Learning To Run After A Marathon

I ran a marathon. To achieve this, I surrendered to process. I stopped accepting my own excuses and limiting mental frameworks. And, one day I became an athlete.

Running is one of my love stories. Breath visible in the air, classical music on the radio, solitude in the found gorgeous.

Training and the finish line transformed me. Surprisingly, the biggest challenge has been what came after the marathon: not running.

I am learning the limitations of my body. After completing the race, my right knee announced itself as a hostage-taker. With time, it has transitioned to a toddler testing for power.

In the last week I have begun to ease back in. My pace is considerably slower than my endurance allows, and each step brings unwelcome sensation. One month later I do not look like a marathon runner. I look like someone who is just learning to run.

Who cares, I think. I have found a way back on the road. Accepting pain — observing my pain, accepting my pain, and embracing the deep and vulnerable plunge required to stop my instinctive resistance to my pain — is the deepest meditation I have experienced.

Although finishing a marathon was pretty fucking cool.

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An Obligatory, Trite, And Earnest Note About Marathon Training

I ran a 7:49 mile in the fourth grade. They thought I cheated and skipped a lap. I didn’t, but I too was surprised by my relative speed. I was one of those types who did the bent arm hang instead of pull ups. I thought I was not athletic and couldn’t achieve much physically, so generally, I didn’t. Until I did.

Our expectations for ourselves can be far more limiting than our bodies and I have had to learn this lesson throughout my life.

I am currently training for my first marathon. It is humbling, exciting, and occasionally painful. Mostly it is a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. In this process I have learned a lot. I must prepare. I must be willing to challenge what I think my body cannot handle. I must confront fears and jettison habits that have carried me through decades of 5Ks and dedicated running that was good, but not marathon-level.

For example: Eating while I run will not make me throw up, nor does it obliterate the point of a workout — I have to do it to survive. Or, pushing through pain is not heroic or tough; if I don’t take breaks when my body tells me to, I won’t be able to run my race. I knew I had gone pro when my period started while I was on a busy street, and I just kept going.

More than anything, marathon training has taught me that I can mostly do what I say I’m going to do if I focus and commit. It is also training me to better recognize the boundaries of what focus and commitment can achieve. I can’t and won’t become everything I’ve dreamed of, including some things I had thought more achievable than running a marathon. And yet, remarkably, I’m still going.

Ireland No Longer Has An Abortion Ban, And It Makes Me Cry

By large, irrefutable margins, Ireland has voted to legalize abortion. People don’t want total abortion bans. Even in Catholic countries. This means the world to me, as someone who is half Irish by blood, was raised Catholic, and works for abortion rights.

I was born Erin Maureen Boylan. I do not share this name often; it’s a part of my identity that mostly slips under the radar. My biological father, where the Irish in me comes from, died suddenly and unexpectedly when my mom was five months pregnant with me. I have been told we share some things: a “sense of the outrageous,” a love for writing, and political activism.

In large part, it is because of what happened to my mom that I am so strongly pro-choice. Because of the circumstances surrounding my birth, and the hell, chaos, and poverty that created for her, I am well aware of how quickly circumstances can change. Instead of parroting blanket statements from men in robes who say that sex is bad and do not see me as equal, I choose compassion and love.

I was born into my life, specifically, and I do not believe in abortion bans. I am aware that my mom could have chosen to not continue the pregnancy that created me. I love her. I know her. I think the choice to have an abortion would have been fine, and if I could have held her hand had she chosen to make it, I would have.

I love my life, and I know I owe my life to a woman who was excited and in love and over the moon, and then suddenly very sad, traumatized, and alone. She was here and I was not yet; I put her first without question.

As I reflect on Ireland overturning the abortion ban, and the man who put the Irish and the political activism in my blood I know, on some visceral level, that what unites us more than anything is our deep and unconditional love for my mother. We trust her. We believe in her. We know that she is wise. We know that she is strong and can get through anything. We would have supported her together, from our own space in the spiritual ether, if she had made another choice.

There have been only a handful of times in my life when I have felt very close to my biological father, and the Saturday that the Irish abortion ban was to be overturned was one of them. I teared up on a long run, watching the sun rise. I felt him and how he would have reacted to what was about to happen in Ireland. I thought about how proud he would have been of me and my work, specifically my work to expand abortion access. I thought to myself in a loud, proud voice, Erin Maureen Boylan, reporting for duty. I kept running. I cried.