It's hard to believe that an entire year has already passed, and in some ways I can barely remember where I was a year ago at this time - frustrated, discouraged, injured, and unable to run, even though I was supposed to be embarking on my Boston 2o14 training plan.
As always, it's been a very full, very busy year, and it was definitely marked with some particularly momentous occasions, most notably Boston itself.
But when I look back, what marked this year the most was the friendships I've made and how I've changed as a person thanks to this sport that has become so irrevocably a part of my being.
My Boston 2014 training was the polar opposite of my Boston 2013 training. I was forced to abandon any and all time goals, and the only goal I was able to hold onto was finishing - crossing that finish line was ALL that mattered. Well, that's actually not completely true - crossing that finish line and having the happy, celebratory post-race experience that I had been envisioning since 2012 - that's all that mattered.
And thankfully that's what I got. The race was very difficult for me, both mentally and physically, but emotionally, it was everything that I needed it to be. It was cathartic, it provided me some sense of closure, it enabled me to move on, and it gave me back my finish line. It was a very long, very uncertain road that I took to get there, but I never wavered, and my perseverance paid off, and that entire experience absolutely defines this year for me.
There were other defining moments, too, though - my running Dante's first 5K with him was certainly one of those. His quote at mile 2 - "This is the best day of my life"- will stay with me forever - a thought I've had at so many moments while running, and to hear him say it out loud was just such an affirmation of all the amazing and wonderful things that running has brought into my life, and I can only hope that he'll have the opportunity to realize that many times over.
My comeback from the pre-Boston-training injury seemed like it was on a pretty great track when I ran the Ocean's Run Half in March. I didn't all-out race it, but I gave it the best effort I felt up to giving it, and it worked out really well, giving me a huge boost of confidence for Boston.
That boost of confidence was amplified with the Quonset Point 10-miler a few weeks later - which I ran with my friends as the second half of a 20-mile training run. That was my second and final 20-miler of my Boston 'training,' and I ran better than I ever imagined I'd run, even in the absolutely horrible conditions (cold, and pouring rain the entire time).
I even managed to pull off an age-group award. I knew Boston would still be tough, given that I had only really trained for about 8 weeks, but I felt better about being able to get through it.
Boston itself was everything I imagined it would be. It was challenging, it was incredibly emotional, it was a victory in every sense of the word - but most importantly, it was what I needed it to be. It was my chance to reclaim my Boston Marathon finish line. And I am so incredibly glad that I was able to fight my way back and get there. It was not an easy road, but I think that made the reward that much more meaningful.
The rest of the spring and summer were about finding my way back to running healthy and strong, and I did just that, with a few great races - the Providence Half, just three weeks post-Boston, the Jamestown Half (with its crazy 20-minute late start and insane hills), a PR at the Blessing of the Fleet 10-Miler, and an age-group win at the Schonning 5K.
In the middle of all that was also Dante's second 5K, the Katie DeCubellis race in June, where he placed 3rd in his age group, and we took home what felt like a truckload of raffle prizes - a really fun day for both of us.
And despite saying I was only going to do one marathon a year from now on, I needed to redeem my terrible run in Boston, and signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon, and training kicked off in late summer. The first 8 weeks were flawless. I ran every workout, I hit every training pace, and I felt fantastic.
The second 8 weeks was a different story, one filled with injury interruptions, missed long runs, and a complete absence of speedwork. I did complete the majority of the final 6 weeks of the plan, though (including two half marathons - Surftown and Newport - that were run as part of longer training runs) and was still able to get my redemption in Philly.
It wasn't the PR I had originally been shooting for, but it was a great race (and a really fun weekend!), and I'm very proud of the outcome.
I also managed to come in 1st in my age group in the RI Triple Crown series (and second female overall), which was a nice little bonus, especially given that I ran all three of the half marathons with less than optimal preparation.
And on the road to Philly, I also got involved in this little race my running club was planning, and that little race turned into a half marathon with 600 registered runners, nearly 500 of whom showed up and ran the race, despite the fact that it was on the same day that a Nor'Easter blew through.
Being one of the race organizers for that event was some of the hardest work I've ever done in my life, but also the most fun. It wasn't anything I really inteded to do, but I'm so glad that I sort of fell into it, because it ended up being one of the highlights of my entire year, and also kind of led to me becoming President of my running club - something I never imagined I'd do, but I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given the opportunity, and am so excited about it.
I finished out the year running Dante's 3rd 5K with him - the Jingle Bell run on the beach. And seeing him set almost a 2-minute PR was definitely one of the other highlights of my year, and a great way to close out the calendar.
I've gone through a lot of emotional upheaval following the completion of Gansett and Philly, and a severe case of post-race blues, but what's saving me is just getting out there and running for the sake of running.
There is a part of me that's itching to identify and chase down another goal, but there's another part of me that just isn't ready, and can't quite muster the mental and emotional energy that kind of goal-chasing requires.
And on top of that, I'm also dealing with an IT band/hamstring issue that won't quite go away, even with cutting back on my mileage and going to PT and acupuncture. So after running 6.79 miles yesterday morning (I needed the .79 to end the year on a nice round number), I decided I need to take at least a couple of weeks off to let this thing resolve itself, before it turns into anything really serious.
So I'll begin 2015 without running, much like I did 2014. And although I'm going to miss the emotional clarity my runs have been affording me, I know it's what I need to do right now. With no races on the horizon, and no training plan to follow, there's no reason to push through and risk injury. Hopefully a few short weeks will do the trick, and when I find my way back out on the road, I'll figure out where I'm going to go from there.
This will be the first year since 2011 that I won't spend the winter months training for a spring marathon, and it feels odd, but I'm also kind of happy to have the break.
Less running means more time to go out with these lovely women and take blurry yellow selfies : )
Lots of question marks for 2015, but I'm ok with that. I've learned time and again that even when you do have things all planned out in your head (and on paper), reality doesn't always cooperate, so I'm stepping back and letting things just unfold for a little while, and it feels surprisingly good.
Here's to the unknown, and to another year of learning, growing, and friendship, which I realized this year are the most important things I get out of this amazing sport.