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It took three weeks, but running is fun again.

It’s the lack of marathon-training pressure.

It’s the crosstraining.

It’s the new web site I’m trying out to help manage my diet and exercise.

It was the Thursday run with Caitlin and the Sunday run with Keith, Rick and Kevin.

It’s all of these, or maybe it’s none of these

I don’t care what it is, but I’m not running this morning and I wish that I was. I haven’t felt this way in a couple months.

Towards the end of training, running felt like a chore. After the marathon, running was more for recuperation than for fun.

Now … I look forward to my next run. It’s something I want to do, not something that I have to do.

I missed this feeling.

She pulled a Colleen on me.

Colleen is famous for hanging back, pretending to struggle, giving you the sense that you’ve got her beat. Then @ the last possible minute, she’ll blow by you like you’re standing still – a smirk on her face and a glance over her shoulder as you stare, dumbfounded.

That’s exactly what Caitlin did during Thursday’s 5K. She left me in the dust with .1 left. She crossed the finish line about 2 seconds ahead of me and then spent the rest of the day making sure that everyone heard about it.

“I beat Dad!” is how she started the phone call with my parents.

“I won!!!” is what she told Michelle on the car ride home.

“Can you believe it? Dad ran a marathon, and I beat him!” is all she said to Auntie Amy.

I listened to each of these comments and I couldn’t have been more proud. My little girl beat me in her very first 5K.

The runners on a very rainy Thanksgiving morning

Caitlin and me (yup, that’s the salmon shirt) after the 5K (photo courtesy of Tina Napolitan)

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I’ve decided to hold off a while on a full marathon. Work is getting busier, the holidays are coming and I’ve picked up some more consulting jobs on the side. The thoughts of adding the training requirements for a marathon to that schedule are a little too much.

However, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to quit training or long Sunday runs.

Rick, Keith and I (and Kevin if we can talk him into it) are planning to run the Boston Prep 16 Miler in Derry, NH on January 21. The course is defined as moderately challenging with a good number of hills. With those hills in mind, we’re heading back to the Service Road tomorrow for a 90-minute run. This will be my longest run since the marathon and I can’t wait. I’ve been running mostly 3 and 5 miles for the past couple of weeks and I’ve found that I need to stretch the legs out a little bit more. After each run I’ve been left with the feeling that I could and should have done more.

5:30am … Barnstable High School track.

It’s wet, misting and warm … too warm for Massachusetts in November.

I’m waiting in my truck, blowing my nose, hoping this cold goes away soon.

Keith and Rick show up. They’re chatting in Rick’s car while I blow my nose one last time and put some Body Glide on my legs.

My back is to them. It’s dark, and I’m not really paying attention.

I turn around. Rick’s walking toward me. He’s wearing the salmon shirt again!

I look over his shoulder. There’s Keith. He’s wearing a salmon shirt, too.

Rick holds out his hand. In it, he holds a salmon shirt. It’s for me.

Holy shit! He bought us matching shirts.

Taped to the back of each shirt is a piece of paper with Running Salmon printed on it.

It’s official. Not only are we members of the Hyannis Road Runners, we are now the Running Salmon.

I didn’t wear the shirt during this morning’s run, but I did wear it when I took Caitlin to the bus stop (along with my running shorts, sweaty socks and Birkenstocks … she was mortified) and I am wearing it now. As a matter of fact, I consider it as prized a possession as my Cape Cod Marathon finishers medal. I can’t wait to wear it during my next race (no doubt there will be pictures).

I’ve been in a funk for a week.

I was fooling myself thinking that I was OK being “just Dave.”

Shortly after writing that post, I slipped into a general feeling of sad/mad/confused/bored.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t snap out of it.  I couldn’t convince myself to just be happy.
I tried.

I started my marathon recovery program.

I started a new diet to lose the 15lbs that I was planned to lose last summer.

I ran mile intervals on the treadmill.

I set up the weight bench in the basement (and actually used it).

I started 10 different posts for this blog thinking that writing would help to clear my head.  I trashed each one because I couldn’t get past the “I’m depressed” tone.

I was starting to get a little desperate. I didn’t know how I was going to snap out of it.

Finally, on my Sunday run with Keith and Rick, I was able to relax and enjoy myself again.

It wasn’t the run.

It wasn’t the fact that I’ve missed running with Keith and Rick.

It wasn’t the downpour that hammered us for 5 minutes when we were less than halfway through our 60-minute run.

Hell, it wasn’t even the fact that my legs felt great the entire time.
It was all because of a shirt.  It’s as simple as that – the site of a shirt made me happy again.

Here’s how it happened:
We left Rick’s house in the dark around 5:45am.

The air was heavy.  Rain was definitely threatening.  No one wanted to push too hard, but we were hoping to get in a good 60 minutes of running.

The plan was to run from Oak Street down to Four Seas in Centerville and back – a generally flat, straight course.

The rain hit hard before we reached the corner of Old Stage Rd and Route 28.  We were soaked.  I had worn a t-shirt over my singlet and the combined weight of those felt like a good 10 pounds on my back.

We considered turning around, but that seemed pointless.  We were already wet – why not push on and stick with the plan.

I was lost in my thoughts for a few minutes, just jogging along when I happened to look over @ Rick.  He was doing his thing, running on the yellow line, talking about his future career as an ultra-marathoner, but I wasn’t listening to him.  Instead, I found myself staring at his shirt.   I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t noticed it earlier.
Before I could filter it, I heard myself say, “Uh, Rick – does Tina know that you’re wearing her shirt?  Is that orange? Red? Choral?  Cantaloupe? What do you call that color?”

From the other side of Rick, Keith said, “I think it’s salmon.”

That was it – that was the color.  Rick was wearing a salmon-colored running shirt.

Now, it’s possible that the shirt may have been red at one time and simply faded from too many washings, but in my head that wasn’t nearly as funny as the site of Rick digging through Tina’s closet looking for  a clean shirt.  I pictured him pushing aside the floral prints (too bold), the winter white turtleneck (too dressy) and the cotton blouses (ouch – chafing) before settling on this lovely salmon number (“I think this will really bring out the gray in my chest hair!”).

And that was it – something as stupid as a faded red shirt got me out of my mini-depression.

I smiled the whole way home.

Even now – 36 hours later, I’m still chuckling to myself about it.

These were not the feelings that I expected one week after my first marathon.

I thought that I’d feel like a king for a lot longer.

I thought that I’d be able to maintain a zen-like calm in the presence of frustration.

I thought that no challenge would seem to great.

I thought that I’d feel differently about myself.

I thought that I’d be treated differently.

During a five-mile run this weekend I realized that I’m still just Dave.

I thought that would bother me.

I thought I should have felt like so much more.

Marathon planning has consumed me for over a year. I was in awe of people who finished one. I’d go out on a 7 mile run and wonder how anyone could make it 26.2. The people who run 26.2 must have some super-human ability that I lacked.

Now that I’m one of those people, I realize that I’m not super-human. I’m just me. I put my mind and body into something and I accomplished it, but it didn’t make me any better or worse than I was a month ago.

I still take out the garbage. I still get frustrated when there’s a mess in the house. I still think Michelle leaves the thermostat up too high. I still have bad runs. I still have bad skin and my breath still stinks in the morning.

And I am perfectly OK with that.

… time to go turn up the thermostat. Michelle’s getting up soon and she’ll complain if it’s too cold down here.