Fierce Flyer - Cory on the Beauty of the Dogwoods
BY: CORY BENSON
I returned from a conference in Orlando last night, to find the daffodil bulbs just beginning to push their way up through our front flower beds. Spring comes late in New England, and this can be our first sign that it has arrived. It will be 6 weeks before my favorite springtime sight, the dogwoods, begin to show. They’re probably what you’d consider a “late bloomer”, which is why I love them. But, more about that later.
This is my sixth year of training for the Boston Marathon (aka, “Boston”) during the cold and dark Northeast winter. In the early years, this was fraught with anxiety, some over-training, and a nervous 2 – 3 week taper period. This year I fully realized that those energy-sapping emotions had disappeared. After some thought, I’ve narrowed it down to a few reasons:
- The culminating impact of 6 years of consistent mid – high mileage training. My coach (the wonderful Alicia Shay Vargo), provides a schedule with a steady mix of quality (i.e. speed) workouts, moderate easy runs, cross training (one day a week on my frenemy, the stationary bike), and a weekly long run. Moving from a half-marathon training block to a marathon training block doesn’t require a steep change to my schedule, which I believe has kept me from injury over the past 3 years. And of course, she builds in plenty of recovery after races.
- Solid strength-training. I’m not a gym-rat, but twice a week I work on building/maintaining strength from top to bottom. I’m even more committed to completing a series of exercises I learned from my PT (post sacral stress fracture in 2015) to keep my hips and glutes strong and mobile. Clamshells, weighted leg lifts, and banded walks may be a bit boring, but they can keep you from all kinds of “niggles” that can turn into big problems
- Quick dynamic stretches, and longer static ones pre/post run. The research is up in the air on this, but I’ve built these short intervals into my routine, and they do make me feel better.
I’ll be 62 when I toe the line this year. That means that Title IX was passed when I was halfway through high school. I would love to tell you that it opened up a world of opportunity for me, but that would be a lie. I was too busy auditioning for the school play or musical, preparing for a singing competition, or perfecting a dance routine to even take note of athletics. But I learned a lot about teamwork through my theatre days, and grew to love the sense of joy and confidence a team could provide. I thought those days were behind me until I discovered the Volee. Normally a solo runner, due to my work travel, as well as my small, semi-rural town, I found so much joy in joining my Connecticut “sisters” for runs, races, or beers. Even though most of them are a good 30-40 years younger than I am, they have opened their wings and made me one of their own.
Which brings me back to those dogwoods. They are at their most beautiful late in the season, when you glimpse them nearly hidden in a dark grove of trees. I’ve learned to appreciate my “late bloomer” talent, as well as the “otherness” of being an older female marathoner. And I’ve learned that steady growth, as well as the shelter of others around you, can allow you to bloom anew, year after year.