With her in Maryland and me in Oregon, Courtenay and I rarely get to run together. The last time my bestie and I trotted side-by-side was the first few miles of the Philadelphia Half Marathon. Half a year later, and here we are in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, for a gal-pal getaway. Far from 13.1-mile shape, I have to ask to rein in pace and distance due to my healing-but-not-100% foot. Ever-obliging, Court doesn’t mind. “As long as we’re together, that’s all I care about.” My thoughts exactly.
The terrain couldn’t be kinder to my plantar fasciitis-ridden paw: The seaside road is tabletop flat. Court, ever-cute in her Oiselle tank and Moving Comfort shorts, and I set out across a causeway in search of Katherine Hepburn’s former beachfront home. It’s not yet 9 a.m., yet the sun beats down hot on our shoulders. We both immediately comment on the humidity (later we learn it’s 88%). Our conversation quickly shifts to her 6-year-old son’s debut swim meet the day before—he got tapped for the invitational meet after a mere three practices. A far cry from Courtenay and I being the sole students cut from our high school girls’ lacrosse team.
My foot feels pretty dang good, but my lungs are working hard, sucking in muggy air. We’re both Garmin-free, yet I know we are barely running 10-minute miles. Still, my quads, lungs, and head feel like I’m pushing my race-pace. My heart pounds hard beneath the sports bra I had to borrow from Court (a true friend!). I’d said we’d turn around after 15 minutes, but our quest to find the Hepburn estate—and stunning views across sun-drenched salt marshes--keep us going a few more minutes. By the time we spin it at about 18 minutes, my body feels as challenged as it does at about mile 11 of a half-marathon. Goodness, have I really lost so much fitness in six weeks away from the road?
Retracing our steps, our sweat flows much faster than our conversation. I point out a red-winged blackbird flitting across the cattails, and Court barely murmurs in reply. A billion years ago (okay, in the mid-1990s), we were running near my old house in Wellesley, Mass., and Court paid me what I took to be a supreme compliment: “I love running with you, Sarah, because you can talk the whole way.” Ack: Two decades later, I’m not sure I can clear that bar.
Rather than admit the exertion (and humidity) is kicking my butt, I recount an anecdote from the final miles of the Ogden Half Marathon, after Dimity had caught up to me. I tell Court that, in Utah, I knew Dimity had planned to run the final mile of the race the fastest, but that I was already running full tilt. I say it would have taken Dimity and me too much breath to admit to each other that we had no more to give, that maintaining was the most we could do. So Dimity and I had just occasionally croaked out, “This is the best I got,” or “Going as fast as I can.” Or my it-seemed-inspired-at-the-time, “I’m already in fifth gear.”
I wrap up my Ogden tale as Courtenay and I hit the midpoint of the causeway; we can just spy our stopping point. Deep breath in, and I muster up my last bit of chatter, saying, “Moral of my story: I’m dying over here.”
At the hotel driveway, I stop my Timex at 35:38, depleted beyond belief. For now, I’m all talk of half-marathons, no action.