Monday, November 15, 2010

Heartbreak Hill for the first time

On Monday this week I got word that I'd been granted a bib to run the Boston Marathon as a fundraiser for Community Rowing, so my winter schedule is under revision.  I signed up for a half marathon at Disney in January so I could run with my brother and see family, lots of planning.  But at some point, I suppose, I have to actually run.  Training this week went well, runs of 5, 4, 6, and 3 miles leading up to a Saturday run with Robyn.  We agreed to meet at CRI at 8:00 AM and she said she'd take me up to the Newton hills.  It really didn't dawn on me exactly what that meant.

The run started normally enough, running away from the river and up a few small hills.  We pulled out onto Commonwealth Ave and I realized we were on the marathon course, headed the wrong way up Heartbreak Hill.  I've driven this road dozens of times, but it was a bit like seeing it for the first time.  We ran on the little side street that parallels the main road, but in my mind I could see myself on the other side of the divide, crowds lining the route, cheering and noise. It was great to see the sights and figure out how they related to each other, plus all the other runners out in the warm November sunshine. How many of them were training for Boston, or is this their normal training run, or both?

We went out 4 miles and turned around to head back up the hills.  Robyn has an effortless stride up hills that for me represents the difference between where I am and where I want to be. I can run, and I can run hills, but not smoothly.  I felt my pace falter, my stride turn choppy, my breathing get labored.  Even so, we passed a few people that looked like real runners. I told Robyn to run ahead and wait for me at the top so I was left to my own thoughts for a bit.  I was visualizing myself here in 5 months and I couldn't really imagine the scene.

At the top I tapped the signpost that Robyn said represents the top of the hill for training purposes I didn't feel a sense of accomplishment.  The hills really aren't that big by themselves, it's where they occur during the marathon that makes them special.  We'd run 5.5 miles so far at a 9:00 pace, not bad but nothing to inspire pride and joy.  What I did feel was a sense of belonging to a larger community; the CRI marathon group, people all training for Boston, and the general running scene. There is a sense of camaraderie that is welcoming and open, especially on a sunny warm morning on Heartbreak Hill.