NPR

8 runners take on the 2014 Boston Marathon

arielle rausin

Just The Beginning

A few weeks before the marathon, I was sure that after I crossed the finish line I would break into tears. This only happened after two out of the six marathons that I had done before. But I was sure it would happen for Boston.

They’re not sad tears, or even happy tears. They’re tears of accomplishment, fatigue and, mostly, relief. I can finally stop pushing; I can finally relax.

But, to my surprise, after Boston, the tears didn’t come.

I had put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. I felt like I owed it to my team, my coach, my family and friends, my readers(!), all of whom supported me and my efforts an incredible amount. I was so terrified of letting people down that I had a dream that I didn’t finish. I ended up only getting a few hours of sleep the night before the race. So when I crossed the finish line — all in one piece — only 2 minutes and a few seconds away from my goal, I wasn’t sure why I felt so … empty.

Sure, I was probably a little dehydrated and my fuel storage was at an all-time low. But I didn’t experience the kind of euphoria that I was expecting after finishing the most important race of my life.

After three bottles of water and hugs from my family, I pepped back up. Looking back now, I think I realize what I felt when they hung the medal around my neck.

Sadness.

I know that seems strange. I had just achieved what I had been striving for since the start of my college career. But that’s how I felt. I think the quote that really rings true here is Hemingway:

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

And training for this incredible race was definitely a journey. I learned a lot about myself — how far I am willing to go and how hard I am willing to push myself. I made a bunch of amazing new friends through working on this blog and the friendships I already had grew stronger as so many cheered and rooted for my success. I had my ups and downs. But the experiences I gained from this adventure are worth much more to me than any medal ever could be.

Now that my journey has come to an end, I can already feel myself itching to start a new one. Part of me thinks it would be really cool to finish a total of 10 marathons before I turn 21 … What’s three more marathons in the next four months?!? Now that I’ve done Boston, I feel like I can do anything. And I will.

— Arielle Rausin

image

Trust

image

(photo cred: Aimee Gottlieb)

Only four more days to go and all that’s left to do is trust. Trust that I’ve put enough miles in, trust that I’ve prepped my equipment to be the best it can be and trust myself to know I can do this. I’ve worked hard the past year, training and running like a fiend; I owe it to myself to relax now and just let it all happen.

The other day mid run, I stopped. Something I rarely ever do. But I just had this overwhelming feeling of joy spill onto me all at once. I had just conquered a ceaseless slope on a very windy day. I was sore and my heart was pounding, but I stopped because I had this notion that right here and right now was exactly where I needed to be.

Sometimes I wonder why I put so many hours — so much effort — into something as silly as running 26 miles for fun. Aren’t there better things I could do with my early mornings and late afternoons than chase some dream through the long roads and bare corn fields of spring?

But then those moments happen, where all at once everything makes sense and everything is beautiful. The blisters on my body? Beautiful. The 40-degree weather? Beautiful. The smell of manure at day break? Well, let’s not get carried away. But almost everything is beautiful.

Though these seemingly existential runs are few and far between, they make the months of blood, sweat and tears all worth it. The pain and agony I put my body through day after day is rewarded through a renewed strength in spirit. And I’m counting on that spirit to carry me all the way to Boylston this Monday.

— Arielle Rausin

image

As a runner, you occasionally come across those days when everything just seems to be going your way. The weather is perfect, the birds are chirping, you have ample time before your run to stretch and relax, the food you ate that day is fueling your body perfectly and all the best songs on your workout playlist come on exactly when you need them.
Well, today was not one of those days.
During my 14-miler it was 40 degrees (way too cold!), I got lost, there was a 26 mph headwind and I only got 4 hours of sleep prior.
But the one thing that kept me going, was knowing that this is all for Boston.
Every athlete has their great days and their not-so-great days. But without the the rain, how can you love the sun?
It takes rough, “character building” days like this to remind me how to be thankful for ALL my days, high or low, because I really am so lucky to have the opportunity and resources to train for this amazing race and there’s nothing else that could make me happier.
— Arielle Rausin

As a runner, you occasionally come across those days when everything just seems to be going your way. The weather is perfect, the birds are chirping, you have ample time before your run to stretch and relax, the food you ate that day is fueling your body perfectly and all the best songs on your workout playlist come on exactly when you need them.

Well, today was not one of those days.

During my 14-miler it was 40 degrees (way too cold!), I got lost, there was a 26 mph headwind and I only got 4 hours of sleep prior.

But the one thing that kept me going, was knowing that this is all for Boston.

Every athlete has their great days and their not-so-great days. But without the the rain, how can you love the sun?

It takes rough, “character building” days like this to remind me how to be thankful for ALL my days, high or low, because I really am so lucky to have the opportunity and resources to train for this amazing race and there’s nothing else that could make me happier.

— Arielle Rausin

Why I Run

image

26.2. The very first time I ran that distance was purely to see if I could do it. Now, as I am coming up on my seventh marathon, my confidence has built to a point where I am 99.9 percent sure I can at least make it to the finish line. So, why do I keep pushing?

For me finishing a marathon is not only a testament to physical and mental strength, it’s also a tool I can use to educate people on the importance of adaptive sports.

I was injured in a car accident when I was 10 years old. I had no clue what my new life would be like while sitting in a wheelchair. In seventh grade I was introduced to track and field, and the number of doors it has opened for me since are unfathomable.

Competing in races, everything from 100-meter sprints to marathons, has given me so much. It taught me how to live a healthy lifestyle, how to find joy in the little things and how to push myself to my furthest limits. It’s given me a scholarship to an amazing university, a group of incredible teammates and friends, and the opportunity to travel across the country doing something I love.

Because the sport has given me so much, I feel obligated to do my best to help others with disabilities receive the same opportunities. By traveling around and competing in road races, people become aware of the endless possibilities open to disabled folks. And that awareness turns into education and acceptance.

When I’m traveling with my racing chair in airports, hotels and crowded streets, strangers often approach me and ask what my chair is for or how fast it can go.

When they discover that I use it to cover 26 miles purely with the strength of my upper body, they no longer see me as a girl in a wheelchair. They see me as an athlete who’s not afraid to kick butt and take names!

Every disability is different. But during a race it doesn’t matter what disease you have or how you were injured, all that matters is who has the most guts to push themselves to the finish first.

When able-bodied people see our determination and see our drive, we suddenly become just like every other runner out there on the course. The fact that I have that power and ability to change perspectives and open minds is what keeps me honest and what keeps me going.

People often tell me that I’m an inspiration. But what’s really inspiring to me is that thousands of runners of all kinds can complete 26.2 miles. And that the community is there, along the course, to celebrate each and every one of them.

— Arielle Rausin 

I had a beautiful 15-mile push this morning! This was the first week my team and I were back on the roads and today was sunny and in the mid-thirties! Long runs can sometimes be tedious and boring. But with Boston a little over a month away … the excitement is starting to build!
— Arielle Rausin

I had a beautiful 15-mile push this morning! This was the first week my team and I were back on the roads and today was sunny and in the mid-thirties! Long runs can sometimes be tedious and boring. But with Boston a little over a month away … the excitement is starting to build!

— Arielle Rausin

Finding a way to eat healthy food in college dining halls can definitely be a challenge.
Although I successfully avoided the “freshman 15” last year, the threat still lingers as I see more and more of my friends letting exercise and nutrition fall by the wayside while focusing on academics. But it is possible to balance both! I’m lucky enough to have many friends majoring in dietetics or food science and I’ve found they’re great resources for all of my nutritional inquiries!
Because I’m a vegetarian and an endurance athlete, I often worry about getting an adequate amount of protein. But the meal above plus a glass a skim milk put me right on mark for 29g of protein/meal (the prescribed amount by my team’s nutritionist).
Eating right while training for a marathon can be difficult, but it’s definitely doable and feels great in the process.
— Arielle Rausin

Finding a way to eat healthy food in college dining halls can definitely be a challenge.

Although I successfully avoided the “freshman 15” last year, the threat still lingers as I see more and more of my friends letting exercise and nutrition fall by the wayside while focusing on academics. But it is possible to balance both! I’m lucky enough to have many friends majoring in dietetics or food science and I’ve found they’re great resources for all of my nutritional inquiries!

Because I’m a vegetarian and an endurance athlete, I often worry about getting an adequate amount of protein. But the meal above plus a glass a skim milk put me right on mark for 29g of protein/meal (the prescribed amount by my team’s nutritionist).

Eating right while training for a marathon can be difficult, but it’s definitely doable and feels great in the process.

— Arielle Rausin

Had another snowy night yesterday so I decided to have fun and do a pool workout! The mileage this week was pretty high and my muscles were feeling tight and sore — a half-mile swim was the perfect thing to stretch them out and loosen up a little.

Being from Florida, I was practically raised in the water. A swim, even indoors in chilly Illinois, brings back calming memories of home. The same feeling of peacefulness and serenity that I get while on the beach briefly hits me as I paddle down the lanes.

But soon I will be warm again because this Friday I am flying out to California for the LA marathon! It will be a great race to see where I am with only 49 days left until Boston! Wish me luck!

— Arielle Rausin

Ran a tough 30K this morning (plus warm up and cool down). A year or so ago I couldn’t even fathom running 20 miles in one workout, but today it was actually really peaceful. I had much more fun doing that than the four hours of Econ homework currently calling my name. For personal inspiration today I wore my shirt from the Chicago Marathon; I can’t wait to get one in Boston to add to my collection!
— Arielle Rausin

Ran a tough 30K this morning (plus warm up and cool down). A year or so ago I couldn’t even fathom running 20 miles in one workout, but today it was actually really peaceful. I had much more fun doing that than the four hours of Econ homework currently calling my name. For personal inspiration today I wore my shirt from the Chicago Marathon; I can’t wait to get one in Boston to add to my collection!

— Arielle Rausin

The Race That Started It All

image

I’m taking a quick three-day break from the snow (woohoo!!) to catch one of my all-time favorite races: the Gasparilla 15k in Florida. This was the race where — six years ago — I was first introduced to my current coach and teammates. It’s the first race that really made me fall in love with the sport.

At 14 I was given my first racing wheelchair by an amazing company called the Challenged Athletes Foundation. They presented me the chair at a spaghetti dinner, and the next morning — at 5 a.m. — I got in it for the first time and ran 9.3 miles.

This race means so much to me because it’s what made me realize my passion for long-distance running, and what inspired me to dream big in the future. (AKA: Compete in Boston!)

It was my first big race and there before me were 50+ athletes, all in wheelchairs, who were perfectly independent and moved faster than any human I had ever seen!

Unfortunately, the funding for the wheelchair division was cut two-years ago and this morning — instead of waiting at the starting line with 50 of the best athletes in the world — there were just six of us.

I still had an incredible experience. My time was a personal best of 46:57 and, although I didn’t have many competitors, I was infinitely impressed by the support of other runners.

The course is a simple U-shaped out-and-back route. As I was making my way back to the finish — around miles 6 and 7 — the runners going the opposite direction — around miles 3 and 4 — began cheering for me. These people (hundreds!) — running their own nine miles — took the time and energy out of their race to shout words of encouragement in my direction.

It’s amazing people like the runners in the Gasparilla who make this sport so much fun. It’s amazing people like that who keep me honest, and keep me moving forward.

— Arielle Rausin

Rolling To Save Time

Trying to balance a full schedule of college classes, marathon training and a part-time job can be pretty tricky. Rollers help me fit in the long workouts I need!

Rollers are to wheelchair athletes as treadmills are to runners. I know the word “treadmill” can make serious marathoners shudder with disgust. But rollers allow me to get a 16-miler done in just 80 minutes, without having to worry about getting stuck in the snow. They’re extremely efficient and don’t require me to take hours out of my day prepping for an outdoor run.

The tires my chair use cost around $80 each and in weather like this a flat would be inevitable. Athletes on my team are required to carry a spare and a CO2 cartridge with them so that — no matter how far away the run takes us from campus — we won’t get stranded.

Rollers allow me to set my worries aside; a relief when it comes to balancing training with other aspects of my life!

—Arielle Rausin

image

image

image

Photo Credit: Tori Hughes