If marathons were easy.

If marathons were easy, everyone would run them, right? Is that what they say? I've learned plenty of running lessons in the last year, and of them, this is true: marathons are hard.

I finished the Lakefront Marathon on Sunday in a time of 3 hours, 33 minutes and 7 seconds. Just 4 minutes off a personal best. In fact, it's my second-fastest marathon. And I qualified for the 2017 Boston Marathon by nearly 7 minutes. I also kept a fairly even pace, which gets tough to do in the later miles.

Looking at those facts and numbers, it certainly looks like a success. Technically, yes, it was. I wanted that Boston qualifier badand it's probably the only reason the numbers add up to success. 

But the truth is this: the run was miserable. I couldn't get my body to respond. My legs wouldn't pick up the pace when I needed them to. My nutrition was off, and I felt it. By mile 20 I was so thirsty, I was stopping at the aid stations to gulp entire cups of water.

I felt ready going into this marathon. The training was done, my friends were near, the weather cooperated. I was ready to run strong and happy and successfully with a smile on my face. But I couldn't find my smile. 

Shortly after the halfway point, my training buddy and friend ran up from behind, joining alongside me. He and I had identical goals for the race. With matching qualifying time requirements for Boston and big dreams, we were ready to smash this marathon. 

"Hey kiddo," he said, as he sidled up to my right. With that, I nearly cried. I was so ready for a familiar face by that point, and so relieved he'd shown up when he did. All I could do in response was give him the "so-so" motion with my hand, signaling my fading energy.

"We've got this," he said. And I knew that he did. 

With his energy nearby, I pulled myself through a few miles at my goal pace before sinking back into a more comfortable one. My brain wanted to let it go -- all the training, all the hard work, all the goals. My mind tried to convince my body that it'd be OK to just stop. There were several points that I actually convinced myself to be done with marathons. 

Just let it go. If you slow down, you'll miss your shot at Boston. You won't have to run it. You won't have to run a marathon ever again. You're not enjoying this. You said you'd keep running until it stopped being fun.

My mind was totally right. I wasn't enjoying myself. And I've told myself repeatedly that when running stops being fun, I won't do it anymore. 

But there was still a small part of my brain, somewhere deep, deep inside, that knew I could do it. That knew, if I just shut up, I could not only get it over with, I could hit my goal. And then -- and only then -- could I truly have peace of mind and a break from the stress of fast paces and hopes of a return to Boston.

If I would just shut up and run.

So I did. And it continued to be miserable and reminiscent of those last few miles of Boston. And just like Boston, I finished. And just like Boston, I finished with a damn respectable time. But just like Boston, I felt underwhelmed. Not disappointed, god no. I got my qualifying time. I got exactly what I wanted out of the result. 

But I didn't enjoy a step of it. 

And that matters to me, I've come to learn. The journey is just as important as the result, if not more. 

So, sure, technically Lakefront was a great success. But not emotionally, really. And as a person who has feelings about everything, that's an important piece of the puzzle for me. The most important.

Does that take away the joy of accomplishing my goal? No way. It just tarnishes my memory of the race.

My Grandma's Marathon experience, to me, is the pinnacle of running. I felt great, I felt happy, I felt strong, I felt everything, and I smashed my goal. Even the following fall, running a 50-miler, sure, it was difficult at times, but I loved it so much. I had the most wonderful day. A full day of running. In the end, that was successful, too. 

I could have finished Grandma's Marathon with the exact same time, but if it hurt and felt awful for 26 miles, I'd never have the fond memories I have of it now. It's exactly why I want to run Boston again. So I can have the enjoyable experience I was meant to have. 

This is no way means I'm done running hard or shooting for improvement. I'll get back to it when I'm good and ready, but that isn't any time soon. Right now I just want to run. 

Until my body and mind tell me otherwise, it's back to the basics. Running because it makes me happy. Running with my friends. Running because I can. 

In May I'll be running 165 miles in six days, averaging a marathon a day. I've got that to prepare for, which sounds like the opposite of what I need. But to me, it's exactly what I want. Miles upon miles of simply covering the distance. Not beating myself up over pace or stressing about speed work or worrying whether race day will go exactly as I need it to go. 

The goals are still there. They're always there, they've just shifted.

I'm going to run far and wide for the hell of it. Just the way I like it.

Bend 'til it breaks

I will never forget my very first view of Mount Hood from the ground. My boss and I were on our way out of Portland in our rented Nissan Xterra--for driving through the mountains, of course.

I could not keep my jaw out of my lap.

A REAL MOUNTAIN. It was beautiful.

"Is this real life?" I thought. Do regular people get to just live life with a view of a big, beautiful mountain outside their window?

But then we drove up, over and through the Cascade Mountains on our way to Bend, and my mind became unhinged. I could not believe the beauty. Now, I'm a pretty sheltered individual, and my travel experience is not vast by any means, but I'd never experienced anything so beautiful in my life. I have the hundreds of photos to prove it, mostly from me hanging out of the car window to snap a perfect shot, or asking my boss to pull over so I could jump out and take it all in.

I spent that week working out of our office in Bend, and I've never really recovered. I just can't put into words, no matter how hard I try, what I felt while I was there. The mountain views. The sunshine. The fresh air. The kind people. The quirky downtown. The great outdoors. The possibilities.

I got to know my colleagues in Bend, who are a wonderful bunch. I bonded so heavily with my boss, who's taken me under her wing and has had so much faith in me since day one. We sat outside the ski lodge on Mount Bachelor to take in the views and enjoy a local brew on a Thursday afternoon because that's just what people do. They sit among the mountains. I drove into the office each morning with a breathtaking view of the Three Sisters mountains just hanging out in the background like, "Yeah, we're here, too. Don't mind us."

I felt sad when we left. Like, reverse homesickness. I didn't understand how a place so beautiful could have existed this whole time, and I never knew.

Six months later, I got to go back. On my own. And I knew that place was meant to be mine. Before and after work, I explored every nook and cranny I could find. Mountain lakes, high atop a butte, Cliff Rock State Park. I got lost on an 18-mile run through a national forest and found an incredible rapids on the Deschutes River. I woke up early each morning for a run before heading into the office and thought, "How is this real life?"

But it was real life. Sitting outside, breathing in the Juniper air, talking to my mom on the phone while I looked at mountains in the distance. Central Oregon is perfect.

Well, now I have the opportunity to make it real life.

If I choose to, I can join my colleagues in Bend and serve as the west coast connection of our corporate communications team next summer.

If I choose to.

That choice. It's my choice. I discovered the most beautiful place I've ever seen because of a job I found when I wasn't even looking, and now I have the opportunity to move across the entire country. This is literally a Choose Your Own Adventure Book come to life.


I've never in 33 years of life lived more than a couple hours away from my parents. For a reason. I am sort of attached to them. I've also never done anything so monumental, like move across the country, for reasons like: fear, fear, and never having had the opportunity. But the fear goes back to reason No. 1: never having lived far from family.

How do people do it?

I feel like this is my chance to take a big, scary leap the way brave people often take big, scary leaps, but I've mostly avoided them because of the big and scary part. But why? What is the actual worst that can happen? I last a year, then come running home?

My job will always be based here. My family will (for now) always be here. Here will always be home. You can always go home again. Right?

I love the idea of being brave and exploring a new adventure and stepping 100 percent outside of my safe zone for me. For the 100 percent selfish reason of I want to.

I want to try living in a brand new place. I want to find my footing. I want to say "I live on the west coast," and actually realize, holy shit, I live on the west coast. I want to be brave and I want friends and family to visit and fall in love the way I did.

I want to move to Bend, Oregon.

But do I?

Counting down

Lakefront Marathon is in 24 days. 

Not that I'm counting. 

This one crept up on me. Not so much the actual race, but my feelings about it. My last marathon was Boston. The time before that was qualifying for Boston. And before that I ran a 17-minute personal best that began the entire adventure. 

It's been such a fulfilling adventure, and I desperately don't want it to end just yet. 

...because I’m still coming back for you, Boston.

As more and more time passes since the Boston Marathon, I feel more and more motivated to go back in 2017. I want another shot so badly. Each training cycle is different -- for better, for worse -- but each training cycle teaches me something. This time around, I don't know if I necessarily feel faster, but I feel much stronger. I've been taking care of my body in ways I've never done before, and it's making an incredible difference. I know what I'm capable of, but I also know all the ways it can be derailed. 

So can we please just not with the derailment? 

The more time that passes since Boston, and the closer Lakefront gets, the heavier the burden I place on myself. This isn't the last shot I'll have at qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon, but if I do it this time, I get to coast through the next year without a single care about race pace or time goals. I want that. Boy, do I want that.

But let's not confuse this with forced pressure or stress.

I love running right now. I feel so energized and powerful. Having this goal brings running to life for me. Every time I set out, I know what I'm working toward. Sure, sometimes I plain don't want to run, but I've never been happier to have the capabilities I've been lucky to find.

However, I'm ready for a new goal. Not a better goal, but a different goal. Once this goal is achieved, I'm excited to move on to a new chapter of miles upon miles for a worthy cause. Long runs with good friends. Easy miles to help blow away beautiful Saturday mornings--just the way I like it.

I am so very, incredibly ready for that. But not a moment too soon, because I'm still coming back for you, Boston.

2015 Boston Marathon

2015 Boston Marathon