All my running buddies are injured, including Rosie. This morning I headed out for my longest run in over 7 years ... 6 miles. One girlfriend had planned to do this with me but she had to go see her doctor for an ankle injury. Another friend, who actually has inspired this new surge in running for me again, has a possible stress fracture in her foot. And Rosie has a torn toe nail that has her limping and looking forlorn.
So, I headed out this morning into the sunshine and temperatures pushing near 40F degrees all by myself, but with a gorgeous morning for a run.
Taking to the ski-mobile trails here I plotted my course as I ran. I am in training for a half marathon to be held in the small, northern Maine town of Millinocket next December. Yes, next December .. like a good girl scout, I believe in being prepared! But mostly I have fallen off my endurance athletic endeavors and have needed the motivation to get out there again. With the encouragement of my friend, Beth, I signed up for this half-marathon and have hit the trails ... running.
Beth and MW, both amazing women with a lot of miles and marathons under their belts, have been more than kind in their patience and willingness to run with me at my Clydesdale pace. And the chatting that goes along with these runs makes it so much easier to log another mile or two on without much thought to it. Thus, today, as I struck out on my own I wasn't sure I would get this job done without more distractions than my own thoughts.
But, running is a solo sport and within the first mile or more I found my rhythm and my thoughts started to wonder: I began to think of my high school track running days and with this came the memory of Mr. Brewster.
Mr. Brewster was a handsome older man with white hair and a spreading middle. He was my biology teacher my sophomore year. A very quiet, mild-mannered individual he always seemed to struggle with discipline of his class, and far too many of my classmates took advantage of this as I remember. But I liked him and I loved Biology.
I ran the 880 in track. I wish I knew then what I know now about running distance and the training for such distance. But I was built for endurance and not a sprinter so I got signed on for the longest event available to girls who ran track. I hated it. But I would show up for practice and run around and around that track trying to get the 'love of the game' in me. Our track coach was also the gym teacher. She was young and newly hired, probably not much older than we were at that time and she had a lot more focus on the sprinters and the hurdle runners. After all, to run the 880 all you had to do was, well, run!
Mr. Brewster use to walk to school every day, regardless of the weather, covering at least a mile or more in one direction. During track season he would stop by the track setting his briefcase down beside him in the grass and watch the practice for a few minutes. Then, picking his briefcase back up, he would turn to walk home. One day, as he watched, I got a horrible pain in my side half way around the track. I had to stop running and just walk, bent over and gripping my side. As I came around to the side by the school he motioned me over.
"Got a stitch?"
"Yeah. It will go away eventually."
"You might try belly breathing. It's just gas trapped under your ribs. So breath and let your belly really expand as big as possible to give that gas some room to move." And with that he picked up his briefcase and headed for home.
He continued to stop by the track practice every day and I began to go over and speak with him. One day he told me I might try speeding up a little bit. "Don't go too fast or too soon. Just try speeding up your last circle around, a tiny bit, and on that last half before the finish line see if you have enough juice left to just go a tiny bit faster". And he headed for home.
Another time he said, "as you speed up, try pumping your arms a little more, see if they don't help propel you forward and help with that last push of your sprint".
Or he would say, "Mary, don't forget to drink some water, it's hot out here today".
I would listen to him and experiment with his suggestions. At one point my real coach came over and spoke with me saying, "Mr. Brewster seems to be giving you some pointers." I was a little embarrassed so answered her with a roll of my eyes and a "yeah, well, it entertains him I think".
She smiled and said, "You know, he was a track star all 4 years of college at Colby. Broke a lot of records with distance running, some still hold. He's a good coach. You'd do well to listen to him!"
When I pulled my lower jaw off the track asphalt she laughed and moved on.
I never became a very good runner, never did much for the track team with my 880 times, but I was pretty proud of the fact that Mr. Brewster saw something in me that worth nurturing and helping along. Today, as I stopped while running up, yet another long hard hill, I had a stitch in my side. I stopped and breathed by expanding my belly into a big "Buddha belly". I pulled out my water bottle and I lifted it to the tops of the great pine trees I rested under with a toast to Mr. Brewster. I tucked my bottle away into my runners pack and, pumping my arms, I ran up that damn hill with that stitch no longer bothering me.
I was able to run 6.71 miles today and cut two full minutes off my most recent min/mile running times!
I give full credit of this to Mr. Brewster, my running partner today.
Loving you all back,
I'm enclosing an article from Downeast Magazine about this marathon in Millinocket; an old mill town that was created by the papermill and was a thriving area while that mill was running. But, like a lot of Maine towns, the mills have shut down and the towns have become ghost towns. Millinocket is the gateway to Baxter State Park and our majestic and loved Mt. Katadhin. The people of this town are proud, but their town economy is suffering. This full and half marathon was created by Gary Allen - "The Marathon Man" - to help pump money back into this town. Thus, only a good cause like this could get me attempting to run 13+ miles again ... next December!