I signed up for the Misery Challenge at the end of March, around the time I was starting long for summer. I’ve always loved the ocean, but have only discovered open water swimming the in the past few years. The Misery Challenge seemed, appropriately, challenging but manageable. Plus, I’ll do just about anything for a fun t-shirt (I’m aware this isn’t something to brag about, but…) and with the promise of one proclaiming Misery, I was sold.
Alternate title: The Self Indulgent Nostalgia Post
Or should I say the WOW?
Scotland is like home to me. I fell in love with the country during a road trip with my family when I was 13 and I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along on business trips back to Edinburgh throughout high school. I went to the University of Edinburgh for a semester abroad in college and when I realized that four months was not nearly enough time (…and I didn’t want to grow up…) I went back for my postgraduate degree. In the years since graduation I have taken advantage of every chance/offer/barely legitimate reason to go back. Christmas market? Done. New flat with a spare room? Count me in. Fun race? Just let me grab my sneakers. Free afternoon and a story that’s better in person? Wait right there, I’m on my way. The trips have always been a mix of old and new – revisiting my favorite people and places and finding new areas to explore – and I’ve loved every second.
Until this year, I didn’t realize how strongly I felt about NOT swimming in the Charles River. I knew it had been horribly polluted in the past and I knew (thanks to a friendly duck boat driver!) that in recent years it has gotten much cleaner. A certain kind of duck is back, meaning a certain kind of fish is back, meaning pollution levels are not where they used to be. Great! But still, it’s hard not to think of the Charles as kind of gross – it runs through a major city and has large, multi-laned roads on either side, but, maybe most importantly, the Standells’ “Dirty Water” is played frequently and sung along to enthusiastically throughout the bars, stadiums, and streets of the city. Since I first moved to the Boston area in 2004, I’ve been singing about that dirty water, meaning I’ve had 13 years of internalizing the fact that our river may be beloved, but it is best loved from a distance.
In 2009, I studied abroad in Cuba. I applied on a whim during a slow day at an internship and pushed back my college graduation by a semester in order to go. My family and friends were surprised, concerned, and confused to varying degrees (“Are you a communist?” “Aren’t you scared you’ll be kidnapped?” “Just…why…?” No, no, and because it’s CUBA, y’all). My favorite question, though, was from my immediate family: “Are you just doing this for the food?”
It wasn’t a completely unreasonable question.
I don’t like to admit when I’m sick. In fact, as I start to feel less myself – lower energy, sore throat (it’s ALWAYS a sore throat) – the more deliberately active I become, overcompensating to prove that I’m FINE, really! I stubbornly carry on as normal, becoming more and more visibly run down until finally even I can’t ignore it any longer. At that point, my whole body shuts down in protest, and I settle into the sickness, visibly and, not at all dramatically, wallowing in self-pity as I’m forced to take significantly longer to recover than if I’d just given myself a break in the first place.
I have always been a water person. Growing up an oblivious/imaginative kid in Rhode Island in the era of the Little Mermaid, my mom quickly realized that I needed to know how to keep myself afloat. I was never scared of the water, which in turn scared her immensely. According to her, the chances of me wandering in too deep without realizing were about equal to me waking up on any given morning, truly believing that I was a mermaid, and jumping in above my head without a second thought.
I haven’t run a marathon since October 2014, meaning I haven’t run 20 consecutive miles since then either. Mostly I’ve been fine with this, if not decision, state of things, and yet the last weekend in March I found myself on the start line of the Eastern States 20 miler and, spoiler, 2:53:03 later, I found myself at the finish.
I wrote this awhile ago, and it’s just been sitting around waiting to be published. So here we go: The long delayed recap of a couple of April 10ks.