“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
– T.S. Eliot
These words have been rolling around in my head part for a variety of reasons the last week or so. Chief among them is the fact that I am one week away from running my second marathon. I feel like I was just here. Wasn’t it October just yesterday? Wasn’t I just hanging out here, telling you how excited I was and how ready I felt to run my first marathon? What? That was eight months ago? Wow. So here I am again. Again near the end of four months of training that didn’t go precisely how I intended them to, but that have me feeling ready to do this nonetheless. One year ago I was gearing up to start training for the 2011 Portland Marathon in October. It was, as some of you might recall, rough. In fact, marathon training was the lone dark spot in an otherwise spectacular summer. The June miles were baffling and slow and utterly demoralizing. Mercifully, things improved from there and my first dance with 26.2 proved to be one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. So much so that I didn’t hesitate to sign up for my next one when the opportunity presented itself.
One week from today I’ll be in Newport, Oregon, running my second marathon in a town that I considered my second home as a child. My family spent a lot of time in Newport when I was a kid and it feels perfect to be at home in Bend this weekend, doing the first of my last few training runs at 3,600 feet in preparation for a marathon at sea level in the place I know nearly as well as home. I feel like I’ve been here before (and in fact I was eight months ago) and it also feels brand new. I sort of know what to expect next week (I’m gonna need some kind of kick at mile 20) and I sort of don’t. The course is flat and fast and in early June promises to be comfortably cool. My nerves are familiarly twitchy in anticipation and yet also grounded and sure, which will hopefully give me an advantage next week that I didn’t have in October. Regardless, one week from right now I’ll hopefully be sitting on the beach with a bottle of wine and a couple of my best girls (traveling marathon support, yo!) after a morning spent running new miles in an old town that I adore.
Once the marathon is over next week, my attention turns north up the coast, across the Washington border, past my beloved Seattle and settles near the Canadian border in Blaine, WA. Remember all that business with Nuun a while back when I didn’t make it onto their Hood to Coast team? Well, a couple of days after that all resolved nicely, I got an email from Mason, the CEO of Nuun, inviting me to run on Nuun’s Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay team. The Ragnar Relay Series looks to be similar to Hood to Coast in structure – 200ish miles, 12 runners, two vans, minimal sleep, maximum fun. I read the email invitation as I walked out the front door after a yoga class and replied to it as I rounded the corner of the studio. From great and crushing disappointment came great and unexpected opportunity. In the month since I joined the team, the 12 ladies of Team Nuun Kids on the Block (yes, yes we are) have been getting to know each other via email, Twitter and Facebook and are building an impressive, shared level of anticipation and excitement that we will unleash on the good people sponsoring this adventure when we descend on Nuun HQ on July 19 for our meet ‘n’ greet dinner and van decorating party. Then the next day we’ll head north to begin with the running in all our side-ponytailed, neon-socked, jelly-braceleted glory. Oh, and the legs I’ll be running during Ragnar? They put pretty much everything I’ve run during four Hood to Coasts to shame and I CAN’T WAIT. 22.9 miles over three legs with all kinds of hill business that I am going to have to train my lungs and legs for. Check ’em out and wish me luck on July 20-21.
Oh, and I should probably mention one more thing. Guess what happened last week? I got asked to join a Hood to Coast team at work! All that hoo-ha in April and now I’m running not one, but TWO relays this summer. One old, one new, each sure to leave me at the end of 24+ sleep deprived hours with fast friends, sore legs and yet another entry on the My Most Favorite Things Ever in the History of Ever list.
Charging towards Summer 2012, there is some that feels the same as last year and much that is vastly different. My legs and I are ready to do some exploring, of territory both new and old.