With just over 10 weeks until the Big Sur Marathon my mind alternates between thoughts of those relaxing, long runs I get to log in the coming weeks (and all of the fun music I can listen to, trees I can count and tasty coffee I can drink after) and anxiety that the race is less than three months away. Yipes!
But I feel pretty lucky. Of the three of us who are reuniting to run, my training situation is the most ideal. Nervous energy aside, my biggest hurdles are rain - mostly because it turns the trails into slicks of mud - and work, which sometimes lasts so long my only wants are a bowl of mac'n'cheese and spot to curl up on my couch.
For Sonja, my college friend who is now a sheriff's deputy outside of Yellowstone, my weather complaints sound trite. Yesterday she ran in snow that had fallen over ice. Not so bad on the way up, she reported, but pretty sketchy on the downhill side. Then there is the wind - sometimes blasting so hard it flips loaded-down big-rigs on the highway - and the cold. When we were home for winter break during college, Sonja called to say it was so cold and dry out, her hands cracked and bled on her run. I suggested she wear gloves next time. She had worn two pairs.
So a little rain around here is no pain. And a "cold" morning like today's mid-30s, while a little miserable for those of us used to running in shorts year-round, is really not that harsh.
My sister, Audrey, also faces environmental concerns while training. She's living in rural Guatemala where, generally speaking, people don't run. Audrey has become somewhat of a spectacle because of this, which may not be the best thing. Sure, it's cute when little kids try to run with her, but it's distracting. There are also more serious safety issues at times, like rabid dogs chasing you. Here in the States, there are places and times when we know (especially women) to not go running alone, but broad daylight in a forested area seems pretty OK (at least to me). That's not true everywhere, which makes sense but it still disappointing.
Me and Audrey after a run through Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala, in December. We're trying to look "Mayan."
Her experiences remind me to not take for granted the freedom to run and roam that I have in Santa Cruz. For one, least animal attacks are usually out of the picture. But it is important to remember that bad things can happen. I've gotten lost and been injured while out running alone. Two winters ago, a woman jogging on West Cliff was attacked by a mentally ill man. So some safety precautions are important. I like to tell someone where I'm running and give a time when I will call to say I'm done. When it's dark in the early morning or evening, I run with my giant dog.
Audrey doesn't have these options, but she's coping. She has modified her training, learned some common-sense safety devices that are actually pretty good for women running alone anywhere (run a loop course instead of an out-and-back, for example) and embraced her access to a treadmill.
So come April 26, Audrey will be here to run the 10.6-mile race at Big Sur, where she won't need to carry a stick to beat off a pack of dogs. Sonja, should she survive the snowstorms, will run the marathon as well. Let's hope she doesn't get heat exhaustion. And me? I will have no excuses. I get to train in paradise.
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"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."