How Can I Love You, I Don’t Even Know You

As someone who has never run the Boston Marathon, who doesn’t know first-hand the magic of Marathon Monday and the rush of the finish down Boylston Street, I sometimes feel “unqualified” to feel for the race like I often catch myself doing. No, I don’t have a connection to the city that those who have run it do. I can’t pretend to understand the cursories towards the Newton Hills or the elation the Citgo sign brings. I haven’t sat in anticipation during registration week wondering if my qualifying time was fast enough, or felt the camaraderie of boarding a flight at Logan International with dozens of people wearing the same jacket as me.

(I haven’t let myself daydream hard enough to decide whether I’ll be “one of those” people or not yet)

Millions of people have more of an earned love than I, yet I still feel a little piece of my heart is colored blue and gold. Why do I care so much?? Is this desperation or obsession – claiming to love something you don’t even know? The only other time I’ve felt this way was about Ben Affleck after Armageddon and come to think of it… if Pinterest is today’s taping Teen Beat pullouts onto you bedroom wall, then yeah actually this is kind of the same thing.

boston pin

“2 years ago” – have I been a delusional masochist that long?

Like many others, I set out after last year’s race with a renewed vigor to train hard, qualify, and stand at that damn start line in Hopkinton. I wanted to pin that “2014 Boston Marathon” bib to my race singlet, stick my fist in the face of last year’s terrors, and prove first-hand just how resilient and damn proud runners are.

My anger and scorn towards the 2013 attacks seems a little surface-oriented, since I was thousands of miles away watching from the safety of my office, well out of harm’s way of the bombing. But as I sat in front of my computer streaming the live coverage this year, just as I did last, I felt all those helpless emotions rise back up. Only this year instead of fear, worry, and concern for everyone in the city, I felt excitement, gutting disappointment, and long-awaited satisfaction.

Yelling at the screen hoping Meb could hear, “he’s closing! Keep pushing!!” Hearing the gun announcing the start of the age group waves. Crying when Shalane told reporters that she wished her best was better. Wondering what it really felt like to run an entire 26.2 miles packed with spectators, like a home stretch crowd the entire course. Seeing paces creep higher and higher late, worrying a million worries and hoping it was “just” that their legs were shot from the hills. Staring un-blinking at the live finish line feed searching for triumphant friends, swelling with happiness for them and even the complete strangers distracting my view.

And wondering what it’d be like to cross that line some day.

I realized then that while being a participant is obviously the highest of regards, just being a runner is so much bigger than it seems. This bond, the community – the one you see when a cramping runner is carried across the finish line by fellow finishers, when your Twitter feed blows up with hundreds of fellow virtual cheerleaders completely immersed in the event, when you care so deeply about someone else’s day it feels like your own – that’s fucking special. One of the most individual and lonely sports is surrounded by so much support the minute you look out from within, and it just blows my mind.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to Boston or not. Lord knows my stubborn side will give a few more hacks at a qualifying time – cursing the whole way I’m sure – but I’d be lying if I said it was my main focus. Yes, the allure is there, so much that I’ve put myself on a one week “holding period” to try and avoid any secondhand endorphin highs instigating decisions I might regret a few months from now. But I’ve had my share of ups and downs with this maniacal hobby, and through them I’ve learned that the relationships rooted in the miles are what matter most. The training partners, mentors, converted friends, all of you!, and mostly, the relationship I’m building with myself. While I think we’ve debunked the claim that running is the “cheapest” form of therapy, there’s no denying that the best place to find yourself is a few miles into a therapeutic run. And that’s what I want to focus on.

I know earning one of those Adidas finisher jackets doesn’t define me as a runner, that I’m no more or less a part of this community with or without one. But as I strive to keep bettering myself and maintaining these healthy relationships I’m rebuilding with running, I hope someday it does take me down a path that has an April stop in Massachusetts on the itinerary.

I’ll keep avoiding the jacket-on-the-plane theoretical scenario until then.

flat sarah boston

If you’re wondering whether I ran in an obnoxiously “Boston from afar” outfit Monday anyway, Flat Sarah has been resurrected from the hamper to tell you, you’re fucking right I did

Sarah OUaL

“It’s Time” (christian bale batman voice)

“Do you want a beer?”

“No, I’m going running”

I wasn’t planning on running again last night, and actually I’m not sure what prompted the quickfire “no” to Brian’s beer-proposal, either. A beer sounded delicious. But I lost track of time earlier and missed Spin, and couldn’t find a yoga class with a teacher I liked, so if I was going to work out, an 8pm neighborhood run was going to be it.

I laced up, pulled on a dirty sports bra (laundry day), and since it was dark and, again, laundry day, some compression shorts. Aint nobody need to see 5’9” thunder thigh jiggle if they don’t have to. But under the safety of the moon, my hot pants and I headed out for a yet-to-be-determined number of miles.

stride shorts

chicken is to the egg as stride shorts are to fast runs? I didn’t take the SAT

The first few steps were a little creaky and stiff per usual, and I waited a few more strides before deciding whether this was going to be a crapshoot and racked my brain for what I could blame it on: late night, no warmup, ran hard yesterday, fish for dinner, white socks… you name it, I had it ready for excuse doling. That old saying, “never judge a run by the first mile”? I really should start remembering that.

As luck would have it, my legs warmed up and turned over with ease, I felt light and springy and my breathing was freaky smooth. I waved at other runners and bobbed my head to my music. Garmin – we’ve rekindled our love affair but are taking it slow – beeped at mile one and I felt like I’d found that magical stride, where it feels fast but manageable. I suspect that’s what tempo pace is supposed to be, but it’s been so long since I’ve done a proper workout I can’t recall.

Another mile ticked and the fatigue started slowly creeping in. I still didn’t have a mileage plan but a few minutes later found myself at the 2.5mi turnaround.

“5 miles yesterday, 5 miles today? Might be pushing it… But I feel good… OH I LOVE THIS SONG!”

Without intention I kicked it up a gear, and again at the next mile split, and again one more time for the final stretch home.


return of the garmin screen shot! rejoice!

I’ve been very hesitant in these past few weeks to read too much into good runs, thinking they were just a fluke and an injury set back could be just around the corner. That coupled with my overly-cautious “comeback” plan had me thinking it’d be 2019 before I finally got the balls to start pushing and really running hard again.

But with the positive progress I’m seeing from the body work with Dr Dreyer, and likely the couple pounds I’ve dropped (amazing the correlation between good food in=feel good on outside) I’m feeling great and maaaaaaaybe ready to start putting stuff on the calendar. Oiselle Team Camp is mid-August, so right now that’s my only focus – hello no one wants to get dropped in front of their idols – but if I know myself and Oregon running at all, I’ll be all hyped up and chomping at the bit for a big fall race.

Let the scheming begin. Where are you racing this fall? Any big-time recommendations?

Sarah OUaL

‘Run to Beer’ (a skit)

SET SCENE: 6pm, Sarah on couch scarfing down “dinner” (eggs and tortilla chips), Brian leaving for softball.

B: “We’ll probably get to the bar around 8 – see you then?”

S: “Yeah, I’m gonna let this digest a bit then head to the gym across the street for elliptical’ing. I’ll walk over and meet you guys.”


S: [pulls half a pint of Ben and Jerry’s from freezer]


S: ‘alright stomach, you’ve got 15 minutes to digest, then we’ve gotta go to the gym. sorry for the cramps in advance’


S: [dozes off in a post-ice cream nap]


S: ‘fuck! I’d only have 20 minutes of gym time if I left right this second. Is it worth it? The elliptical sounds awful, anyway. Impromptu rest day…?’

[google maps (that’s a verb now) distance to bar]

[laces up, sticks ID in tights pocket, takes off without thinking twice or considering dairy-churning stomach]


B: “Geez, you literally just came over from the gym, huh?”

friend: (looking at sweaty head) “Is it raining??”

S: “I RAN HERE! EVERYONE, I RAN ALL THE WAY HERE. 5.4 MILES – FURTHEST SINCE RAGNAR! BARTENDER, BRING ME A DRINK! And a giant glass of water and some paper towels, please.”


B: “Are you running home?”

Not sure I’m willing to test it, but I’m thinking running on a belly full of beer isn’t that much worse than a belly full of ice cream.

Sarah OUaL