Delayed Gratification: Hartford Marathon 2017

hartford marathon 2017
Running has shown me that I conquer intimidating of tasks. That consistent perspiration, effort, and tenacity culminate in immense growth. In running, my dreams are elusive, yes, but also limitless--and I am ever-determined to chase them down."
quoted above in the Hartford Marathon Insider's Guide 2017. written in 2015, before I finally ran my first marathon in 2016  (after two years of injuries and unsuccessful training cycles) }

For three years, I've dreamt of running the Hartford Marathon.

As a freshman in college, I actually signed up--but sustained a knee injury about a month before the race.

During my sophomore fall, I had recently recovered from a serious overuse injury, so I was only able to run the half marathon. I ran a significant personal best, and the race remains my very favorite thus far. In Spring 2016, I finally conquered my goal of running a full marathon, but the Hartford race still eluded me.

As a junior, I studied abroad in Bordeaux and Oxford, so Hartford wasn't even an option.

I'm a senior now. And two weeks ago, I chased down freshman year dream.

Before the race, I wasn't sure I would even be able to finish. My thesis work and fellowship applications felt like marathon enough, and my training had been going so poorly. I made three unsuccessful attempts to complete my final 3.5 hour training run. I stopped at 3 hours on my first try, having only run 17 miles. I stopped at 1 hour on try two, feeling simply too heavy and drained. I stopped at 3 hours on try three, having only completed 15 miles. I was perplexed at my inexplicable fatigue. I suspected an iron deficiency, got a blood test--and received negative results. I was bamboozled.

I debated whether or not to enter the race for weeks--I pegged my chances of having a positive experience at a measly 15%. I made a pros and cons list. I flipped a coin. I decided not to go. I flipped the coin again. I changed my mind.

I wanted to go.

Less than a week before the race, I signed up, booked bus tickets, and found a place to stay. I had originally hoped to run a personal best at Hartford, but instead refocused my main goal to just enjoy myself. For the first time, I would enter a race solely to have fun. 

I couldn't sleep the three nights leading up to the race. Worries of schoolwork and fellowship application outcomes and potential race disappointment consumed my thoughts and pounded through my body. The night before the race, I dreamt that I had overslept and missed the start. In my dreams, I groaned and grumbled about missing the day I'd anticipated for months.

In reality, I groaned and grumbled myself awake at 5 am.

After a quick breakfast and brisk warmup, I joined the 4:25 pace group in the bustling race corrals. Were 10 minute miles even feasible for me? I wasn't sure. I smiled mutely at the rest of the group as we hopped and stretched our restless energy out. I wouldn't try to make small talk; it would be less embarrassing that way if I had had to fall behind.

I promptly forgot my rule and made a friend just after the race start. She had just run a marathon two weeks before and was at Hartford to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs club. If you run two marathons within two weeks, you can pay to get a Maniacs shirt! she explained. We giggled at the absurdity of it--subjecting yourself to immense physical pain for the gracious opportunity of paying to join a club.

We lost our pacing group within the first mile, clocking sub-9:30's and the occasional sub-9:00. I began to feel slightly breathless and considered telling her to go on without me, if she wanted. I wasn't sure if that sounded too falsely magnanimous. So I said nothing. She sped ahead, and I lost her at mile 10.

I was on my own now, but I felt strong. I clocked 2:04:09 at the half marathon mark. If you keep this pace up, you can PR! Grandiose visions danced through my head. I grinned at the spectators and the musicians lining the course. My steps felt light and intentional. Energy coursed through my limbs. Even the thick, pasty energy gels didn't taste so bad.

The fatigue seeped in slowly. Just a few more miles, I told myself, just a few more now, then a few more after. I cut the race into slices; three 3-mile runs sounded much more appealing than one 9-mile run. Still, my mile splits dropped off. By mile 20, I was struggling to run a 10 minute mile.

Yet it was the strongest I'd felt felt in over a month. I was running a marathon. My legs were working. I was going to finish.

At mile 23, I dropped the energy gel I'd been clenching in my fist. Searing pain shot through my back when I bent to pick it up. Three more 1-mile runs...only three more.

The final mile seemed to stretch across town. I anticipated the finish at each turn between the towering buildings, only to be disappointed. But this was it. This was my three-year dream. Even if my performance wouldn't conform to my fantasies, I would see it through. 

At 4:16:26, I stumbled across the finish. It was almost exactly 8 minutes slower than my first marathon time. But I was elated.

My race was perhaps not the most competitive, but it was one of my happiest yet. Since I hadn't forced a goal time upon myself, I ran based on the feeling, and challenged myself accordingly. And I surprised myself.

Since it was such a long-elusive desire, running Hartford was almost symbolic for me. By finishing the race, I was leaving behind those years of injury and doubt. I was finding the courage to dash after my goals despite seemingly-dim odds. Perhaps it was reckless, but isn't all idealism a bit reckless?

With my second marathon captured, I could rest for a spell--though not for long. There are always more dreams to chase and limits to push--boldly and recklessly.

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Fall Foliage: Maroon Turtleneck + Black Open Back Sweater

maroon turtleneck outfit
maroon turtleneck outfit
maroon turtleneck outfit
Turtleneck, thrifted L.L. Bean | Shorts, sponsored by Tobi ($54) | Necklace, Love Nail Tree
open back sweater outfit
open back sweater outfit
Sweater, sponsored by Tobi ($35) | Shorts, Kohl's | Boots, Amazon ($30)

To see more of Tobi's edgy selection, check out www.tobi.com


More thesis writing:

..I grew up with two linguistic mothers, but Mandarin and I had drifted. English, after all, was my primary language, the language I used most. It was the mother who gently rocked me throughout the day; she was the language of my everyday rhythm at school, the language of my teachers and classmates. At night, I would curl up into her warm embrace, devouring countless anglophone novels. Her lullabies were the hum of the radio and the murmuring of my favorite TV shows. And so I clung onto the first thing I could hold, the mother who was most familiar...

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Classic Colors: Wine Red Button-down + Black Cross-Back Dress

dress over button down outfit
backless dress outfit modest
subtle ombre wavy medium hair asian
dress over button down outfit
dress over button down outfit
gemstone necklace
Dress, sponsored by Tobi ($88) | Button-down, thrifted Primark | Shoes, Target ($17)| Necklace, street stand in Oxford, UK

"Have you been writing lately?" 

"Yeah, for my applications and thesis," I chuckled wryly.

Things have been beyond hectic lately as I tackle two theses (one in math and the other in French), fellowship applications, marathon training difficulties, a part-time job with a startup, and other unexpected challenges. I've been writing quite a bit lately, but not for leisure.

My French thesis, however, is one part creative writing and one part analytical. The creative writing will focus on my quest for the French language and my identity questions as a Chinese-American. 

Here's a little excerpt for now, until I get back to normal life blogging.

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“What do you want to eat?” My grandfather prompted me.

I felt panicky. We were at a neighborhood noodle bar in Hangzhou, my mother’s hometown. I was a high school sophomore, and it was my first trip to China in seven years. What do you want to eat? I would normally respond to such a question with unabashed eagerness, but deciding what to eat here meant reading the menu—a menu written uniquely in Chinese. The enigmatic characters danced dizzily across the pages. I frantically searched for familiar words, preferably “vegetable” and “vermicelli.” My grandfather couldn’t know that I was essentially illiterate in Mandarin. He would surely be more ashamed than I already felt. Mandarin was one of my mother tongues, yet it felt so foreign.

I found my vegetable vermicelli, and my grandfather barely raised an eyebrow. But I was solemn during the meal, and pensive during most of my three-week family trip. I had assumed that our stay would mean scrumptious street food, misty landscapes, and an inordinate number of mosquito bites. Instead, I found culture shock and uncertainty...
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