Time to Say Goodbye…

Hi friends and family,

This schweet little blog has served its purpose and now I’m ready to move on to something fresh and new! That something is already kinda in the works so I’ll keep yah updated.

The URL is gonna stick around for a while still ’cause I’m accountable to the wonderful people back at school who gave me funding to run this marathon, and so you can read old stuff that’s already published, but I’m going to stop writing new posts as of now.

It’s been real! It’s been fun!

Love,

Jane

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I really miss my morning oatmeal!

AND YOU GUYS ARE KILLING ME.

Somebody please make and eat these for me. Kthx.

Something to read. “Cities are known for setting trends; hipsterism is about anti-trends. It sounds funny, but hipsters in Omaha may actually be cooler than hipsters in New York City — everyone knows about New York City.”

Yep, that’s right, we most definitely are.

Something to listen to. Hot off the presses.

Peace,

Jane

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Life After Marathon

I suddenly have a lot more time in my afternoons since the long runs are through, and it’s also getting so cold, making it hard to motivate myself to do anything but head home and crawl under the covers with a mug of hot tea– what I did every day last week after school, even after my soreness was long gone. But, I want to settle back into a normal (pre-marathon training) running routine, and I found a recovery plan at RW to help me out. It has really manageable runs between 3-4.5 miles, and by the end of the month, I’ll be doing a regular 4-6, 5 times a week. I also really miss my regular yoga practice so I’m going to aim to do at least 15 minutes each day so my arms will be in shape when I get home and go back to Lotus!

Come January, I’m going to set a time goal for my next half-marathon, so that will be something fun to work toward. Registration is open already for Charlotte Racefest on April 14th, and I’m so tempted to register for it right this minute! Since that race is so late in the spring semester, I might find another one in NC to run earlier if my running buddies want to drive to it. I definitely want to run at least one race next semester sub-two hours, and depending how my training goes, maybe even 1:45-1:50. That might be insane, but I’m still in the post-marathon feeling of invincibility, and I’m gonna roll with it for now.

So I did 4 miles after school yesterday, all on flat ground, which felt disturbingly slow, stiff, and sore, but I need to be patient with myself that I can’t just bust out 8 or 9 miles on a regular basis like usual, after the huge impact of the marathon, just last weekend. Today I’m gonna do an easy 3, to my new soundtrack of Christmas music. That’s my new thing this week– all Christmas music, all the time. I know it’s early, not even Thanksgiving or Black Friday, but Florence seems a lot less gray and cold when someone is singing to me about frosted windowpanes, lights, and roasting chestnuts. So there you have it.

I’m very happy today because a friend of mine from a long time ago (interview weekend at Davidson!) contacted me and I’m hoping this means we’ll keep up correspondence with more regularity and perhaps even cross paths before too terribly long. Hearing from him was a bit of a scary reality check, though; we met before college started, and now we’re about to start our second semesters of junior year!

So after a bit of a rough post-marathon week (sorry for not posting), I’ve got the bounce back in my step and am working on things like an essay contest for my abroad program, term papers, and the creative project that goes along with my marathon training… <– see how this all involves writing? Yup, it’s that time of year. My angelic friend Madeline got tickets to a Creighton game for us, Tom, and Joe, for the day after I get back into town. What jet lag? I’m gonna go watch basketball with mah frienzzz!

So that’s preeetty much it for now. Roma was beautiful and I still can’t get over the experience of seeing Bernini’s sculptures “The Abduction of Proserpina” and “Apollo and Daphne” in person.

<3 Jane

P.S. Random photos from all sorts of sources… just ’cause I think they’re pretty and I want to show them to you! How cute is that dog in a scarf? The yoga one is from Spiritual Gangster, the others? Probably Wit & Delight or Note to Self. Thx guyz.

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Marathon Recap: Part Two

So when I left off the story, I was watching the first few start blocks line up from my dumpster refuge, and people were dancing and doing jumping jacks to the music. After one of the Greek pre-game songs, a guy came on the loudspeaker to announce to the English-speaking runners, “That song said that it is never cold in Greece because we have such warm hearts. And our hearts are all warm since we get to be here with all of you today.” As sweet as that was, I must disagree: it most definitely gets cold in Greece.

I can’t remember if I mentioned that Julie was in start block 3, but she had to leave a little earlier than I did, so when she went to line up I made my way over to block 5. Since my previous friends had been scattered in different directions, and I’d learned how easy it was to meet people, I approached a group of young people and offered to take their picture. Turns out they were all English medical interns, around the age of 25, who’d come to Greece for a vacation and decided to run on a whim, several of them with barely any training. They were so sweet and funny as only British people can be. We chatted about who knows what as the groups in front of us started the race and we inched forward. We bonded fast, though, because by the time we were at the start line and our shot was fired, we all joined hands in a line, me in the middle of the seven-ish of them, and ran triumphantly across the start, cheering and waving at the photographers. Unfortunately I lost track of them within the first mile, and ran my own race for a while. At one point, they sent us out along a road and looped us back, so that we were passing runners headed in the other direction. I took this opportunity to take another video, and right when I switched it on, who called out my name and waved to me from the other side but the couple from Miami, from the bus at 5am! It was so exciting to see them, and to catch them on video, too.

So I continued on for a while with my music and the still-very-thick crowd of runners for entertainment, still feeling a rush of adrenaline, feeling rested from my two-week taper (one week of which, in Paris, I didn’t run at all), and generally having a good time. After a while, when the crowd thinned out (I got passed quite a few times), I began to be able to identify certain people who I’d been pacing with. One was a young man who seemed American, and who I was pacing almost exactly– we ran awkwardly right next to each other for about a mile, probably, before I took out my left headphone and said, “Hey.” He looked a little surprised, but definitely recognized me, and said “Hey” back. We both laughed about having paced each other for a long time, introduced ourselves (his name is Chase), and started chatting about where we were from, what we were doing in Greece, what year we were in school, what we studied, you know, the usual. Turns out he’s a sophomore studying abroad in London and doing essentially the same thing I was: running the first marathon for his first marathon. Finding that kind of solidarity was incredible, and we were only 4 or 5 miles in at that point. The steady stream of conversation with Chase made the first half fly by; I could hardly believe it when we crossed the 20km timer and stocked up on water, Powerade, gels, and bananas at the beginning of the second half. We developed a system where he would grab one bottle of water at the fuel stations and we’d share it, because most runners snatched up a big bottle of water, took a swig or two, and tossed the bottle roadside, still nearly full. If you’ve never attended a half- or full marathon, distance runners are sloppy people; at stations like the 20km mark, the ground was an obstacle course around Powerade cups, full water bottles, smooshed bananas and chocolate chip cookies, and gel containers. All I can say is God bless the volunteers! So Chase and I decided to share and at least looked for a trash can / recycling bin (for about 15 seconds) before tossing our trash beside the road. When we first met early in the race, we weren’t sure if our paces would stay matched for the whole time, but we ended up making a fantastic team. Not only was it entertaining talking to him, but he encouraged me to push my pace after it started to hurt, and I made him hold out on breaks until the kilometer marks we’d determined in advance. (The only walk breaks we took were at kilometers 25, 30, 35, and a tiny one at 40; 42 km=26.2 miles)

Around mile 10, the hills became constant. I was feeling them when we reached the halfway mark, and all those long, steady, inclines began to wear me down. The hills lasted all the way to mile 20 or so, with barely a decline in between for relief. Chase and I still stuck together, but we put headphones in both ears and pressed on more or less without talking, except for the brief walk breaks, where we fueled up and laughed a bit about how much pain we were in but how we were making good time. He’d been listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack (I have so much respect for that) and I remember the moment he informed me the first movie was over– that meant we’d run at least 3.5 hours and we were beginning to see the light. During the whole run, I was never in too much pain to smile and wave at the spectators yelling “Bravo, bravo!”, give the photographers a thumbs up, or high-five the young kids standing along the road. I was also never too tired to remind myself that though this was hard and my body was telling me I wanted to be done, this was the moment I’d worked and waited for, for so long, this was an experience I’d treasure for the rest of my life, and that I may never see my new friends again, so I quieted the voice that was anxious for the finish line and genuinely enjoyed every second of the struggle.

Around mile 20, when the uphills turned into downhills, which allowed Chase and I to pick up our pace for a while until the impact of the downhill slope on our knees became too much, it hit me that not only was I going to finish this marathon, I was going to finish strong. I shot a picture of the first downhill just because it was such a welcome sight. There was only about an hour to go and I began to feel optimistic. I only had one really low point, mentally, at km 39, when Chase was beginning to pick up the pace and I felt close to tears from exhaustion. I wasn’t sure if I could push it any harder at that point. So I waved him ahead because he was trying to finish under 4:30– though the period of time between kms 39 and 42 felt like an eternity, he only finished 2 minutes ahead of me– but at 40, running alone, I began to see the light again, and the spectators were thickening. At 41, I turned a corner to find a long downhill street, lined with orange trees and beneath them, spectators 4 or 5 people deep, who were cheering and waving flags, and the last of my energy hit me. I ran as hard as I could coax my legs to down that hill, I must have been beaming, and I distinctly remember that Ray laMontagne’s “You Are the Best Thing” came on, which is Corinne and my song, until I could hear the music from the stadium and turned off my ipod. I ran dazedly, triumphantly, down the last stretch of track (which felt like satin after 26 miles of road) and across the finish.

(I’ll post the photos that the professional photographers took of the finish once I figure out how to make them large enough without paying for them…)

I was in such a daze that I’d forgotten how Chase and I had agreed to run up the stadium steps after the race, so apparently he was waiting for me up there, but I didn’t see him and continued walking, received my medal and tinfoil blanket, and made my way to the recovery tent.

While waiting in line for my recovery bag (water, orange juice, Powerade, some bread/carb thing, bananas), I saw Tim from way back at the start, resting on a step! I ran, no, I hobbled, over to say hi and congratulations to him, and then Chase appeared too. We hugged triumphantly– I feel like we’re best friends after enduring 20 of the 26 miles side by side. I’m positive I wouldn’t have had nearly as fun of a run without him. So the three of us sat down (sitting down was a process) and exchanged stories, whether we wanted to do another one (me: yes. Tim: no. I forget Chase’s verdict) and eventually got up (another process, and a team effort), hugged goodbye, exchanged last names so we could find each other on Facebook, and headed in our own directions. I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos with them right then and there, but alas, I didn’t.

So that’s the whole story. As I’ve said, I enjoyed every minute of the pain and the fun and the challenge. I am definitely up for another, though I know nothing will replace the experience at Athens, my first marathon, in my heart.

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Marathon Recap: Part 1

I’ve given the race highlights to the few of you I’ve crossed paths with online already, but I’m going to write out the whole story here. I have a few pictures that I managed to snap to include, but when the marathon website gets its photos up (should be the next few days), I’ll illegally screenshot them and post them all on here for you! So here goes…

Yesterday goes beyond “memorable” or “amazing” or “inspiring.” It was kind of magical.

Saturday night, I was so nervous. At this point in the semester, entering into the unknown is just everyday business, but I was full of anxiety about the details of the next day. Would I find the buses on time? Would I forget to take my vitamins? Would I get shin splints? Would I wear the right layers? Would I hear my alarm? To remedy the last situation, I set three alarms. Yep, three. At that point in my worries, I fell asleep, and ended up waking up on my own exactly two minutes before the first alarm was set to go off, thanks to my eerily accurate internal clock.

I got dressed in the dark and stumbled into Laura’s apartment kitchen for breakfast. It was: 1 container of Greek yogurt with honey, topped with a broken up fruit-and-nut bar, some slivered almonds, some Honey Nut Cheerios, and a mini dark chocolate bar. It was freezing, even indoors, and I was dying for some coffee, but coffee before a long run like that is a reeeally bad idea, if you catch my drift. I then grabbed my stuff and headed out the door, toward the Syntagma metro stop, where buses were scheduled to meet runners and shuttle us to the town of Marathonas, the legendary start.

No sooner had I stepped out the door, into the 5:15 am dark and a cold wind, wondering what I’d gotten myself into, than I saw a middle-aged couple dressed for a run, a few paces ahead of me, speaking (!) English. I wasted no time in catching up, introducing myself, and asking where they were from. They were from Miami, and this was his second marathon, and her first. A few minutes later, we saw some male, also middle-aged runners (that was the majority of this race’s demographic) walking in the opposite direction. The man from Miami stopped them and told them they were going the wrong way, but they didn’t understand. One of the guys was wearing a Firenze Marathon jacket, so I asked him, “Parli italiano?” He said no, he was French. So I explained to him in French that they were headed the wrong way, away from the shuttles. As we walked together, I served as translator between the nations as the guy from Miami made jokes about the French (which went straight over the French guys’ heads) and the French guys asked me what I was doing there (so young!) and what my time goal was. (Ha, time goal.) Oh, I forgot to mention that I met a Welshman in the city the day before, whose 30th marathon this was, and he expected to run it “in about 3:25 since the course was so hilly.” Well, okay then. You do that. Anyway, these Frenchmen were very legitimate runners and I expect their finish times were admirable. It’s too bad everyone had their numbers on underneath their outerwear so I didn’t catch anyone’s names.

There was a huge crowd at Syntagma, five buses lined up and we’d just seen about three more pass by. We made it into the same bus line (which also happened to be the shortest line) by claiming that we were all a team (what a crew! An American couple wearing neon shoes, four guys with crazy leg muscles in bright blue gear, and a girl at least 20 years younger than all of them, serving as the go-between in conversation.) The Greek guy in charge of herding us rolled his eyes but let us all on together.

Once we reached Marathonas and unloaded, it was even colder and even windier than Athens, and raining a little bit, just what we needed. We split from the Frenchmen, wishing them “bon courage” and headed for shelter. We parked ourselves under an overhang, out of the wind, which a lot of other people had also discovered. The intense people were actually jogging around the track up above to warm up. Maybe someday I’ll do that, but at this stage in my running career, the first 5 miles of the marathon are my warmup. So the group huddled under the roof began to mingle, and my friends from Miami began talking to a boisterous group of Greek dudes, and I split off to talk to some Americans closer to my own age. There was a woman, probably about 30 years old and from Denver, named Julie, a father and son who traveled together from New Jersey. The son was named Tim and we became friends. We were assigned to the same start block (5) but sadly I didn’t see him until the end of the race. I think he was ahead of me the whole time. We all had a good time getting to know each other, talking about running, talking about this race, exclaiming about the cold and wind, pinning on our numbers, debating layers to wear and leave behind, noting that the Americans were the only ones with ipods, lacing on our timing chips, eating bananas, joking around, and generally having a good time.

Eventually, at around 8:15, Julie and I left to go check our bags with the volunteers (they had this super organized system based on your bib number where they collect bags at the start and drive them to the finish, where you can pick them up… I think this is common at marathons but I wanted to compliment Greece on how smoothly this ran, considering the thousands of bags they collected. Actually, everything at this race was incredibly well organized.) It was nice to be in the crowd by the bag collection vans, because of the body heat, but Julie and I had to make our way toward the start areas and find somewhere else sheltered to wait. That shelter ended up being behind a dumpster that had its lid propped open, so we sat on the ground, under the lid, and snuggled to stay warm. There were big speakers set up everywhere playing pregame music, and when this one Greek song came on, everyone started dancing around, and the people walking to their blocks were walking to the beat. I’m not sure what it was about that song, but it put a bounce in everyone’s step. I took a hilarious video of some people dancing to it that I’ll upload soon.

Anyway, that moment, during that song, was one of the many moments when I felt so grateful to be there, among the sweetest, most fun and enthusiastic people of all ages, from all around the world, gathered to celebrate our sport at the site of its inception. It was incredible to get a sense of the international running community, something that I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d been running in the United States. At any given time, I was catching English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Greek being spoken around me. Also, I continued to be amazed by how easy it was to make friends, how open and warm people were, and how they were eager to encourage and help each other out. For some reason, that wasn’t something I’d anticipated when I was lying awake worrying Saturday night. For some reason it didn’t occur to me that I would make tons of friends at every turn during the race process. I think the miserable weather conditions added to our solidarity as well; we all stuck it out in the freezing cold at the start, and, obviously, we all stuck it out in the marathon from start to finish (which was no cakewalk, as I’ll detail in my recap part two), and shared experiences like that have an amazing way of bringing people together.

That’s where I’ll leave off for now: Julie and I huddled under a dumpster, laughing and talking and shivering, right before the start. At that point, I wasn’t nervous anymore, just 100% happy. Once I’m done with my studies, I’ll be back with the story of the race, from start line to finish line and afterwards.

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It was cold, it was rainy, it was hilly, and it was AWESOME

I completed the Athens Marathon in its 2501st year, in 4 hours, 42 minutes, and 17 seconds. I made tons of friends from around the globe. I ran up so. many. hills. In the very cold wind and drizzle. And every second of it was amazing in a way that’s hard to explain. I loved every minute of that marathon, from when I met a nice American couple at 5:30 in the morning, to the finish when I exchanged hugs with my new friends (after running 26.2 miles together, they feel like best friends) and said goodbye. I’ll sound so melodramatic, but this was truly the greatest adventure of my life.

I’ll give you the full story tomorrow when I have my brain back. For now, crashing, up at 4:30 to go to the airport, and trying to make it to class by 1:15. Life certainly goes on post-race, and I’m already excited to pick out another one and train for it. Maybe Charlotte Thunder Road next fall?

Goodnight,

Jane

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Friday and Saturday

I met Laura after my flight last night and she and I and her mom had the most amazing Greek dinner. I was starving after my peanut butter got confiscated at the airport (I’d been planning a lunch of apples and peanut butter since I always dread airport food…. but apparently a jar of PB is a huge international threat…) so I finished all of my souflaka except for the fries. It was so wonderful to get fresh grilled chicken and the tzatziki (spelling?) sauce was killer.

We got to see the Acropolis at night, too. This still isn’t feeling real.

I got up early this morning to go to the expo and registration, but not before making a stop at Starbucks for my American food fix. (+ an apple and a banana was breakfast. I’m gonna have a big lunch and a light dinner so my stomach isn’t upset going into the race.)

The expo was fun! I went early and got my number and free, really legit-looking, tshirt, then wandered around for a while. I ended up buying a warm headband to wear tomorrow, since it’s supposed to be cold and windy and I didn’t pack one, but I didn’t pick up any shoes. They didn’t have the brand I’ve been wearing, so I decided to wait and shop around back in Florence. Plus, instead of having marathon discounts, it seemed like the prices were way high. (130 EURO?! for a pair of running shoes? excuse me, that’s not gonna happen.) But in the bag I got a shirt, a hat, my number, a fanny pack (not joking), and an info pamphlet. I bought two gels and an energy bar to carry in my pockets.

Seriously, how intense is that shirt? I will not be racing in it because that would be dorky, but I will be wearing it running many, many times in the future.

So, Laura and I found this sign at the finish section with a bunch of people who look really thrilled about running 26 miles, and have done so without breaking a sweat…

…So I decided to join them.

… And then take a normal picture.

I made a note of the second door of that Adidas-plastered tent: it’s the massage area. Free massages after a marathon? Yes, please. Followed by more Starbucks coffee and some baklava? Yes, yes, please.

So that’s Athens so far! Laura and her mom and I are about to walk up to a place with a lovely view of the city, then get some lunch, then I’ll try to stay more or less off my feet for the rest of the time, though it’s hard to ignore the urge of tourism in a place I’ve never been before!

Talk to ya soon,

Jane

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