Marathon Training Versus The Hurricane

09/03/2011 11:27 am ET | Updated Nov 03, 2011

By Hailey Eber for

It’s always something. The cliché rings true with marathon training. If there’s not a twisted ankle or a shin splint or a case of the flu or a bad hangover… it’s a friggin’, well tropical storm.

Last Friday, as Hurricane Irene made her way up the coast, I hit the gym early to get in five miles on the treadmill. The miles were easy, but watching Ali Velshi fuss and fumble with the Magic Wall while espousing hurricane hysteria was hard. Surely, other things were happening elsewhere in the world -- Libya, perhaps? -- and the hurricane threat was more imminent to North Carolina, but CNN was cutting between reporters awkwardly standing on placid New York beaches and downtown corners, bracing for the big one, while talking heads in the studio ranted about how New Yorkers presented a unique challenge in emergency preparedness because they are stubborn and jaded and wear too much black. Somewhere, Mayor Bloomberg was speaking flawed Spanish in monotone.

After 50 straight minutes of CNN, my body was pulsing with adrenaline and cable-news-manufactured fear. Sure, I needed to shower and go to work, but I also needed to take out a wad of apocalypse cash from the bank and go buy bottled water, batteries, canned goods and a hand-crank radio before the shelves were raided. And, then, I must admit, there was a fear that has little do with Evian and evacuation zones and noble concern for human suffering, death, and destruction: I wondered how I would get my long run in over the weekend.

On Saturday morning, an eerie stillness pervaded. The skies were fairly clear. The dogs frolicked in the park, perhaps more anxiously than usual. So this is what they mean by the calm before the storm, I thought, wondering when the sky would break open and Tom Cruise and/or Dakota Fanning would appear.

That morning calm would have been a lovely time to head out for a run -- indeed many appeared to be -- but of course, I didn’t. There was a dog to walk, CSA vegetables to be picked up, a weekend breakfast to linger over…the usual assortment of things that I use to couch my dread before a long run and push the laps around the park further into the day. Sixteen miles would be the furthest I had run yet, and my previous 14-miler had been pretty miserable. But today, today would be different, I told myself.

For starters, today, it would be pouring rain instead of a hot, sweaty early August afternoon. Today, I would be wearing a different pair of running shoes. Today, instead of my typical iTunes running mix -- an embarrassing mish-mash of girl-power tinged indie rock, Cyndi Lauper and that new thing from Jay-Z and Kanye -- there would be a book on tape.

In the past, I’ve attempted to run while listening to This American Life with fairly dismal results, but I thought it might be time to try again. Also, I had a backlog of bestselling books that I never intended to actually read but wanted to have read merely to be able to make snarky comments about the film adaptations. At the top of that list: The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo.

For $17.95, iTunes sells an abridged version that runs nearly seven and a half hours, but for another nine bucks, Stieg Larsson’s masterpiece can be had in full, running 16 hours and 21 minutes. I went with the latter. I still have two months of training ahead of me.

Mikael Blomkvist’s story ringing through my ears, I finally hit the road in the midst of a light afternoon rain. A mile in, the rain switched from a light drizzle to what I suppose would be referred to as “coming down in sheets” and “maybe there is a hurricane coming and you shouldn’t be embarking on a multi-hour exercise mission.” The fiancé tried to get my attention and muttered something about lightning as we reached the park and prepared to go our separate ways. I shooed him away without removing my headphones. It was time to do battle. I wanted to be alone with the miles and the man whispering sweet nothings ending in “staad” in my ear.

The laps and the miles smeared together. The rain came down hard and then retreated and then came again. My tank soaked through, I pretended it was a wetsuit and I was actually a scuba diver. A limited number of runners were out in the park, and I imagined a wet camaraderie amongst us. We weren’t weekend joggers out for a mere loop; we were soaking wet lappers getting our miles in in the face of a hurricane and the threat that someone from the parks department could close the party down at any moment. I imagined Bloomberg already had people on the way. I imagined this wasn’t just the usual “woman vs. self (and her flat feet and desire to spend the weekend watching movies in the rain)” story that is my typical long run but rather a dramatic tale of “woman vs. nature.” Of course, as the rain abated on my final mile, and when the storm barely inflicted any damage in my area (sadly, other parts of the country weren’t so lucky), I knew only the former was true.

Training Week 7

Miles logged: 28.7 miles

Longest run: 16.1 miles

New equipment purchased: The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo audio book, $26.95

Long run fuel: Dried apricots, a couple Sports Beans

Post run recovery food: A PB&J smoothie, which didn’t really have jelly in it, just plain frozen raspberries… but my vision was for it to sort of taste like childhood nostalgia

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