Friday, September 30, 2011

Mini Mojo?

I’m supposed to be running the Maine Half Marathon today. I’m not.

Five months ago, still coming off the Boston Marathon high, my friend and I planned that we would run that race together. We planned that we would train hard all summer and we’d each run our own personal best times.

It sounded like a marvelous plan.

Then we finished Boston. We were tired of training. Summer happened. A bit of laziness happened? I watched the hard work of my marathon training slip away. I stopped filling out any sort of training calendar. I was half panicked that I wouldn’t be able to get the training back and half relieved that I’d stepped away from running consistent miles.

I kinda liked not having to fit running into my day. I liked not waking up early before work to beat the heat. I liked not caring about the weather report. I got to a point that I didn’t even think about running any more. I wondered if I should even continue writing a column called NH Runner, and I didn’t have much to tweet about at my
@nh_runner handle. Even my dailymile feed had pretty much dried up.

Then, we flipped the calendar to fall. The humidity broke, and perhaps most importantly, I got a first-hand dose of motivation when I participated inBoston's
Hub on Wheels cycling event last weekend.

More than 5,000 cyclists packed into a quarter-mile of city blocks in the early-morning hours. The anticipation and excitement was palpable. It wasn’t a race – the professionals would show us how it’s really done later in the day – but the ride brought together people for a common purpose.

The Hub made me miss the cheering crowds, the volunteers and the spectators at running events. It made me miss the feeling of crossing a finish line. As the sound of cowbells filled the air near the starting line, I got the surge of excitement inside of me and the feeling that I might inexplicably tear up at any moment.

It was then that I knew I needed to get back to a running event.

Don’t me wrong. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my love affair with my bicycle this summer and taking my first real break from running since I started has been good for me. But I regret missing some local new running events this year – mainly the line-up put together by John Mortimer and his new Millennium Running venture.

I’m talking about the
Shamrock Shuffle in March, the Manchester Mile in July and the 10-miler around Lake Massabesic in September. All three of them were in my backyard and well within my ability. I should have been there.

John Mortimer knows how to put on races and he knows how to motivate people. Even in my own personal circles, these new races have created new challenges for non-runners in my life.

People I never thought would run – and certainly wouldn’t run in races – have trained and signed up. And they have kept running and signing up for more. Now I find myself looking to them for motivation.

It was a conversation with my neighbor – a non-runner – as she finished her two-mile run that helped something click. She had recently signed on with a personal trainer and was working toward Millennium Running’s new Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Know what? I will, too. And then I’ll probably shoot for the Santa Shuffle in downtown Manchester before the city’s Christmas parade.

Maybe, just maybe, I can get in enough miles to be ready for the
Manchester Marathon on Nov. 6, at the very least, I can probably round up a relay team. Then maybe I’ll even work toward the 16-miler in Derry in January. Heck, if I can run 16 by January, I should consider another spring marathon. Right?

Baby steps, baby steps. But it certainly feels like my running mojo is stirring. Thank you, cowbells.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gone Before We Know It

Being in the newspaper business most of my life, I’ve learned to be relatively un-rattled by news events. Even things like murders and other crimes become a more of a source of curiosity and intrigue than outrage or disappointment.

But this week I found myself oddly affected by two pieces of news I read.

First – and probably not surprising – were the effects of Tropical Storm Irene in the northern parts of the state. I felt a sadness when I saw sections of roads ripped up and normally quiet rivers rushing through towns in a path of destruction.

I found myself feeling not only sad, but also lucky.

Just one day before the storm I had been enjoying a quiet camping get-away in Hart’s Location. Our campsite was a stone’s throw, literally, from the Saco River. I marvel now at how the water running over the rocks brought a sense of peace to the campsite.

We cut our trip short because of Irene, not wanting to risk another night in a tent on the riverfront. A good decision, obviously. We were the last of the riverside campers to leave, but there were still a handful of inland campers on site when we left.

Our go-to camping spot, the Crawford Notch Campground, is situated between the Saco River and Route 302. That can’t mean good things. The road on either side of the campground, according to reports and photos, has crumbled. I only hope the campers we left behind decided to pack up and head out before the full wrath of Irene hit.

The campground was shut down for most of the week. Finally, the cabins, a few sites and the general store opened at the end of the week. Many sites still remain unusable. There is no doubt the owners will have some significant clean-up to do. I’m hoping our favorite spots are ready to go next spring so we can continue our camping tradition.

Another one of our summer traditions might be affected with the closing of Dodge’s Country Store in New Boston, the big, red general store right out of a postcard. It’s a favorite stop to take a break on our long bike rides and refuel.

My sweetie and I would often sit on the store’s front porch, snacking on peanut butter sandwiches we had packed in our jerseys and refilling our bottles with a mix of energy drink and water we would buy in the store.

From our perch on the porch, we could see the town library and, I think, a church across the street. It was quintessential New England if I ever saw it.

On the other side of the porch, undoubtedly, would be an older gentleman, usually wearing a plaid shirt and dusty old ball cap. It was always a different man, but it was always the same scene. He’d say hello to all of the locals who went in and out of the store, asking about family members or chatting about the weather.

I’m going to miss those times on the store porch, not to mention that, logistically, I’m going to need to find another spot to refuel. Somehow I sense that I’ll end up at a gas station “mart” and it won’t ever be the same as sitting on the New Boston store porch.

I’ve always said I run because I can. I’ve often added that I run for those who cannot.

I run for people like my mom, whose rheumatoid arthritis has ravaged her body so badly over time that even the simplest of tasks – putting her shoes on, getting a glass out of the cupboard, getting up from a chair – are increasingly difficult.

I think of my Aunt Kathy, who was suddenly paralyzed from the neck down a few years ago after a routine surgery. She now celebrates the smallest victories, like learning to hold a pen and write again.

It’s at the times when I least want to go running that I need to think of them and how much they would give to be able to get out and run. I think of how much they would like just have the choice of whether to run or not.

I need to remind myself of these things sometimes, especially now when I’m stuck in this running slump. After all, sometimes the things we appreciate – the things we think will always be there – are gone before we know it.