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Marathon Training Quarterback: Hate Eyes on the Prize

By Kristy Ojala
If I were in running church, today my confession would be “I missed my long training run this weekend. Forgive me, Hal Higdon, for I have sinned.” With less than a month to go, this is not something you want to do. However, if you ARE going to miss a long run, at least it’s good to have it happen on a “stepback week,” typically the third weekend long run in a series when you dial down your mileage slightly before ratcheting it back up again.

I just got back from a fantastic, very special wedding in Tulum, Mexico. My spin guru Emily, who got me on the SoulCycle train and helped inspire me to overcome so many fears in my life, got married to her long-time squeeze Josh (dubbed “Señor Mustache” by some fellow tourists) in a beautiful ceremony. It was the first wedding I’d been to where everyone stood the entire time. We were at a small chapel in a resort, and people were so blown away by the touching vows that no one really felt like sitting down for it. It was very much like the rock ‘n roll attitude Emily brings to her amazing classes.

Goin’ to the chapel… where there is A/C

Afterward, there was a very fun reception on the beach. A lit-up dance floor was involved, as was some teeny-tiny amount of tequila. For many hours we shook our moneymakers. I was barefoot, contorting to my favorite Robyn song. We were in heaven. Then my feet started to sting. I thought it was the new shoes I had to put back on after dancing all night, but then I noticed flaps of skin hanging off each of my big toes. Oops.

Apparently I cut myself on some part of the dance floor, perhaps the metal joints that hold the lighted plastic squares together. It’s one of those freakish things that ONLY seems to have happened to me. Maybe I’m just that good of a dancer, you know, cuts like a knife and all. At any rate, the bottoms of my toes lost several layers of skin and I’ve had a hell of a time keeping them clean and disinfected and free of sand (ow). I am walking a bit ducky to keep pressure off the big toes and need to steer clear of chafing/running for another day or two. I also definitely need to see about a tetanus shot.

Bug bites and Band-aids always get me down

Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for my final 20-miler on Sunday and looking forward to some taper time. I’ve heard tapering horror stories, but right now I’m really looking forward to getting back 30 minutes here, an hour there. My friend Emily S. (not to be confused with Bride Emily—I seem to be surrounded by awesomely fit Emilys) and I did our last 20-miler two weekends ago, starting in Central Park. As we jogged our first 10K around the loop we enviously watched other residents of our fine city enjoying their lazy Sunday.

I call it “hate eyes.” As a runner, you have weak moments, moments you’re not proud of. They happen when your stomach is growling and you see a man walking his dog, with iced coffee in one hand and a giant egg sandwich in the other. Hate eyes. Emily’s turn, as we passed two Lululemoned speed-walking ladies on a hill, watching them breathe calmly and exchange gossip without breaking a sweat: “Must be nice to go for a WALK with your FRIEND and not worry about PACE or anything.” Hate eyes—they can happen anywhere.

Yeah, you too, buddy.

That’s my new running game. When you’re out on the road for 3.5-plus hours, you have a lot to think about besides how crappy this gel is compared to a giant burrito bowl topped with guacamole.

On a more positive note, I’m really enjoying the first “Mile by Mile” marathon post in The New York Times. It’s about Mile 1, the start on the Verrazano Bridge, where runners camp out for hours before the start of the ING New York City Marathon, fighting off nerves, cold, and long bathroom lines. As I scanned the comments for nuggets of runner advice and some inspiration/guilt soothing sayings, I found this wonderful note from Christopher Cecil of Anchorage:

Despite the not insignificant uphill grade as you cross the bridge, the excitement of finally starting makes Mile 1 the easiest of the race, if not necessarily the fastest (which is probably mile 2). Every time I’ve run it, right after the start, I think pretty much the same thing: “I’m really doing it, I’m running the New York City Marathon.”

Thank you, Christopher. That is what I’m going to think as my stomach flip-flops and I feel the tug of the start line start to pull me forward into what will surely be a turning point in my life, one that I think of when I’m having a rough day, or when I’m gimping along in my orthopedic shoes and purple sweatsuit at the ripe old age of… well, let’s not jinx anything here.


“Holy crap, I’m running the New York City Marathon!”

“So what if my tub is leaking and I didn’t have time to eat lunch and my train is stuck on the bridge. I ran the New York City Marathon!”

“I’m going to run the New York City Marathon. Again! In a cat-eyed sweatshirt!”

Runners, what’s your marathon inspiration?

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Photo credits: NYC Marathon by (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow); Dreams Resort Chapel by Adventure Tours; Central Park dog courtesy of A6U571N

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