“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon”
Kathrine Switzer – 26.2 Marathon Stories
Although my preparation started 10 weeks later than I wanted because of my dodgy hip, I could not have picked two better places to begin training – New York and Boston. I was only in town to work/study/socialise, and it was below freezing for most of the week, so not perfect conditions, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run in two of the most hallowed places for distance runners, particularly so close to the Boston Marathon. Indeed, the quote above is from possibly the most famous Boston winner, and a true running pioneer.
Whenever I go away I try to fit in at least one run, especially in the U.S. where there is too much of a temptation to over-indulge (pizza and American craft beer are my kryptonite). It is also normally the only chance I get to see the place that I am visiting apart from the inside of a hotel / conference room / airport.
At 10 days, this trip was by far the longest that I had been away from my family since the breakdown. It involved giving presentations, socialising with people that I didn’t know well (or at all) and intense study in an intimidating environment, all situations that I struggle with, particularly without much sleep. This made it all the more important to switch off my mind the only way I know how; by running.
The runs were gentle and not particularly far, which I was actually proud of as it is very unlike me to show such restraint during recovery from an injury.
The first run was along the Hudson River Greenway, up the westerly side of Manhattan. The second was not technically in Boston, but in nearby Cambridge – “From Cambridge to Bognor” did not have the same ring to it. I was attending a course at Harvard for the week (check me out), and one of the pre-course materials they provided was a running map. Despite the map and obvious landmarks, I almost became the first person to visit Cambridge and not see the river. I was very glad that I did though – my photo does not do justice to the life-affirming beauty of the sun setting over the frozen Charles, mainly because I went out in short sleeves so had lost all feeling in my arms by that point.
For week 2 I was in the slightly less glamorous location of Butlins in Bognor Regis. From a running perspective, the two places did however have a lot in common, as I was again able to run alongside water, on flat and predominantly car-free routes, in the sunshine. If you are looking for Murakami’s void, or need to blow away the cobwebs, then you can’t get much better than a run by the sea.
My diet and alcohol consumption were also similarly unhealthy, so much so that I was craving wholemeal bread and plain vegetables by Friday. I’ll stop drinking next week I promise…