Marathon (Wo)Man: Sometimes The Sole Needs A Holiday

“That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age,” Matthew McConaughey’s character, David Wooderson, says in an oft-quoted moment from Dazed and Confused.

I thought of this quote as I was circling my local park for the fourth time the other day; while my runs keep getting longer, the distance around said park stays the same, and that I don’t love.

It means upping the number of repetitive laps around said park as my mileage needs increase. I tell myself there is a beauty to really getting to know a single park’s curves and hills, but I’m bullshitting myself. I also tell myself that I could easily map out a new, more interesting long run, but in the end, it’s often all I can do to tick off the miles, much less hop on the subway to a new locale to do so.

The other week, as I eked out 12 miles from four varying laps around Prospect Park–aka the Central Park of Brooklyn, approximate distance around its main loop 3.35 miles–I could feel the boredom weighing down my every stride. A month or so back, I’d had ambitions of going on an official, regimented running retreat in Arizona to add some much-needed variety to my routine. In the end, that didn’t work out with my schedule, but I still had some vacation days to burn.

I ended up in California, where I’m from, ostensibly to do some wedding planning, but also to get out of the New York heat. While I typically have a high tolerance for the city–I’m more of an indoor cat, and I’m perfectly happy wallowing away a long weekend on the mean streets of brownstone Brooklyn or taking a yoga class on a beautiful spring day–the New York summer, the thick air, the crowded subways, the street stench–they’ve all been getting to me more than usual this year. For the most part, the record-breaking heat wave is to blame, but there’s also something about marathon training that’s had me uncharacteristically craving the supposedly great outdoors.

Typically, I favor urban getaways. When I turn a corner in a foreign city and see a perfectly quaint street in an up-and-coming area with a just-right mix of intriguing cafes, strange shops, and colorful locals, I experience a visceral thrill that, I imagine, is similar to the joy outdoorsy types might experience on particularly picturesque hikes or camping expeditions. But, these city vacations aren’t all that conducive to running (see: The Running Shoe and the Rose).

Maybe it’s just me, but when I find myself in say, some European cultural hub, the last thing I feel like doing is waking up early to strap on my Asics and run through cobblestone streets. Sure, it’s a great way to explore cobblestone streets, but I have a hard time shaking the feeling as I’m running over them that I’m some strange, stout American, receiving odd looks for her athletic endeavors because somehow the local populace maintains lithe physiques on nothing more than wine, cheese, pastry, and short walks between impossibly charming old buildings. Also, I’m likely to have had too much of said wine and cheese and feel more like sleeping in than going for a jog.

I don’t think I fully understood how much the city was starting to get to me, both as a human and a runner, until I hit the open road in Santa Ynez, an area outside of Santa Barbara, California known for wineries and ranches, this past Tuesday. I set out to run 6 miles at a mild pace, but every time I looked down at my Garmin, I was running at a faster pace than I meant to, seemingly without effort. The hills and farmland stretched out before me. Rows of grapes here, a ranch with an amusing name there. Horses frolicked in pastures, rekindling a dormant, adolescent-girl love for horses that I wasn’t aware I still harbored. At one point, a man with a cowboy hat loped across a hillside on a paint horse, looking like a Marlboro Man commercial extra. As I tackled the road beneath him in the fading early morning, I didn’t know whether to give him a neighborly wave of acknowledgement or just keep going. In the end, I merely smiled to myself. Unsure of the distances in the area, I tacked on nearly an extra mile to my run without care.

The next morning, it seemed without question that the fiancé and I would put in another 6 miles along the same route. (I know what I’ve said previously about training together as a couple, but sometimes it happens on vacation. With the aid of a rebellious waitress, I snuck pastries and hard boiled eggs from the complimentary hotel breakfast for pre- and post-run nourishment, holiday style. Despite a previous day of wine and beer tasting, my muscles again felt fresh and eager.

Later that day, the fiancé and I left Santa Ynez. We hadn’t planned our trip from that point. We were seeing where the rental car would take us. There’d been talk of heading further up the coast to see Big Sur or some other obligatory site, or maybe to the famed Madonna Inn an hour or so north. But, in the end, we headed south and inland, to the desert and Joshua Tree. It would be hot, but I imagined space, emptiness.

We arrived later than expected after battling traffic in Los Angeles. It wasn’t until after eight that we were at last sitting on the porch of our funky lodgings, nursing beers and nibbling on chips and pico de gallo. The desert night air was fairly cool, wonderfully dry and breezy (take that New York humidity). The fiancé looked around at the flat, sparse, sandy-bottom expanse of desert surrounding us. “This would be perfect for a run,” he said wistfully.

“I know, but we should probably take a day off tomorrow, just go for a hike instead,” I said, finding myself in the odd position of actually wanting to put in more mileage than healthy for my training plan. “But the next day…”

Training Week 3

Miles logged: 13 – it’s a “recovery week,” though still, this number was actually meant to be 18. Apologies to the mileage gods. I’m making up for it this week.
Longest run: 6 miles – “recovery week” = no long run
Long(ish) run fuel: A nibble of bread from the hotel breakfast buffet, mediocre hotel orange juice
Post-run recovery food: Hard-boiled egg snuck out of the hotel breakfast buffet
New equipment purchased: None. Didn’t make it to the athletics store pre-vacation and have yet to encounter one on it. Instead, I attempted to repair the sole of one of my running shoes with chewing gum. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work.


Hailey Eber is Marathon (Wo)Man, and is currently training for the New York Marathon. She is on Twitter. Her dog is on Tumblr.

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