A Surreal Workout

Holy F I got busy!  Between schoolwork, more schoolwork, and getting ready for the trip to upstate New York for the marathon, yesterday was one of those days where every single waking minute was accounted for.

The result — no blog post and a track workout in the dark.  Literally, the dark.  The hour between 7:00 and 8:00 in the evening was the first chance I got to do my final track workout of this training program, and halfway through it I couldn’t read the numbers on my watch anymore without the Indiglo.

It was one of the strangest workouts I’ve ever done. The final workouts before a marathon are always weird; I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this.  The runs are easy, so you have time to think about all the training you’ve done and about previous races and tapers, and most of all, you think about the upcoming marathon.  Exciting and scary all at once.  Thoughts are deeper; the songs you listen to take on more meaning; there seems to be a strange Zen-calm over everything.

Maybe this is what it always feels like to people who love running.  I’d love it too if it were always like this.

The circumstances served only to make the run more dreamlike and surreal.  What’s weirder than running circles in the dark?  How about running circles in the dark when the track is packed with people, all running in the opposite direction?  A running group was there surprisingly late, and for some reason they were all running clockwise on the track while I was going counterclockwise.

Weird enough, right?  Oh no, there’s more.  Right at the beginning of the workout, I heard a marching band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  I couldn’t see them because whatever field they were on was obscured by trees.  But it sounded nice, and I figured maybe that was their end-of-practice song or something, since it was getting dark.  But as soon as they finished, all this cheering erupted.

And then they started playing a lot more, mostly drums, and with lots more cheering.  Then lights came on over their field, and this strange glow and all these drumbeats overflowed the trees onto the track where I was.   A little bit tribal, a little bit Fourth-of-July.  A lot weird.

So I ran my 16 laps like this, alternating 400’s at 1:24 with rest 400’s.  Feeling the Zen tranquility of tapering, the light disappearing, passing people going the opposite direction, the tribal-parade drumming and glow penetrating the darkness of the track where the only sounds were footsteps and people breathing hard.  As I hit the final lap, I realized that this lap would be my last one at the track before the marathon.  This same track where I got hurt back in February and where I have run so many impossible, no-way-I-can-make it laps by myself since coming back from that injury and setting my sights on this marathon that seemed so far off when I started.

I gave that last lap everything I had.  I didn’t need to; I did it for no reason other than that I felt like it and I wanted to go out with a bang.  And as I sprinted as hard as I could, a Bob Dylan came on my iPod.  Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.

It was very, very weird.  And somehow, it was perfect.



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  1. Wow. That run sounds amazing. I don’t think every run is like that, for anyone, no matter how much they love running. But there are a few runs that stand out in my mind, the way I’m sure this one will for you.

    Will be sending good vibes this weekend! Rest up and eat well!
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Got health care angst? Eat it =-.

  2. This post literally gave me chills! What an awesome way to end your training. I’m so excited for you – best of luck this weekend! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!! 🙂
    .-= Katie (A Running Start)´s last blog ..An Update on the hamstring =-.

  3. Oh I love that. I love when the moment’s perfect song comes on exactly when you needed it and you didn’t even know that song was the perfect song for the moment until it started. Bob Dylan knows you are going to rock out your race!
    .-= Allyson´s last blog ..The Sweatshop of Love at YarnCon Chicago! =-.

  4. I felt peaceful just reading this post!
    .-= Morgan @ Life After Bagels´s last blog ..Food Hangovers =-.

  5. Workouts like these stick in your mind forever. That’s one of the things I love about running – the memory backlog of perfect/bizarre/magical runs that one accumulates over the years.
    .-= Daria (Summer of the CSAs)´s last blog ..New Theme: DePo Square =-.

  6. Edited to add I mistyped my own URL…subbed in “faster” when I meant “slower.” Hmm…
    .-= Daria (Summer of the CSAs)´s last blog ..Harvest Season: A Cornucopia of Veggies =-.

  7. Just wanted to say that I really loved reading this post.
    Best of luck in the marathon! (You’ll do great!)
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Happy World Vegetarian Day! =-.

  8. Awesome, a marching band send-off for your last workout!
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Tips for Natural Wound Healing =-.

  9. All the best for your race this weekend! You’ve done all the hard work, so now you just have to run the race.

  10. sounds like an excellent ‘last chance’ workout! very weird about the band though… ah well, band geeks tend to be pretty harmless. flute players are the coolest, for obvious reasons 😉
    .-= lindsay´s last blog ..september 2009 =-.

  11. Great last run! Good luck!!!
    .-= Runeatrepeat´s last blog ..Resolutions Revisited =-.

  12. Awesome. Different kinds of runs are always good.
    .-= Angie´s last blog ..Help Needed =-.

  13. I think this is a rockin’ sign of good things to come!

    I’ve had runs like this too. Actually just this week I had an early morning run where I felt like I wasn’t controlling my legs or feet. They just “knew” what to do without any effort. It seemed like my head was perched on my shoulders and was simply along for the ride. I wondered if I had possibly lost my mind, but I think it was just really early. 😉
    .-= Alison´s last blog ..Thrive Review =-.

  14. Wow! Super cool! Good luck on Sunday, Matt!

  15. wow that run sounds so amazing! i love runs like that-when everything comes together and just feels unreal! Have a GREAT weekend!!!!!!!!!!
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..POM Wonderful =-.

  16. Awesome post. You gave me goosebumps!
    .-= Veggie Runnr´s last blog ..The Man in the Arena =-.

  17. Hey Matt- I want to wish you good luck! This post gave me the chills. Yes, that feeling you’re describing is usually how it feels. Isn’t it like a drug?

    You rock my friend. Give it all you got :).
    .-= Mel @ She Runs Brooklyn´s last blog ..Running Is Good for Me. =-.

  18. Wow. What an amazing experience — and well-written post. Good luck out there on race day!
    .-= Crunchy Granola Gal´s last blog ..Red Velvet Indulgence Cupcakes =-.

  19. Thanks everyone for the encouragement! I’m in PA right now, on our way up to NY in the motorhome. Getting excited and nervous…

  20. Just found your website linked off of another blog. Glad I found it. It’s always fun to discover other active non-meat eaters (although I’m nearing the vegan end of the spectrum now). I’ll be back to read more later.

  21. This is a great post! I can imagine myself there..

    GOOD LUCK in the marathon!
    .-= Pam (Highway to Health)´s last blog ..News! =-.

  22. Laurie & Eric says:


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