i knew that the distance was too long and the leg was too sore and it was too cold and there was too little daylight left, but knowing and believing are very different things.
winter hit toronto hard, so the running was hard, so the will had to be harder. more commutes to work were done on foot than on two wheels. more workouts were done in the snow than on salty pavement. we drove a lot of sundays, making sure the kids enjoyed winter rather than groaning about it like their old man too in love with the wrong sport.
every sunday, after skiing, i got dressed in all of my layers, and went out for the long run. my weeks included at least four runs, one of them long, and one of them thrashing myself at the club circuit of intervals. a bunch of men and women flying around snow-covered neighborhoods every tuesday night. steaming in the frozen car on the drive home. dark tuesdays at the burger joint if it was a pay week. soggy shivers home if it wasn't. sundays were just long and the soggy shivers happened at the end, coming into the hill, nowhere near any triumphs.
i got used to chasing the sun. i got blisters from my yaktrax the tuesday before, so that sunday i resolved to duct tape the toe boxes of my road trainers, and i set out for laps of a local snowy road. i made four sets of tracks in the middle of the road, an out and back not being long enough for the full distance. footsteps slurred through the corners, found solid ground the further they got from the highway. the best times were when it was just snowing and silent.
my knee hurt that afternoon.
the next week was a longer run, a longer way from sunset to home, so i ran west to make the most of it. i jumped snowbanks and dodged construction fences. i ran around pillars and people and potholes. i ran to the west end, then the watch beeped a muffled bleat beneath layers, and i turned around. by the time i was almost home, there was fresh snow and no one had shoveled and i was out of gels and still three kilometers short of the distance, so i ran up a street, over a street, up a street, over a street, and so on, snaking my way to the full 21 kilometers. five steps from the porch, i was done.
i sat on the kitchen floor, thawing and steaming, and generally resolving myself into a dew, when i realized: my knee hurt.
i started some physio and saw some experts and did all kinds of exercises that week. nothing helped. the knee seemed like it would be okay, and then it flared up to stabbing pain, and i knew something was going terribly wrong. but knowing and believing are very different things.
i knew i had a terrible case of IT band syndrome. i knew i had already paid for boston. i knew i had already booked my room and was ready for an airline seat sale. i just had to get there. and that was going to be the hardest part.
trust the training. we do this because it takes the pressure off of ourselves, and allows us to rely on something we've already done, something we've already achieved, something stockpiled in the cool room, right next to confidence and a small stash of dynamite, just in case.
i got to boston common by pure chance after a short ride on the boston bus system. i got on the humid school bus excited and a little stonefaced. i ran from the bus to pee as soon as we got into hopkinton. i huddled under a tent with other pre-race survivors while the wind and mist blew through the waiting area. i vaselined everything i could. i donated my warm clothes too soon. i took off my hat for the anthem. i cheered for meb. i smiled for twelve miles straight.