That time I ran 40 laps in front of a hotel and amassed a small following of local runners.

On Monday, December 16th–a mere three days after my unplanned 21-mile Tour-de-Boston–I was met with the opposite challenge: I was confined to a single quarter-mile stretch of pavement a few blocks from my apartment. Apparently, following Friday’s fiasco, the fates didn’t want me playing far from home.

This time, ironically, I was uber-prepared. Metro card: check. House key: check. Cell phone: check. Debit card: check. Extra warm gear: check. Fool me twice, Boston, shame on me.

Over the weekend, we had received a few inches of snow. It was quite lovely for the first eighteen or so hours…and then it insidiously turned to ice. Black ice. I slipped and skidded out of my apartment on Monday morning, hoping to get a few miles in before work. I instantly regretted leaving my Yaktrax in Connecticut.

Determined to make the best of the situation, I waddled around the relatively quiet city streets that surround my apartment building and abut the river, desperately seeking out areas devoid of that characteristic sheen that signals slippery danger. The boardwalk leading out to the main river had been transformed into a slip-n-slide overnight: completely covered by a thin sheet of ice, it was devoid of all foot traffic.

So, quite naturally, I decided to be the first to explore.

I ambled along the boardwalk, much like I imagine a penguin would, until I got to the end. I had some close calls–this is the kind of ice that can rip a hole in the crotch of your pants in an instant. I decided to ignore the severity of my underfoot environment and charged forward. Anxious to scope out the situation with the bike path along the river, I bounded out into the street and made a beeline for the water’s edge.

Everything was covered in ice. Everything. The bike path had been poorly and pathetically plowed; salt was saved for the streets. Even the snow itself was covered in a thick crust of impenetrable ice. I was doomed.

Suddenly, as if to test my reserve, a smiling, rosy-cheeked, athletic-looking young woman bounded my way across the snow. She looked magical, as if running on air. I almost immediately looked down at her feet. Yaktrax. Son of a—

I stopped in my tracks to gather myself and figure out a game plan. I had carved out about 90 minutes to get a run in; at this point I didn’t have time to waste going back to my home, changing, and heading to the local gym for a cycling session. Forget the pool–it was sub-30 this morning and the mere thought of icicle hair was enough to shun the thought from my mind indefinitely.

I looked ahead, and was un-pleasantly surprised to find a decently long, boring stretch of quiet, undisturbed pavement, perfectly plowed and salted, stretching out ahead of me. The road is one of those underutilized accessory streets that loops off the main parkway to accommodate a small handful of immediate riverside businesses, including the locally famous Royal Sonesta Hotel. Cars rarely use it. It’s a little over a quarter-mile long.

Sigh. I guess this is it.

I took off at an easy pace, running from one end of the stretch to the next. I checked my GPS: 0.23 miles. Just about the same distance as one lap around a track. I can do this. You can do this, Carrie.

I looped back around and ran back. 0.46 miles.

Only 40 more laps to go.

Suddenly, I was thrust back into the throes of my often-suppressed high school memories of indoor track and field: running countless laps on the snow-covered track in cotton t-shirts and Umbro shorts; doing striders on a 1/4-mile stretch of blacktop behind the high school; ditching runs for snowball fights with the boys’ team at the local golf course. The main difference was that I was maxing out at about 5 miles back then. Today, I had twice the distance of drudgery.

I turned autopilot on full-force and ticked off the laps. As I went, I noticed several other joggers make the same moves I had at the beginning of my run: bounding out to the riverbank, only to appear dismayed at the sight of the bike path. A few looked over toward me, running in parallel with the river on this deserted stretch of road. Before I knew it, there were three or four of us circling around the only hospitable stretch of pavement in East Cambridge. I nodded to the other runners as we passed one another. I got some smiles, some waves, a few comments (“GREAT CONDITIONS, EH??”). There we were, running in tandem–four of us….six of us….eight of us. I was amazed at what had amassed. Suddenly, a small but sizable cohort of Cantabrigians had all but staked their claim on this small stretch of land.

I am not exactly sure how many laps I ran today, but it was somewhere between 40-42, as I finished my run at about 10 1/4 miles. For the most monotonous run I have ever done in my twelve years as a runner, it actually ended up being far from monotonous. The last eight miles flew by.

As we plodded along,  the nods and smiles became routine. Eventually, a few high-fives emerged. We were a bunch of lone wolves who had found our pack. We were runners. Crazy, addicted, nothing-will-get-in-my-way runners. No excuses runners. Weatherproof runners. Dedicated runners. What began as an icy, unpleasant, bore of a solo run suddenly became an inspiring lesson in making the best of any situation, and the power of camaraderie.

Here’s to no excuses, to always seeking out adventure, and to inspiring others–and being inspired–along the way.

Picture 1

That thick red line represents somewhere around 40 back-and-forths.




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