2019 B.A.A. Boston Marathon-DID IT!-Reflections/Lessons Learned/Takeaways

April 15, 2019

Valerie Hartman, Career Development/Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, Connector Shift Into Fifth (www.shiftintofifth.com)

What a thrill! Running my 2nd Marathon-2019 B.A.A. Boston Marathon

What a thrill! Running my 2nd Marathon-2019 B.A.A. Boston Marathon

“No pain, no gain.” 

How many times had I uttered those words…to others (especially to my kids) and to myself? And truly believed them (still do). Lying on a stark physical therapy table with big beads of sweat streaming down my forehead, shaking and my teeth clenched from the excruciating pain, I was starting to wonder who the hell ever came up with those words?!  David (my miracle PT) was working his way down my right IT Band and adductor.  Digging his fingers deep and pulling the muscle from the bone every quarter of an inch-snapping lesions, stretching scar tissue. More length. More flexibility. Then the major ice rub down. To the point of total numbness. Bring down the inflammation. Usher in the fresh oxygenated blood. 90 minutes in total. 3 times a week. For the next 7 weeks, this was part of the regimen now required to accomplished my next big/bold goal-completing the 2019 historic B.A.A. Boston Marathon.  

Having run my first marathon (TCS 2018 NYC Marathon) just 5 weeks prior (at 55!), I could feel the void. The exhilaration of crossing that finish line in Central Park after running 26.2 miles through 5 magnificently diverse boroughs of New York on a glorious fall day was still so fresh. I missed the training, having a set goal, the structure and yes, the endorphins. Then my Dad died suddenly in early December. Heartbroken and stunned, I knew I had to do something more than work to help channel/process my grief. So I put my name on a waitlist to run the 2019 B.A.A. Boston Marathon. It was a complete long shot.

As I stepped off the plane in mid-January from an impromptu and healing trip to Havana, I checked through my emails. It had been a week with little to no Internet coverage-what a gift! And there it was. My acceptance to run the 2019 B.A.A. Boston Marathon!  Miraculously, I had gotten off the waitlist to join the Brigham and Women’s Gillian Remy Stepping Strong Team. 

I frantically looked at the calendar. 13 weeks until the Race! Raise a minimum of $7500 for my charity. Train and be ready to run 26.2 miles in the most historic and iconic of marathons on Patriots Day (April 15, 2019). Holy smokes!  Beyond exciting and just a tad bit overwhelming.  With a renewed commitment to harness the energy of discomfort and take action, I said YES!

With 5 less weeks to train (I had trained a full 18 weeks for my first marathon, NYC), I decided I had to expedite my training.  Against my own advice of researching and consulting those in the know, I barreled through and trained super hard and intensely. I was on a mission to make up for lost time.  And I did another big no/no. I didn’t listen to my body as it sent me signals that things were not ok.  By week 5 of my expedited training, my body said enough! My IT Band was so inflamed and adductor so tight, I could literally barely lift my right leg to walk, let alone run/train.

I was so sad and frustrated thinking that my dream of running this second marathon was over.  Venting my sadness/frustration with my own little pity party, I remembered my own advice.  Access resources, stay curious and stay open to the journey looking/being different. With no time to lose, I realized I needed immediate help. I went to the doctor and then a PT running specialist. No stress fractures (thank goodness). The inflammation was indeed very acute. But all hope was not lost. I was told by the amazing PT that while it was not guaranteed, if I committed to the rehab plan and stringent “alternative” training regimen, I might just have a chance to realize my goal.

This required a big leap of faith. But what choice did I have? And truth be told, with curiosity and gratitude as my guide, I decided that perhaps training for this marathon in such a different way might just be filled with even more lessons to learn/takeaways than the training for the NYC Marathon. What if I looked at this as an invitation to grow? Once again, I said YES!  And for the next 7 plus weeks, right up to the morning of the Boston Marathon, I did EVERYTHING I was told by my miracle PT and awesome charity team running coach. 

The treatments were brutally painful. The strengthening exercises grueling. The financial commitment not small. The process so counterintuitive-I wouldn’t actually take a real run until 7 days before the race (the typical time of tapering).  And the strategy for the race so completely different than the NYC Marathon. “Running” this marathon, if even possible, would involve BOTH running AND walking at specific and strategic intervals to make it the full 26.2 miles. It all felt so strange. So unfamiliar. But I made a choice to trust, to believe, to commit, to take it day by day. I surrendered to the process of a new way to train and run the race - realizing if I really wanted to achieve this new big/bold goal, something I’d never done, I’d have to do and think things I’d never done/thought.

At the crack of dawn on April 15, 2019, Boston Marathon Day, I checked in with my PT for one last check-up. We had discussed that I would be ok with whatever he decided. I knew inside I had given it my best effort. Now I had to be solidly ok with whatever he determined-of course disappointed if the answer was no. Either way, I was intent to be filled with gratitude for the support and incredible lessons learned along the way. If he felt the leg was strong/healthy enough, he’d give me the green light to give it a try.  He checked it thoroughly, smiled and said, “you’re ready”.

And so I walked out to the starting line with overwhelming gratitude-just getting to that start line felt like the big win.  The rest would be just a bonus.  On that April 15th, I did indeed run/walk/run/walk/run 26.2 miles through 8 towns, up and down rolling hills (including the infamous Heartbreak Hill) through 4 different weather systems in 5 1/2 hours (the last 2 in sub-9 minute miles). It was an epic test of my mental and physical capabilities.  And a true team effort.

I am still processing the lessons learned/takeaways from that experience. As with all of my endeavors, especially ones involving sports, I want to share. Here are my top takeaways:

1.   DREAM way out of your comfort zone. And say YES!

2.   TAKE ACTION - get out of your head and move into action.

3.   PUSH your body through the pain BUT also listen to the pain and respect what it’s telling you about your body’s injuries...a balancing act.

4.   STAY PRESENT- commit to EACH STEP OF THE JOURNEY/TRAINING without projecting to the future (this was critical as I rehabbed my acute IT Band inflammation).

5.   CREATE A WINNING TEAM-Seek out and connect with resources and friends/family who will support you being your best. From Coaches to doctors to physical therapists to friends and family…nobody does something alone (especially something bigger than ever imagined)…nor should they…having the right team to move you to your goal is essential.

6.   COMMIT your time/treasure to get the task done (money, time, equipment etc.)…it tells the universe you mean business.

7.   STAY RADICALLY CURIOUS - Research/read/learn about the training, nutrition, the race, recovery etc. Ask tons of questions and be open to the answers. Read books/articles about training/running/nutrition/mindset/equipment/physiology etc.

8.   KNOW YOUR WHY-SET YOUR INTENTION and keep connecting to it.

9.   CONNECT WITH SOMETHING BIGGER - Run for something bigger than yourself (although I am not judgmental about those who do it to prove something to themselves etc.-just saying that doing the training and running connected to a charity/cause (Brigham and Women’s Stepping Strong Trauma Center) was an extra bonus for me to stay motivated and to connect with folks to let them support you). 

10.  BE GRATEFUL/HAVE FUN! Cry too. Circle back to smile/laugh-even when it really hurts.

11.   EMBRACE the pain/discomfort. Know it’s part of the process-especially when it comes to physical challenges. Don’t resist it and know that it signals growth and means that you are building toward something. Seriously, no pain, no gain!

12.  TRUST the process.... of training/PT etc.  Once you research and pick a training plan to follow-then trust it. Now you can pivot and adjust but subscribing to the training plan, trusting it, do the work, following through at each turn (regardless of how you feel about doing it in that moment).

13.  MEDITATE daily-basically brain bicep curls-it literally rewires the brain, keeps you in the present moment and helps at every turn.

14.  FUEL YOUR BODY-Nutrition/hydration is key-understand what works, what doesn’t and put good fuel into your body. (Quick aside-added Juice Plus to my regimen for the NYC Marathon and the health benefits were astonishing.)

15.   BELIEVE-push away the self-doubt/negative “inner critic” messages-you are so much stronger than you can ever imagine. In order to do new/bigger/bolder things, you have to be willing to think new/bigger/bolder thoughts and/or at the very least, not buy into the old restrictive thoughts/stories

16.   DECIDE which thoughts/stories will support the most empowered/effective/content filled you. Then cultivate those and let the others wilt and die.

17.    LOOSEN THE GRIP-let go of the preconceived idea of what “it’s supposed to look like” and focus on each part of the process. The end result might just be beyond anything you could imagine.

18.   SHOW UP-both mentally and physically every day. Take it one step at a time (literally) knowing that somehow, in the end, you will accomplish and learn things you never thought possible.