yes, been meditating and spending time off the phone this weekend too :)
Currently consuming on Boston...
Peter Bromka's recent post on this race.
The history of the qualifying times of the Boston Marathon.
These comments from Paula Radcliffe on transgender runners which are very problematic.
This Wired article on how the Boston Marathon tries to slow you down.
Last year's race with the horrendous downpour.
Breaking 2 as an all-time favourite for some motivation.
Spirit of the Marathon as suggestion from Daniel.