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Running Is My Boyfriend: Countdown to the New York City Marathon

It's official. I've become one ofpeople. A "real runner." I am obsessed with logging my miles. I feel strongest when I'm climbing big hills. And I am seriously addicted to chocolate milk.
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45 days until the New York City Marathon.

And it's official. I've become one of those people.

A "real runner."

I wake up at the crack of dawn to lace up my sneakers. I love discovering new running routes. I am obsessed with logging my miles. I feel strongest when I'm climbing big hills. And I am seriously addicted to chocolate milk. (It's the perfect post-run recovery drink.) Running, I am totally into you and I'm ready to take our relationship to the next level.

In this last week or two of training for the New York City Marathon (which is in like six weeks!), I feel like something changed. And I think I'm finally ready to call myself a "real runner."

"But, Em," you might be thinking, "we've been reading this blog about you running 14 miles down the shore and 15 miles through the streets of New York. Those are pretty intense long runs. How are you not a 'real runner?'"

Good question. For me, it's a title that, for some reason or another, I've just never felt comfortable with. Running wasn't what defined me. I mean, I liked doing it, but there were plenty of people out there (like my Ironman cousin Morgan) who were way better at it and much more dedicated to it than I was. Now, though, I feel like it's becoming one of the most important things in my life.

"I often hear someone say I'm not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner." -- Bart Yasso

I've heard this quote many times before, but before starting this journey to the marathon this summer, the name Bart Yasso meant absolutely nothing to me. Now, it means plenty. But I'll save that for a future blog post. Let's just say, I trust that he knows what he's talking about and I finally believe him.

I only started racing a couple of years ago -- mostly 5Ks -- and I'm certainly not the fastest one out there. Taking home the medals, prize money, or in the case of one Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, the free turkeys, will probably never happen for me. But just because I'm a middle-of-the-packer, as Yasso explains, doesn't mean I don't deserve the title of "runner." But now I do. In addition to making it official by finally becoming a member of New York Road Runners, I had a heavy week of training to prove my newly felt "real runner" status.

There was last weekend's epic 14-mile training run over the George Washington Bridge and through the (very hilly) Palisades Interstate Park, which I rocked with some new Team In Training friends and later picked up the pace with my speedy TNT mentor Noa.

I also did my first, and certainly not last, Yasso 800s workout (yes, that same Yasso, but more on him later, I promise) on the track. With this workout, Yasso says you can predict your marathon finishing time based on running 800 meters. For example, by running consistent 800s in four minutes and 20 seconds, he says I'm in shape to run a marathon in four hours and 20 minutes -- which, thank goodness, is enough to beat Oprah Winfrey (4:29:15), but not quite enough to beat Sarah Palin (3:59:10). But, c'mon, her marathon was called Humpy's Marathon anyway. Sounds made up to me.

A few days later, I got up at 4 am (I wish I were kidding) for a Thursday morning 18-mile "three-bridge run" with fellow AOL running buddy Caitlin DiLena. With a take-off time of 5:30am at 30th and Park, the two of us ran in the dark down the West Side Highway before cutting over to Chambers Street, watched the sunrise as we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and looped back over the Manhattan Bridge, weaved in an out of Lower East Siders as the rest of the world began to wake up around mile eight, ventured back to Brooklyn by way of the Williamsburg Bridge this time (and back), ran north along the East River for a few miles before sliding over to 1st Avenue, dodged the suits heading to work as we headed up to 56th Street, turned around and finished in Murray Hill. And then we went to work.

And on this past weekend's trip to Chicago to visit my best friend Gillian, who just moved there, I factored in some running. (Even after a gigantic margarita the night before.) While Gill did the necessary research on Chicago's brunch scene, I ran along the stunning Lake Michigan (shout out to all the Chicago Team In Training folks I saw out on the trail!) with a grin on my face as I marveled at its beauty. It's amazing how I now think the best way to explore a new place is by running it. As we walked through Grant Park later in the day, up Columbus Drive (the finish line of The Chicago Marathon), I made a mental promise to myself that I'd run that someday too.

But the thing that made this self-proclaimed running nerd's heart beat even faster was the afternoon I spent last week with a bunch of Runner's World editors and running experts.

Sorry, let me back up and explain that one.

Soon after my decision to run the marathon, I decided I needed to subscribe to the "Runner's Bible" and I've devoured every issue of Runner's World that has shown up in my mailbox. So you can imagine the jaw drop a few weeks ago, when I received an email from Runner's World, asking if I was "THE Emily Faherty" who was blogging on Huffington Post about training for the New York City Marathon. Well, anyone who knows me, knows that that "THE" went straight to my head. But I, of course, responded immediately to confirm that I was "THE Emily Faherty" they were looking for and was then invited to an event for members of the media who run.

When I showed up at "The Runner's World Experience" last Wednesday, I was overwhelmed. There's editor-in-chief David Willey (whose book, Going Long, I had just been reading on the train), editor and ultra-marathoner Tish Hamilton, 1968 Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot and, yes, the "Mayor of Running" himself, Bart Yasso, among many other cool running experts, ready to mix and mingle with... me?

So I spent the afternoon assuming the role of a "real runner" -- talking with them about my decision to do the marathon, about working out with TNT, about fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, about pre-long run meal ideas with nutrition editor Joanna Golub, about sneakers with shoe guru Warren Greene and about what keeps me motivated. I joked around with a Boston Marathon champion before we both tried out the super neat AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill they had on hand.

Joking around with a winner of the Boston Marathon? Who did I think I was?

But then I realized, this event was made for someone exactly like me -- a beginner with an intense curiosity to learn more about this amazing sport that is so much more than a physical exercise. These experts understood the addiction. These crazy runners' eyes lit up when they talked about the thrill I'm going to feel racing New York. These fellow freaks just nodded knowingly as I told them about my route for the 18-miler. These were my people. This is who I am becoming:

Apparently, I don't drive or walk over bridges anymore. Now, I run over them.

With the exception of The Hunger Games series (so good!), I haven't read a non-running book in months. My favorite so far has been Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

I got an email from a good friend's mom last week asking me to give her a beginner's training plan for a half-marathon. Huh? Me?

I talk to strangers on planes to Chicago about my marathon training. They, in turn, tell me where I can carb up in Chicago.

On a recent Sunday night run, a group of guys in football jerseys shouted at me, "C'mon, it's Sunday, go watch some football. You're making us feel bad! What are you training for, the Olympics?"

I laughed. "No!" I shouted back. "The marathon."

To which they only responded, "'Atta girl."

In my free time (not that I have any of that, of course), I'm becoming a big fan of running blogs, especially Sweat Once A Day, by a fellow 20-something runner named Emily.

I'm dying to go shopping for fall clothes and new boots. But instead, I'm dropping dough on new running sneakers, my favorite Under Armour running shorts in every color I can find and a pretty awesome (read: pretty expensive) Garmin watch.

When catching up with friends, I've stopped talking about our usual topic -- boys and whatever flavor-of-the-weeks I seem to be juggling at that time. Now, I talk about running.

Over one of our delicious Chicago brunches this weekend, Gillian and I were talking about the marathon and I told her it's the number one thing on my mind right now. "Running is my boyfriend," I said. She just laughed and shook her head.

"When you signed up for this, I obviously thought you were crazy," she said. "But there was not a doubt in my mind that you could and would do this... and that you would become crazy about it."

And I have. And I'm totally addicted. So in closing, here's my love letter to you, Running:

Dear Running,

Whether it's at dawn or at dusk, I look forward to our dates (for the most part)... especially when you take me to places I've never seen before. You're the first thing I think about it in the morning and the last thing I think about at night. And I love that you love that I love carbs. I hope you're ready to make this big commitment, too. (Should we make it Facebook official?) I have a feeling we're in this for the long haul.


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