5 Favorite Running Memories; or, Surprising Times from D.C. to Orlando!

This post began as a short reflection for Global Running Day, but, soon into the writing process, I realized this had to be a full-fledged blog post. So, here I am, posting just under the wire, with about an hour officially left in this “Global Running Day”—but really, for all of us (or at least if you are reading this here), running is important to our lives every day. Without further ado, ready, set, go!

Running makes me feel free, happy, strong, and powerful.

It shows me I am stronger than I think I am.

Running challenges me. It makes me feel like I am living my life more in tune with nature and my OWN nature.

In celebration of the wonderful sport of running, here are five of my favorite running memories, in no particular order from over the years:

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1.       Getting third at the Nike Women’s Half in D.C. less than 48 hours after defending my dissertation.

I PRed, despite not running more than an hour except maybe once or twice in the previous 6 months. That entire day was like a dream come true; I got 3rd, which is really where you want to be, and so many times in the past I was *always* one place out of being in a really cool spot. Nike treated us like running princesses. I was handed an entire duffel bag of Nike gear after crossing the line (you know I love my running gear!), and my sister (who also ran, and who also didn’t really train for this, haha) was there and got to come into the VIP tent with me where they had all these special treats! Shalane Flanagan gave me my award, which was an awesome bowl from Tiffany & Co. (while Jill yelled “that’s my sister!” and I tried not to basically cry happy tears the whole time this was happening). I got to then spend an awesome day on cloud nine in D.C. with Jill. This race was one of those races where you just feel good, but also proof of the power of your own mental state. I had just earned my Ph.D. and I felt capable of doing anything. I literally was running and thinking “I HAVE MY PH.D. AND I CAN DO ANYTHING!”

On the bus back from WPIAL XC Championships during high school: I’m on the right and my sister Jill is on the left in the foreground here.

On the bus back from WPIAL XC Championships during high school: I’m on the right and my sister Jill is on the left in the foreground here.

2.       Running relays during practice with my high school cross country team.

This was actually our coach Mr. Murtaugh’s sneaky way of getting everyone to try really hard, but it was also really really fun. We divided into two teams and had to run our home xc course, but we could divide the course into as many segments as we wanted and make them nearly as long as we wanted. (There may have been rules to this that I am now unable to remember, but I think segments had to be at least 100m and no longer than 3/4 mile, or something of that nature.) This of course got very strategic as both sides plotted to out-sprint and out-run the other…I remember we ended up drawing a very complex map of our hilly course with all the hand-offs marked!

3.       Earning All Big East honors during my senior year of cross country at Notre Dame with my teammates Sunni and Amy.

Let’s just say being a walk-on athlete wasn’t always easy, but this was one of those days where that extra work really felt worth it. Franklin Park in Boston was more my style of cross country course—hills, interesting terrain….none of that boring, flat golf course business. I don’t remember what I went out in for my first mile, but I remember I running EXACTLY what my coach had told me to do, and then I just kept picking people off during the last 2 miles of the race. I had never been All Big East before, so this felt both like a cumulative moment of my college career and was insanely nerve-wracking over the last 3/4 of a mile or so as I ran to seal the deal. My mom and Aunt Steph were there to watch me and cheer me on, and later abducted me to go to dinner and shop that night at this really cool mall in Providence. On the plane flight home to South Bend, I had an entire row of seats to myself and lay down and had the best plane sleep of my entire life.

Running at Big East XC in Franklin Park, Boston during my senior year

Running at Big East XC in Franklin Park, Boston during my senior year

4.       In lieu of a realistic attempt at a subtitle or one-sentence synopsis for this one, I’m going to just go with “that weekend in Myrtle Beach while at an academic conference.” In 2011, at the Victorian Institute Conference, I was to both present a paper “The Air of Periperformativity in Little Dorrit” as well as perform in a series of nineteenth-century parlour theatricals from Henry J. Byron’s Sensation Dramas for the Back Drawing Room (which, as its title would suggest, was much more raucous than an outsider might believe Victorian theatricals could possibly be). I drove myself the 6 or so hours to Myrtle Beach, and that night we performed in our theatricals. The next morning, because I am who I am, I raced a 5k. This 5k happened to be perfectly flat and an out-and-back course, and the weather happened to be 50 degrees. In other words, this was an ideal PR setup. I ran 17:45, a road 5k PR, which was at that point, absurdly faster than anything I had been running. (I don’t think I had broken 18:00 in maybe four years. Maybe it was all that good energy from acting the night before!?) I was behind a single man for most of the race, but due to the out-and-back nature of this course, I was inundated with cheers of “you go, GIRL!” from fellow women runners encouraging me to run this man down for the sake of all womankind. Challenge accepted. I ran this poor guy down in the last 600m and got to break the tape, and was pretty much having the BEST DAY EVER. I got to be in a play and entertain people, check. I got to laugh a lot, check. I defeated the patriarchy (at least at the Coastal 5k), check. I PRed, check. I then went back to chug a lot of coffee, deliver my paper which won runner-up for a graduate student prize.

Above: what a weekend’s series of events. Reflecting back on this one, it definitely ranks up there with “most interesting lifetime weekends” that might have to be experienced to be believed.

That night, I also spent the best $25 of my life on the Myrtle Beach bungee cord ride (not the technical name): basically, you get strapped in to a bungee cord-like apparatus, slowly lowered down, and then they let this thing rip and off you go into the stratosphere of Myrtle Beach, screaming your head off, and having the time of your life. Did my awesome grad school friends from my play cast film me flying around in the air on this ride? You bet your magical Victorian britches they did. Did I afterwards convince them to try it out too? No, no, despite my persuasive arguments in favor of being attached to a bungee and taking flight in the night sky and enjoying the “bracing breezes” of Myrtle Beach, I was the only one to take to the skies. This very same night, post-bungee, my friend Marija insisted I get one of those spray paint touristy shirts and we decided it was a great idea to put the words “Amazing Champion” on it. So, yes, I was feeling really good about myself and also having a really, really excellent time at this academic conference! Side note: I sincerely hope everyone has a friend in their life who will heartily encourage them to get a shirt with the words “Amazing Champion” on it. Those are the kind of people who you need in your life. Whoever says grad students don’t have fun AND work hard was definitely not part of the Victorian Theatrical Society of the University of Virginia from 2010-2014.

Then—because I am who I am—I went back on Sunday morning to do the half marathon (part of the same race series) for a long run, where I proceeded to get VERY lost after finishing. The half was a point-to-point course with the start and finish several miles apart. I ended up doing my longest long run of my entire life of that point, which was more than 2 hours long. The entire time that I was lost, I was for better (no one was going to mess with me) or worse (my arm was getting tired) armed with the largest, heaviest finisher’s medal that has ever been created and which was in the shape of a surfboard and thus quite pointy. Needless to say, Myrtle Beach more than delivered in terms of adventuresome race weekends!

5. Winning a tree at the 2017 Run for the Trees 5k in Orlando during my bachelorette party weekend. This weekend could have gone so wrong in so, so many ways, but everything came together and was wonderful. My best friend, running buddy, and bridesmaid Louise was on the same exact flight that I was, though we hadn’t planned this; Louise was living in Newport News and I was in Charlottesville, and we both ended up flying in and out of Richmond. No one but Louise wanted to wake up and go to this 5k with me, so off we two went, in an Uber before the actual crack of dawn after getting into the hotel really late the night before and hardly sleeping. Louise is a trooper!!! Our Uber driver did not know where she was going, unfortunately, and relished driving a good 15 miles under the speed limit at all times. We arrived maybe 15 min. before the race, which got my adrenaline going quite nicely despite the lack of warmup. I think Louise grabbed my number for me while I ran around for 2-3 minutes at a maximum and got to go to the bathroom. Then, this ended up being a nice challenging race with another woman right on my tail for most of it—I ended up really needing my A game to win this one. I think I ended up winning by approx. 15 or so seconds in a low 18, but I had really wanted that W since it just seemed like the best way to kick off a bachelorette party weekend, which of course, comes before you kick off your actual marriage…you don’t want to start that by being second! My prize was a Bald Cypress Tree, which I shipped back up here (possibly another story for another time). It is now in our backyard here (rightmost photo below) in Virginia and growing rapidly and happily!

Running and racing is not always easy; sometimes they are both very, very hard. But, this sport has given me so many good times (pun intended?!), adventures (this post could have been much, much longer), truly wonderful friends, and a sense of satisfaction and striving for my full potential as a human being in this life. I am always thankful for running, and can’t wait to add more adventures to my lifetime of running stories.