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Obligatory taper post


Somehow, it’s already time to taper for the Philadelphia Marathon.

Somehow, I managed to cobble together 110 nearly pain-free miles last week, and somehow, I’m not feeling so terrible about my chances anymore.

The past thirty days have been strange. I went from being in the best (marathon) shape of my life, to thinking I might not be able to run, to completely not caring about the marathon because I was suddenly consumed with fretting over upsetting things I can’t control, to wondering if maybe I can pull off a PR on November 18th after all.

This month I saw the ugly side of nature. The side where you discover cancer has licked out into the internal organs of one of the most important people in your life, and how can this be happening and nothing about it makes sense and neither of you even knows what to say so your eyes brim over and that says it all.

I saw the beautiful side too. I watched the silent fluttering of a saw-whet owl in a mist net and then I held the creature in my hands, looked close enough to see the stealthy fringe on the wings.

Racing seems to exist at this nexus in nature between anguish and joy. There are awful moments and great ones, and you’re always balancing the incredible discomfort of pushing your body as far as it will go with the dreadful primal bliss of finding out just how alive you can be today.

In racing, you can control so much. You can control your preparation, your fueling, your footwear, the comfort of your outfit…

And yet, then there are a whole multitude of factors you don’t necessarily get to have a say in, so you’re there simply to bear witness to the experiment and adapt around setbacks and surprises however you can. You are forced, by virtue of how very uncomfortable you are, to exist in the now, to focus on the moment and work through the distance quarter mile by quarter mile in a manner that’s as honest as you can muster, even though you’re leaving footprints nobody’s going to see.

I… I don’t know.

I know that, in the end, running doesn’t matter at all. It just doesn’t. But it sure is one hell of an escape, one hell of a way to process my thoughts and experience some tiny microcosm of the world. That’s all I want from it, and I’m lucky to get out there every day.

Anyway, enough of this sentimental noise. I just looked up my registration confirmation and discovered there appear to be 33,000 people registered for this race (if you include the halfers). WHAAAAAAT. I mean, I know it’s a big race and all, but that is greater than the population of Juneau. Maybe I’ll be like a horse and construct some blinders for my hat in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

PS. Blogger platform blogs, I don’t know what it is, but my computer will not let me comment on your posts anymore. I have tried many ways around this but must finally conclude that I am too techno-deficient to figure it out.

PS again, if I had any sense of timing, I would probably comment on the election or hurricane Sandy, but I have nothing insightful or intelligent to contribute to either of those discussions, so here is a mountain:


21 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/06/2012 19:05

    “to focus on the moment and work through the distance quarter mile by quarter mile in a manner that’s as honest as you can muster, even though you’re leaving footprints nobody’s going to see”

    You are a beautiful writer.

    I think this points to a great race, you’ve traveled a gamut of emotions and possibilities, now it’s your time to let go and run. And don’t worry about the size, you’re fast so it won’t be hugely crowded for you at all. Can’t wait to scream at you when you run by while I’m in an irish coffee drunken haze. 🙂

    • 11/11/2012 09:37

      That sounds like incredible fun. Will you be staffing an irish coffee aid station? Depending on how the race is going, I might benefit from the whiskey!

      • Flo permalink
        11/11/2012 11:07

        Lol, Hydration of champions, I’ll work on my hand-off this week.

  2. 11/06/2012 19:36

    So beautifully written! This is why I read your blog. Best of luck at Philly! Hope you find a good group to work with to help forget some of the craziness around (but mostly behind) you.

    • 11/11/2012 09:39

      Thank you so much. You know, that’s a good point — the couple of marathons I’ve run before have been so small that I’ve really only had 1-2 people to “work” with over the course of the race. It’ll be fun to see if I can settle in with people around my pace in this large field size.

  3. 11/06/2012 19:37

    Regardless of your finish time, I hope you have an memorable, and challenging (because then you know you are working for it) run with the footsteps of 32,900 or so pounding behind you.

    • 11/11/2012 09:44

      I just looked up the top 100 finishers from 2011 and #100 ran 2:49. WHOA. Top 200 was 2:56. Top 300 = 3:00 flat. Top 400 = 3:05. Maybe I can shoot for putting ~32,600 people behind me instead. Of course, I guess with the half marathon involved, my math doesn’t make sense at all…

  4. Pat D. permalink
    11/06/2012 21:23

    We’re here for all of you and cheering you on from the sidelines!

  5. 11/07/2012 05:43

    As someone that had to do some radical stuff to stay cancer free, I hope whomever in your life is in the battle wins!

    I think a lot of runners that were registered for NYC maybe hopped into Philly.
    I can’t wait to see you crush Philly!

    • 11/11/2012 09:47

      Ahhh, thank you. Can you beam her some of your badass cancer-beating aura? That would be awesome. Yeah, it looks like about 1500 NYCM runners will be joining us. Heck, when the field is this big, what’s another 5%?

  6. 11/07/2012 09:34

    I want to say something profound but I’ll mess up, I’ll just say I’m cheering for you and I know you’ll make that marathon your bitch.

    Also, fuck cancer. Seriously.

    • 11/11/2012 09:48

      Hey, with the cancer stuff, it sometimes seems like expletives are the only words that make sense.

  7. 11/07/2012 14:09

    Cancer is evil. I’m praying for this person, whomever they are.

    You’re going to rock Philly, I just know it. I hope you hit your goals & keep that nagging injury at bay. Happy marathoning!!

    • 11/11/2012 09:50

      Thank you sincerely for your prayers. As for the nagging injury, it’s been basically absent since I wrote this entry — hoping things stay that way!

  8. 11/07/2012 17:23

    Good Luck Cathleen! You Rock! Also, how in the world did you conquer 110 miles in a week??!! That’s some serious running! I don’t think I ever got past 35 in a week training, but maybe if I did I’d get to be superwoman like you! 🙂

    • 11/11/2012 09:52

      I’m not really sure how I managed the high mileage — probably the combination of a flexible schedule/free time, the luck to remain injury-free, and lots of motivation. I can’t wait to read about you chasing a BQ!! Congrats on Marine Corps!

  9. Ewen permalink
    11/08/2012 01:34

    Nice mountain. Hey, what are you talking about? Running does matter! I’m sure you’ll run well. And be well ahead of the masses, so nice and serene out there.

    My thoughts are with your friend. That’s tough news.

    • 11/11/2012 09:55

      Thank you very much. And sheesh, you’re the only one who mentioned the mountain! It’s not too huge or grand, but it’s one of my favorites to hike.

  10. 11/08/2012 20:27

    Sorry about the terrible cancer news. At least you had 110 miles to get lost in. You’re body is for sure ready if you can handle that

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