A goal without a goal

When nothing has to mean anything, it feels like there are no limits. Would it be fun to run to the top of Arlington Heights? Would it be unbearable? Would I have to walk? How steep would it be, really? I used to look up at Gray Street from Pleasant Street, if I were ever running in that direction, and think to myself, “Nope.” From the bottom, Gray Street looks like a straight shot to the sky. You can’t see the top; you can barely see the top of the first huge rise (and there are three, of which the first is the smallest). Even in times of peak fitness, hills that steep used to scare me. On the many occasions that I’ve gone running in my parents’ neighborhood, in nearby Belmont, I’ve avoided Arlington Heights like it was Mordor. Heart rate cap or no heart rate cap, I have never been fit enough to approach those hills with anything resembling calm. It wasn’t that I was calm about them this time, either; they are objectively scary, and I knew there was no way they wouldn’t be challenging to climb. The feeling-in-chief, though, was one of curiosity. How was this going to go?

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You nailed it. I said so.

My run coach asked me to guest-host today’s episode of her podcast, the Morning Mantra. This is her conduit to her athletes and to everyone who relies on her in some way for support, courage, love, and affirmation. She records it every day, which is nothing short of amazing. Recording yourself is really hard and triggering and cringe-inducing, and even on a technical level it takes some skill (note that you can hear the difference between my sound quality and hers when they’re spliced side by side), but she makes it seem easy. And though she is a really good run coach, and though most of her audience is composed of athletes, her podcast isn’t about running. As she likes to say, even the running we do isn’t really about the running. It’s about a need for something that’s usually much, much deeper.

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Letting my lizard brain drive the bus

The thing about racing a 5K is that it’s terrifying for a control freak like me. If I feel like I’m in control, I’m probably being too conservative. If I feel comfortable at any point, I’m probably not going fast enough. When I got to the start line on Super Sunday to race the 5K instead of the much more approachable 5-miler, I was about to test whether I really had what it took to let go and not grab on again.

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The Caganer: may help, um, clear some things out

My coach named this month’s key workout “The Caganer,” which my autocorrect already hates no matter how many times I assure it that yes, this is what I meant. A Caganer, according to Wikipedia, is “a figurine depicted in the act of defecation appearing in nativity scenes in Catalonia and neighboring areas with Catalan culture.” That’s right: the workout is named after shitting your pants at Christmas.

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2018, the year of no goals

This is the time of year when runners start to count up their miles. Can I get to the next round number before January 1st? Will I reach the number I chose last January 1st? If I do, what does that say about me? If I don’t, what does THAT say about me? It’s pretty fascinating to read the zeitgeist in December and see how people are tallying things up. December is the season of many lists: Dave Barry’s Year In Review, celebrity-endorsed holiday gift guides galore, and perhaps the very best online media tradition of all (and my personal favorite annual read): Drew Magary’s annual Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog. If you’ve never checked that last one out, you’re welcome. What were the best things in 2018? How does 2018’s things compare to 2017’s things? We categorize, we summarize, we count, we compare. And we prepare to use our findings to decide what we’re going to categorize, summarize, count and compare in 2019.

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Enjoy the mystery

Determined to run by feel and to eradicate my dependence on splits and data, I had set my watch for the Reebok 10K to display only one metric: altitude. For a famously flat race, at sea level. That’s right, I told myself, if you look at that watch, all you’re going to get is a random number that makes no sense and has no relevance to the work at hand. This race is all about feel. Am I holding back enough in mile 1? Am I picking it up in mile 2? Am I wanting to drop out at mile 3? Am I…setting an all-time personal record at mile 4?

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