Tomorrow, I officially start training for my second half marathon.
Tomorrow starts the madness. The sore calves. The constant hunger and thirst. The one-beer-and-I’m-tipsy Friday nights, followed by early morning Saturday morning regrets. The I-can-never-get-enough-sleep, drag-myself-out-of-bed work weeks. The constant thinking ahead to the weather, what I should eat, what I need to wear and when I need to go to sleep to make this process easier on me and my body (and my poor mother who hears my every gripe on my morning work commute).
Tomorrow starts the thrill. The sense of accomplishment every Saturday when I complete a long run. The morning chats with my good friend while we pound pavement. Iced coffee and bagel stops. Being a cheap date. Feeling confident about my body and my strength. Having a runner’s high every.single.week.
As you can see, I have some mixed emotions about this. After training for a marathon, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced something so painfully challenging and exciting at the same time. So after a couple months off, I’m ready to get started again. Because as crazy as my weekends become during training, I have yet to find a better feeling than crossing that finish line.
What do you get, when you cross Greek yogurt with tangy garlic, cool, fresh cucumbers, Italian pressed olive oil and a squeeze of lemon?
Why, you get the loveliest dish that can be eaten by itself, used to cover bread, chicken, vegetables… the list goes on.
When I visited Greece last month, I had the pleasure of tasting this traditional side dish at a little restaurant called Alexander the Great in Athens (it was actually named something in Greek hieroglyphics, but it said “Alexander the Great” underneath the Greek letters, so we’re going with that).
My family and I hesitated ordering the bread because we already ordered heavy meals, but we decided ‘Why not. We’re on vacation. The day wouldn’t be complete without stuffing ourselves to the point of uncomfortable-ness.’ But who knew the bread would be the star of the show? It came with hot peppers, hummus and tzatziki.
It’s cool. It’s tangy. It’s refreshing. And when you’re sitting in the 90 degree Grecian heat listening about Poseidon’s temple trying not to bake to a crisp chicken kabob, this is much needed.
So when I came home and finally adjusted back to the Eastern Standard time zone, I immediately went to the grocery store and bought all the necessary ingredients to make tzatziki. With no recipe, I eyeballed about ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt (I used Oikos), a ½ tablespoon of olive oil, a clove of garlic, a tablespoon of lemon juice and ¼ of a cucumber. The result? Pure heaven.
Another one of my passions is traveling, and in the past two years I’ve been lucky enough to visit Europe twice. In June, my family flew to Rome and toured southern Italy and Greece for almost 2 weeks. It was fun, busy, relaxing and enlightening.
I’m sure I’m not the only one, but when I come back from an extended vacation, I kind of get into a funk. A case of the blues, if you will. To talk myself out of sounding like a spoiled brat, it’s hard to be far away from life’s pettiness for that long and then plunge back in. One minute you’re on a boat touring the island of Capri, the next minute you’re Swiffer wet-jetting your linoleum kitchen floor. You catch my drift?
So to prolong the ecstasy of my getaway, to take me back to that perfect day in Athens with my family and that feeling of simplicity and satisfaction, I am taking this great recipe, joining it with some grilled chicken, closing my eyes and imagining the Mediterranean Sea.
It doesn’t take something extravagant to bring you back to a great time. Today, I may be in Ohio, but my heart (and stomach) are across the Atlantic.
On Sunday, May 15, I ran a marathon. Twenty six and two-tenths miles.
I had myself a bit of a cry right before the gun went off. So did my friend with whom I was running. We were both incredibly nervous, excited and ready to get the show on the road. We had been training for this specific race for more than 4 months, although training to be able to train for this race had taken more than a year. See my running story here.
The first couple miles were quick, but I knew we had a long road ahead of us. I was having a lot of negative thoughts, and I quickly tried to reverse them into positive ones.
Running through the small neighborhoods of Ohio City and Tremont (miles 7 through 10), I started to gain my stride. We headed back to Cleveland, going over the Carnegie bridge, a mile-long bridge joining Ohio City and downtown.
The last time we ran the bridge was July 2010 during a four mile race, A Shot in the Dark. At that time, we had never run more than 3.1 miles and had to stop and walk after the three-mile mark. This time, we were approaching mile 11 and had more courage and strength in us than ever before.
A big moment was seeing the sign that separated the half-marathoners from the full-marathoners. Back when Elisa and I ran the Columbus half marathon in October 2010, this was a moment I remember quite vividly. I remember being so relieved when I saw that sign, knowing I only had another two-tenths of a mile to go. This time, I had more than 13 ahead of me.
Right then is the first time (besides at the start line) I saw my personal cheer squad. My mom, sister, and friends all ran out of a Starbucks and started waving their arms, cheering and snapping pictures. I felt great, so I did a little dance. I was halfway there!
Then started the lonely journey through the second half of the race.
Miles 15 through 20 were very desolate. Not a lot of people were out cheering, I’m guessing due to both the cold rainy weather and the dangerous area of Cleveland we were running through.
We saw our cheer squad at mile 21 and for the first time in the race, I choked back tears. I was tired and just wanted to stop. I could see the look on my face was upsetting my mom too. But I couldn’t help it. I was starting to hit the wall.
Right around that time was when Elisa received a text from our friends running the Pittsburgh marathon saying they had finished. We still had about an hour to go, but hearing they had finished was inspiration to keep going.
The next few miles were a blur. Elisa and I didn’t run right next to each other, although we were never more than a few paces away. I concentrated on my music and just looking ahead. At one point, I didn’t even pay attention to the people cheering. I started repeating phrases in my head and telling myself not to give up.
When we turned down East 9 and saw the 26 mile marker, I knew I was going to finish. Elisa and I broke into a sprint when we saw the finish line and I caught sight of our cheer squad.
We crossed the line holding hands with our arms in the air. We separated for a second to get our medals around our necks and then looked at each other and burst into tears.
We dedicated four months of our energy, time and love toward the game of running. We ran through snow, rain, sleet, wind and heat. We got sunburned, blistered and chaffed. We threw up and laid in someone’s lawn trying to regain the strength to keep walking. We laughed, we cried, we talked, we were quiet. We high-fived every Saturday morning when we completed our run.
We never once said we didn’t think we could do it. We never left the other to go on by ourselves. We shared moments warming up or cooling down with coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts where we relived every run, every fear, every thought we had about the impending race. It all came down to this one moment where we conquered something we never thought we could.
“Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”