by Dante Zappala
We’re a long-suffering sports city that doesn’t get many parades down Broad Street. That made the recent Broad Street Run even sweeter.
Close to 40,000 people made their way on the 10-mile jaunt from Broad and Olney to the Navy Yard. The sun glare created by all the fluorescent shirts and shoes might have caused you to mistake this group for the Comic Division that treks the other way on New Year’s morning.
For those of you who navigated the lottery or bib transfer gauntlets, the packed subway ride and the Porta Potty lines: Congratulations. If your big spring race was something else – like the Nike Women’s Half, Cherry Blossom, or Boston Marathon – also, a big pat on the back for a job well done.
Before we ask ourselves “What’s next?” take a moment to look at your logs and your past calendars to appreciate the effort – yours, of course, but also that of your loved ones who most certainly sacrificed their own priorities by giving you a fake smile and a nod as you said, “But I have to go for a run – I’m training for this race!”
For me, the plan started on Jan. 1, when I barely completed one mile. I was a week removed from hernia surgery when I met up with my running group for our annual New Year’s Day run and get-together on Kelly Drive. From there, I followed doctor’s orders to run slow for a month, which was terribly boring but provided a great foundation.
Multiple lunches were spent sneaking out of work and up to Franklin Field. I negotiated and bartered with my stakeholders (read: my wife, kids and mother) for precious weekend time to get the long runs in down in the Valley.
All told, I totaled 640 miles just to run 10 more. For me, the motivation was personal. I set out in my 38-year-old self to beat the time my 17-year-old self put up in our senior year in high school. I missed it by three seconds. I don’t feel terrible. In fact, I’ve already gotten over it, while I know for certain that 17-year-old me is still crying over the latest argument he had with his girlfriend and lamenting his pimples. I’m in a good place. And I’ll smoke that kid next time for sure.
If your goal was to finish, and you did just that, there is much to be gained. After celebrating with a round or two of well-deserved gluttony, your challenge is to keep going. The best advice is to sign up for another race. That will keep the ball rolling. But many are reluctant with summer vacations and the hot weather already upon us.
Take this scenario: You are down the shore with your family. You are signed up for the zombie mud run. Even though you are genuinely afraid of zombies, the motivation to outrun them is tanking fast. The empty wine bottles are piling up, and the kids seem to wake up at 7 regardless, even after a day where they shifted three tons of sand with nothing more than fingernails and plastic shovels and spent the night getting sugar and adrenaline high on the boardwalk.
Your strategy is to fire up the charm machine. This is for everyone’s benefit, including your own. “Guess what kids? You get to watch TV even before your eyes open. How lucky.” Give them a bowl of chocolate cereal. With chocolate milk. The spouse can stay in bed with the assurances you give that they won’t climb the balcony. How can you be so certain? You told them that if they do, it’s the last time they will ever have chocolate in their entire lives. Being that devious gets the blood flowing.
You don’t even need to stretch as you head out for three miles of a hangover run before it’s blazing hot. What does the rest of the day look like? Your spouse is bragging on social media about your resolve, and you enjoy the requisite afternoon nap on the beach that much more.
If you’re more of a competitive runner, motivation isn’t usually the issue. But planning can be. You have to think in the big picture. Where do you want to be in November? Is it a half or full marathon? A Turkey Trot? Start thinking about next spring. What can you do this summer to support those goals and keep it interesting?
For me, I’m going after my younger self on his own turf – the track. Look at him with his mullet and tube socks that match his nylon shorts. What a tool. That punk is ripe for the picking. I plan to bring the pain at the Tuesday night summer series up at Germantown Academy. They even do open relays after the formal races, a great chance for a family 4 x 100. From there, I’ll try to sneak in a Boston Qualifier at the Via Marathon in early September and then bear down on a half marathon later in the fall. The hope is to do something legit at Boston next April.
All this could go up in smoke, of course. It takes one bad step on the trails or a few days of training too hard to excite the ever present injury bug. Nonetheless, you should relish in your current accomplishment even as you plan for more. Just as you shouldn’t ever go into a single run without a plan, you shouldn’t go into a six-month stretch without a plan. Micro and macro preparation are keys to improvement. Who knows – it could lead to a parade.