The 57 miles (ok 59.8 miles) from Penn State to Bucknell RECAP

4 AM.

My alarm screams, ripping through the darkness and my eyes flutter open immediately. Scrambling quickly, I throw the heavy covers off myself in the dark hotel room and reach to silence my phone before I wake my parents. As I turn off my alarm I stare blankly into the dark room for a moment, trying to comprehend what I’m about to do.

Today is the day I run 57 miles from Penn State to Bucknell to raise money for Lyme disease research and awareness. It’s the day I’ve been training for since my diagnosis, over a year, and the day I prove to myself what my body is actually capable of doing. Surprisingly, I’m no longer nervous. I’m excited.

Shuffling quietly around the hotel room I gather my first outfit for the day. My parents are in the other bed and even though I’m tip-toeing around as if they are still asleep, I know they’re lying there awake, trying to process why my alarm rang at such an ungodly hour. But I can’t sleep any longer, and my legs are ready to hit the road.

Outside it is 40 degrees or so and I decide on a pair of tights, my Pacers race tank, arm sleeves, gloves and an incredibly lightweight jacket. The sun won’t come up until 7:30 AM so I stuff my jacket pocket with two LED lights and a headlamp.

Once dressed I push open the conjoining door to our other hotel room and join Dave and my sisters. We make sure my bag full of extra running clothes, nutrition, and shoes is set for the van, and we pack up the rest of our things for my parents’ car while I eat some toast and peanut butter. We quietly play the song Go the Distance from Disney’s Hercules, and giggle excitedly as we sing along, until my Dad comes in and sternly tells us to keep it down. As I ready my first bottle of Tailwind, Erin and I mouth the words silently to each other, still playing the song anyways, not letting my Dad put a damper on our energy.

When we step outside of the Nittany Lion Inn, I see the slick sheen of a wet street beneath the street lights, and realize it’s raining. It wasn’t forecasted, but because it’s just a drizzle I don’t worry too much. We hop in the van and drive through State College’s campus – not another soul on the streets. As we approach the stadium and the track facility my stomach does a flip flop. It feels surreal the moment is finally here.

We learned the day before the outdoor track was kept locked and we would be unable to get access to the traditional start line I had imagined myself standing at for so many months. But, because ROTC was practicing on the indoor track at 5:30 AM, I would be able to run a lap on the indoor track instead. As we hop out of the van I see the ROTC kids beginning to filter into the track facility, and I hurriedly grab my gels and gloves before rushing over to grab the locked door they’re holding open.

When I walk into the facility a flood of memories take hold. I remember the smell of the rubberized track, the lofty ceilings, and spacious warm up area. I remember the last time I stepped on this track as a freshman in college, sick and unready to run a 5k. I think about how that race felt apart for me, how I barely had energy to finish, and how disappointed I was in myself for failing my team. Not today, I say to myself as I approach the familiar 200m oval. Today, I would run a lap to start my 57 mile journey, on the track I never truly was able to be myself on and show my true potential.

ROTC shows me no particular interest as I step gingerly up onto the red lanes. I look over at my family waiting behind the rail and they smile encouragingly at me. My watch is

ready to go and reads 0:00:00. With a satisfying beep, the seconds start piling up on the watch face as I take my first few steps on the track.

It’s silent. I run past the 5k start and see my younger self standing there, unsure and afraid. I see a girl who doesn’t yet understand who she is and the strength inside her. She’s sad and confused, still struggling with depression and an eating disorder, and doesn’t know beauty and strength is more than a number on the scale or a reflection in the mirror. I blow past that girl on the track, my body strong, mind powerful and heart so full of love and gratitude it hurts. I don’t look back as I continue my lap around the track. I know she’ll be okay.


My family cheers for me as I come back around the bend and finish my lap. I’m smiling now. It’s go time.

Once outside my Dad and Dave join me to run me out of Penn State. The roads are peaceful and dark and even though it’s chilly, I warm up quickly. We chat to pass the time as we run toward Route 45, the road I’ll be running the majority of my 57 miles on. As I try to keep pace in check, I notice the light drizzle is steadily increasing, and rain comes down steady and cold. Earlier in the first few miles we had all shed our jackets, but as the wind blows a sheet of icy rain in my face, I quickly throw my jacket back on in hopes of retaining a bit of heat.

Route 45 brings our first big challenge of the run. We run down the two lane road single file in the shoulder against traffic, but the road is narrow coming into Penn State. Traffic from the surrounding towns begins streaming in and we are faced with a constant line of fast-driving cars, coming dangerously close to the line. Even though we are decked out with headlamps, blinking lights and reflective gear, cars have a hard time seeing us in the rain, swerving out unexpectedly last minute as their headlights illuminate our single file line. Some cars angrily honk and my heart beats wildly in my chest. This was not what I imagined, and I am afraid for my family’s lives.


Our first stopping point with Erin, Caitlin, and my mom is about 6-7 miles in. We can see them parked up ahead on the opposite side of the highway and I know it’s a no go. I’m already on edge because of my father’s frustration and the horrifying traffic, and as we come to a stop across the road from our caravan, we’re all suddenly screaming back and forth at each other with no real conversation happening.

“ENOUGH,” I finally scream. My entire body is shaking and I’m unsure if it’s from fear, frustration or the cold. “I’m running up ahead and I’ll meet you when I meet you.”

“I’m going to help them find a place to park up ahead,” Dave tells me and he expertly dashes across the road during a break in the traffic to talk with my mom.

“Let’s go,” my dad exclaims, “you stay behind me.”

The dark road and constant traffic is daunting. We make mad dashes across tiny bridges with no shoulder and I find myself singing over and over in my head, Jesus take the Wheel. I curse my sisters for getting the song stuck in my head in the first place, but I can’t deny how relevant the song is in the moment. Eventually, I see my mom and sisters in a pull-out up ahead and we re-assess, grab more fuel, and my dad and I decide to continue on together until the sun comes up.

The next few miles are a wash of head lights and rain. My dad runs ahead of me, the steady rhythm of his cadence guiding my own steps forward. I want to talk to him but there is no way he’ll be able to hear me over the traffic. In some ways, the silence is comforting in itself. We know we don’t have to talk to make a connection, running is our connection. Following his footsteps is something I’ve done all my life, and I feel comfortable with his reliable figure ahead of me.

Slowly, the sky lightens at the edges. The menacing dark fades and shadows of farmhouses and barns become clear against the graying sky. The silhouette of mountains surrounds us and my heart lifts as I watch the first ray of light peek through the trees on the horizon. We’re finally visible running along the shoulder and the traffic does not feel as threatening. My dad pulls along side of me for a moment. We look half crazed I’m sure – soaked to the bone from the rain and our brains still trying to comprehend the traffic. We ask each other if we’re okay, and we both lie, replying yes.

We meet up with the van around the half marathon mark and my dad switches off with Erin. Because the roads are still too dangerous to bike, she runs instead, packing her bike jersey full of nutrition and hydration. It’s still drizzling on and off and I change only my socks, deciding to keep on my damp outfit on until the rain is completely finished. Surprisingly, I’m not cold.


The miles pass quickly as Erin and I chat about life, health, future plans and upcoming races. We fall into our old rhythm together and it is as if we’re out for just another training run, not 14 miles in to a 57 mile endeavor.

We are seamless with the undulating rhythm of Route 45 and we follow the ups and downs through winding countryside and one-street towns. It’s much later into the morning now but the world still seems to be waking. As we pass one farm in particular, all the cows in the pasture look up at us as we run by. Slowly, one of the cows trots after us. And then another. And another. I can’t help to pick up the pace as I glance back over my shoulder and see the whole herd chasing after us along the rickety fence. Laughing, we leave them at the end of the field, their curious eyes still staring as we disappear around a bend in the road. An Amish horse and buggy passes us a few moments later, and we wave to each other from the gravel roadside. It’s as if we’ve entered another world.

Being out in the Pennsylvania countryside reminds me of the hundreds of runs I set out on while a student at Bucknell. Runs I took with the team. Runs I took with new friends, Erin, or the runs I set out alone to try and find a little piece of my self. When I ran alone, I sought nature to heal me. Sometimes I ran to fight the demons I often felt lurking inside. Sometimes I ran to soothe heartache, and other times to distract myself from a feeling inside I did not quite understand how to describe. An emptiness I was sure I could fill if only I pushed myself a little harder, a little farther. If I felt a little more pain. I never found the answer then, but had a feeling I would today.

Miles pass. As we approach mile 23, I come to the parking lot of Millheim Small Engine Hardware. It is a small, local store and as I come up to the van I can see my dad up at the store front talking with an Amish man. At this point, I’ve fallen into a routine at my rest stops: check my Tailwind, grab more gels and check my socks. My legs are still feeling chilled so I decide to keep on my tights but opt to finally change out of my damp arm warms, tank and jacket. The rain must finally be done, I say to myself as I rummage through my bag, looking for my Bucknell training tech tee I’ve had since becoming a member of the cross country team. Grabbing the tee and sports bra from my bag I go around to the back of the shop where my mom tells me there is a port-a-potty and begin to change. As I don my fresh tops, I hear the pitter of rain against the plastic roof of the port-a-potty. Screw it, I say to myself as I burst out of the small bathroom and trot back over to the car. I love running in the rain, but I am quickly growing tired of it on this run.

When I get back to the car my mom tells me the owner of the shop wants to talk with me and he’s made a donation to my run. Although I’m eager to get back out onto the road, I know my run is just as much about the journey as it is about the running. I want this day to be about the people I meet and the memories I make with my friends and family as we raise awareness for Lyme disease research. I walk over to the man my dad is chatting with and introduce myself. His name is Henry and I learn his daughter is currently in treatment for lyme. He tells me her story and how no one could diagnose her, and how she probably had lyme for a long, long time once she was finally diagnosed. His story reminds me of how many people are affected by lyme and why I’m out running in the first place. I’m running for those who cannot, I remind myself. I’m 23 miles in, but I feel like I’m starting fresh.


Dave runs a few miles with me and then switches off with my Dad. At this point we’re a few miles past my first marathon and we’re headed for Bald Eagle State Park. It’s here I’ll hit my biggest hills and where I expect my legs to start really hurting. As we near 30 miles, my dad and I run stride for stride, chatting about memorable runs long in our past.

“You’re going to learn a lot about yourself out here,” my dad says pointedly, during a lull in our conversation.

“I know.” Nothing else needs to be said.

A little past 30 miles we begin climbing a hill into Bald Eagle State Park. I can see a larger crowd of people standing on the side of the road up ahead. Our Bucknell alum friends have arrived, and I am excited to have fresh legs to run with and the energy they bring to all they do. There is a lot of hugging as I cross the road to greet them and they ask how I’m feeling. Surprisingly, my legs still feel relatively fresh other than some fatigue growing in my quads. I decide to finally change from my tights into shorts, and change into a new pair of Hokas, a wide width I planned to use as my feet swelled with the mileage. With a fresh pair of socks, I can almost trick myself into feeling brand new.

The guys decide to take turns running with me in groups of two or three. I head into Bald Eagle State Park with Justin and Tim and we talk to pass the miles as we continue to climb up and up. The trees are full of reds, yellows and oranges in Bald Eagle and even though my legs are starting to feel fatigued, I can’t help but feel happy to be running through the fall foliage with friends on a now-beautiful day. When we finally reach the top of an endless hill, around mile 35, Justin lets me know we’re at the top and it’s all downhill from there. Of course, I don’t believe him (he was right).


The miles begin to blur together, but distinct memories stick out to me: randomly bursting into song, singing Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles as we head downhill through Bald Eagle; passing the gravel road where our cross country coach used to take us to run a wretched hill workout each season; leaving the park with Chuck and Mike and realizing I still have at least 18 miles to go.

It is the middle of the day now, and as we leave the shelter of Bald Eagle, I realize how much the road has warmed up in the sun. I assess how I’m feeling. My intake of water and Tailwind has been steady and with the help of my team, I successfully am taking gels every 45 minutes or so. Even though I have not eaten any real food since my toast early in the AM, I have no desire for real food. My legs feel stronger than I expected them to be this late in the game and my spirits are high.


Throughout my training for this day I kept mentally preparing myself to deal with the inevitable wall I envisioned myself not only hitting, but slamming into full force once I went over a 50k. But the wall was no where in sight and in a moment of realization I knew I was never going to hit it. I was much stronger than I ever imagined. Every ounce of my body and soul was ready for this day and I was going to enjoy it.

Somewhere around mile 43 we come upon a gas station. I am running with Justin and Josh at this point, and I insist on going inside to try and go the bathroom. I don’t really need to go, even though I’ve been drinking fluids all day. Part of me feels I have to try because I had not gone since mile 7 of the run. We walk into the gas station and suddenly, everything feels surreal. I’ve been out on the road for so long running it doesn’t seem right for me to be in a public place, in front of other people, trying to function normally. Shuffling over to the bathroom I lock myself inside and look at myself in the mirror for the first time since the hotel room back in Penn State. It’s odd who I see staring back. I’m weary, but determined. My legs ache now, but they’re still strong. The days leading up to my run I had wondered, but what if I can’t finish, and now I only wondered what will we do once I’m finished?

Josh, Justin and I leave the gas station and head back out to Route 45. Although the road is beautiful, I’ve just about had it with the highway and when one of the guys suggest we hop over to the rail trail in a few miles I don’t hesitate to agree. It feels incredibly warm as we trudge along the open road and I can feel my stride shortening as I try to lessen the impact on my legs.

I keep shuffling along the shoulder as I get back into my rhythm after our stop, and step over what looks like a metal straight-edge spatula. Before my brain can even process what Justin is doing, I watch him scramble to pick it up mid step. As I look over my shoulder to see why he is holding it, I watch him turn back and chuck it tomahawk style down the shoulder. In a perfect arch, blade over handle, we watch it collide with a telephone pole, the metal end wedged deep into the wooden beam, sticking out perfectly perpendicular to the road.

“Did you see that?” Justin screams and for a moment we’re all just standing and shouting in excitement on the side of the road as we stare at a metal spatula sticking out of a telephone pole.

It’s then I realize we might be a bit dehydrated.

Mile 47 brings us to the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail. We’re about ten miles out and everyone is getting excited. My college coach is at the trail head and lets me know he plans to start track practice at the outdoor track because it should line up perfectly with my projected finish time. Even though I am so close, it is still hard for me to envision myself finishing yet. I know it is going to happen, but it seems too soon. My sense of time is warped.

The rail trail is relaxing. At this point I am taking small walking breaks more frequently, but it gives me more time to take in the little moments and appreciate all the support from my family and friends. My dad, Caitlin and Erin join me on the trail for one leg and it’s the first time I can remember all working out together since our childhood. Colorful trees and big open farm fields surround us and I begin to recognize the roads we cross over as ones I once ran down during college.


My watch beeps and we hit 57 miles.

“Alright guys, we did it,” I jokingly exclaim pretending to slow to a stop, even though we have a few more miles ahead of us. The 57 miles stares up at me from my watch and it’s hard to imagine all those miles behind me. The morning’s dark treacherous miles seems like an entirely different day and I had been having so much fun with my family and friends over the past few hours, the miles built up effortlessly. Before the run, there was a part of me believing if the run ended up being more than 57 miles I wouldn’t be able to run another step. But here I was continuing on toward Bucknell, planning out what we would do for dinner since I was actually finishing at a normal hour.


About 1.5 miles out, I say goodbye to most of my crew as they speed off to the finish. Our assistant coach, Coach Rob, from Bucknell has run out on the trail to meet me and run me to the track with Erin, Dave and a few other Bucknell guys. Being so close to the end, I feel a surge of energy and I know it will all be over soon, so I try to take in every moment. Every step takes me one closer and I can feel the emotions beginning to build. Soon my feet are carrying me down a familiar route I’ve run countless times before.

We hit Market Street and I gingerly step along the cracked sidewalk. The busy street is lined with Lewisburg’s historic green three-globe lamp posts and it’s a sign we’re finally home. We hang a right onto 7th street and campus looms ahead of us.

Running down 7th street feels natural. Back in college, I ended so many of my runs cruising down this road back to my dorm or the field house. It takes us past Stucco, our cross country house and past 7th Street Cafe, one of my places of work while a student. As we pass by Stucco we all glance over at the pale yellow house where we spent a good deal of our time. It held different memories for all of us I’m sure, but many we also shared.

We hang a right onto Moore Avenue and are greeted by Welcome Home decals hanging from the lamp posts. Campus is just as I always remember it, and I can almost trick myself into thinking I’m still a student and returning to campus after a quick afternoon run. We head down Moore and as we near the outdoor track, the guys race ahead to watch me finish. Coach Rob runs me up to the gates, and leaves me to run through to the track on my own.

My heart is pounding and I can’t stop smiling. This is it. The moment I’ve been envisioning for over a year. The moment where I enter Bucknell’s track and finish in the spot where I finished my collegiate career.

As I run through the front gate, my friends, family, and the track team are all waiting for me. They clap and cheer as I run past and I am overwhelmed by the support. I step onto the blue and orange lanes and am greeted with the all-too familiar smell of polyurethane. It reminds me of past workouts, races and endless loops with my teammates. It reminds me of the place I came from and the hardships I endured to make me the person I am today.

Rounding the final bend I can feel tears welling in my eyes. I am proud of myself. Proud of all I accomplished in the past 10 hours or so, and all it took for me to get to this moment. All my failures, struggles, accomplishments, and dreams led me here to the finish.

Running has always grounded me and steered me to clarity in my life. As I near the finish I think about the doctors who told me I wouldn’t be able to run again after my knee surgery and I should take up another “hobby.” I remember the triumph I felt after I finished my first marathon and qualified for Boston, the pride I had finishing Boston, and the absolute elation I felt after taking on my first 50k while still in treatment for Lyme. I think about all the things people have told me I can’t do and how I went and did them anyways – sometimes in spite, and sometimes to prove to myself I wasn’t the broken individual I often felt like.



Crossing the line, I throw my hands triumphantly into the air. I slow to a stop and hit the final split on my Garmin to end the run. There’s so much hugging and celebration that I could not stop smiling if I tried. The final mileage on my Garmin states 59.8 miles in 9:28:49 (10:50:18 was the total elapsed time from start to finish).

After standing on the track for a bit, it finally dawned on me it was over. I raised $6,350 for Lyme disease research and awareness but the journey to and during November 2nd, was more than I could have ever asked for. The sun is setting as I slowly walk off the track (this is where the sore quads finally caught up with me) and I am so thankful for what my body was able to do and for all the friends and family who helped me along the way. I looked over my shoulder one final time at the finish line of my journey as we walked out toward the waiting car.

Until next time.

Many, many thanks to all who supported me during my training and the day of my event. I couldn’t have done it without my many friends who got me out the door on long run days and kept me company on endless runs. 

And again, thank you so much to my support crew: my parents (moms and dads on both sides of the fam!), Caitlin, Erin, Dave, Chuck, Josh, Chris, Justin, Tim, and Mike!








Meet of Champions Circa 2006



It’s been a hot minute. My 57 mile run (actually 59.8 – but who’s counting?) for Lyme disease awareness is over and it was spectacular! I can’t believe it’s over and I do plan on writing a recap of the day, but it’ll have to wait. Today, I want to post an old piece of mine about Meet of Champions back in 2006. The recent autumn weather has been giving me all the feels about past cross country seasons, and because NJ Meet of Champions is tomorrow, I decided to post an old writing piece on when my team and I won it in 2006.

Tomorrow, the girls Colts Neck XC team lines up in Holmdel Park to go for the win again. I wish I could be there, so this is me being all nostalgic and what not for the days when I was an xc machine.


November 17, 2006

November always meant the end of cross country season. The days were shorter, the air was colder, and by then the trees stood half naked, barely holding on to their brown and dying leaves. November was my favorite month. It meant I was at the peak of my training and I was ready to run fast.

In November of 2006, my team had more than a state championship title on the line. We had Nike Team Nationals. We needed more than just a win the next day. We needed speed. We needed heart and courage, and the ability to put everything on the line without fear.

Silence. None of the eight of us spoke during our shakeout run the day before state championships. The sun was already setting and we moved steadily through the somber air. We ran close, together as one. I could hear the crunch of gravel beneath our feet and when I exhaled my breath frosted up in front of me like a wispy cloud in the sky. It was a beautiful evening and the wind blew the dead leaves across the path in a swirling pattern, dancing together. As we looped the soccer field, the sun was low enough to peek through the thin trees on the other side of the park, causing great rays of light to escape, creating a striped pattern on the field.

Our captains stopped toward the end of the run and the rest of us huddled around them knowingly. Words were not important at this point. Or at least they were not as important as the electric feeling in the air. We were ready. From the moment we lost the bid to Nike Team Nationals the previous year we began our preparations for success in 2006. Practice six times a week. High mileage weeks. Speed work. Hill work. Long runs. Tears. Blood. Courage. Friendship. I looked at my captains and realized this was it. There would not be another Colts Neck high school cross country season for them when they graduated at the end of the year. We knew the only way for us to get to Nationals was for each and every one of us to give our all.

We huddled together only for a few moments, but it seemed like hours. I felt serene, despite the nervous energy pulsing through every vein in my body. I knew I would never forget this moment.

After practice, Erin and I walked from the locker room to my mom’s waiting car. We did not say anything to one another. I looked down and closed my eyes as the car drove away, sputtering exhaust into the dark sky.

I visualized the race the next morning. I saw the park littered with people, teeming with its own heartbeat as spectators gathered by the starting line. I saw myself racing through the woods, going up and down and up and down with the rhythm of the progressing hills. I followed the girls ahead of me like the rolling swells of the ocean. I felt my lungs screaming, my legs growing heavy, and I felt the pain and embraced it. I could smell the crisp, autumn air and hear the undying roar of the crowd urging me onwards to the finish line. I could test the fear of my competitors and sense their aches and pains, so much worse than my own.

I could see the finish. Feel my feet giving out from under me. Feel my entire body screaming as the last of my energy escaped my gasping breaths. I could feel the scratchy, yellow ropes at the finish chute, and could feel my breath come back to me as the ground slowly stopped spinning beneath me and I finally felt anchored in place.

I was ready.

November 18, 2006

I can hear the screams of the crowd through the woods. I am close, within a mile. I have run Holmdel so many times before it now feels like I am greeting an old friend. I know every inch of the course, every tree root, bend in the path, and certainly every hill. I know when I am supposed to feel fresh, dig deep, hurt, and hold on. Now was the holding on part.

Despite my nerves and the extra electricity laced through the air the race started like any other. When the starting gun rang clear I jolted off the line like a coiled spring let loose. I felt lost within the hundreds of girls sprinting across the field as we jostled for position before the course bottle-necked up our first real hill. I settled in. This was my sit and wait time.

No longer did I feel the pressure of our team placing first. I had one goal: focus on the moment. Catch the girl in front of me. Lean into the hill. Don’t. Let. Go.

And now the finish line was close. My father had been standing at the entrance of the path right before we plummeted back into the woods at the 2.5 mile mark, yelling his support. Con Te Partiro, Time to Say Goodbye, he shouts in his always steady voice. We both know I am running the fastest I ever have at Holmdel. If only I can hold on. Earlier, when I emerged out of the Bowl and hit the two mile mark my coach yelled out one of my fastest miles at the park, even with the monstrous uphill.

My father and the rest of the crowd disappear as the path curves into the woods. I have no idea where my other teammates are but based off the crowd excitement, I know we are doing well. A few other girls surround me as we race down hill after hill, making our much deserved descent to the finish line. I can hear the booming cheers from the finish, beckoning me forward. My body is screaming and I swear my lungs are going to burst, but I push it more anyways.

Without a win this will be our last cross country race of the season and then it would be onward to the endless loops of the indoor track. I wanted more xc and I wanted to win and go to nationals more than ever. I push up the final hill, short but steep, and pass two girls as we hit the crest. I open up my stride at the top just like my coach taught me and I am confident I can beat them out on the homestretch as they fall quickly behind me.

When I burst out of the woods the atmosphere is like none I have ever experienced. The homestretch is completely lined with spectators and they jump up and down as they cheer in a wild sea of colors. The roar is deafening and their screams fill me with adrenaline once more. Some individuals are standing on their cars and RVs parked on the far side of the field and they frantically wave signs in the air as they try and balance. I begin to sprint and the crowd catches on, screaming so loud I am afraid the girls I passed on the final hill are catching me again. But I dare not look back. I push harder and I can hear my coach screaming, GO GO GO, and I reach for more inside but there is nothing left to give. My legs are numb and my breathing is almost hyperventilating, but I am upon the finish line. I can see my two teammates already finished and I hear them screaming my name, giving me the final push to lean forward across the line.

An official steadies me by the arms and pulls me gently, almost nicely, from the finish line where girls are continuously coming in. With a pat on the back she pushes me forward into the finish chute and I grab the yellow ropes to steady myself as I stumble forward with the other girls. I have finished 35th out of 181 girls. As I gasp for breath I catch eyes with my finished teammates and before I know it I am in their arms as we hug and wait. Within minutes the rest of our team is finished and my coach has already calculated the score on his clipboard. We have won the Meet of Champions by 66 points. My parents hug me and then hug Erin. I look around, at my teammates, my coaches, and I see nothing but smiles and laughter.

A little while later we are standing atop a podium accepting our first place medals and trophy. My smile has not left my face since finishing and I happily look down at my parents and friends as they cheer and clap ecstatically for us. Cameras flash. And in that moment we are not only standing atop the podium but it feels as if we are atop the world. Invincible. Completely untouchable.

Good luck to CNXC tomorrow! It was fun for me to look back on this memory. If you’re feeling even more nostalgic, you can re-read my post about NTN HERE.

Stay tuned for my Penn State to Bucknell Run Recap in the next week or so!


© Allison Donaghy 2017 All Rights Reserved


Visiting the Past.

Slowly, the small room comes into focus. I rub my eyes and roll over on the small cot of a bed, which I’ve been tossing and turning on all night.  My husband lays next to me, crammed up against the wall and I shake my head wondering how we used to share a twin bed comfortably like this back in college. In my rush to book housing for Bucknell Reunion, I forgot to book a double room for myself and Dave, and now we were paying the price. My phone vibrates loudly against the wooden desk and the room is so small I’m able to reach my arm across the floor and grab my phone while staying sprawled in bed. There’s a slight ache in my head and my throat feels incredibly dry.  It’s an odd familiarity, this situation – the feeling as if I have done this same act plenty of times before. That’s when I realize it – I’m hungover.

The text messages are from Erin.  Are we riding or what? I’ve been on the trainer since 6 AM. 

The last thing I trust myself doing is navigating my little road bike on the rainy roads outside but I enthusiastically reply yes! anyways. After all, we’re at Bucknell. And riding the old country roads we used to race down five years ago is so enticing I can’t pass the opportunity up. It takes about 25 minutes for me to pull myself together. Before I know it, Erin and I are standing in the narrow hallway outside my dorm room with our bikes, getting ready to head out for our ride. The hall even smells like my time at college.

“How’d you sleep?” I ask.

“Like shit,” Erin replies, “If we ever come back for Reunion weekend again, we are NOT staying in the dorms.”

I nod my head in agreement and try to get myself to focus on anything other than my headache. Because of lyme treatment, it’s been close to eight months since I’ve come anywhere near to being tipsy, let alone drunk.

“I’m not feeling the greatest so I don’t know how this ride is going to go,” I admit to Erin, “I’m definitely hungover. Or still drunk. I don’t know.”

“Ah. Bucknell,” is all Erin says in response, a smile on her face as she begins wheeling her bike toward the door.  It’s a simple reply, but it’s perfect. There are no other words and it is the perfect explanation.

It’s a chilly, wet morning but the rain has stopped. I shiver for the first ten minutes of the ride until we cross the Susquehanna river and begin hauling hard down the road. Everything clicks. I feel like I have been thrown back into time as we pass farm after farm on our left and catch glimpses of the susquehanna through the heavy tree-line on the right. Water from Erin’s back wheel sprays up into my face and I try not to panic about riding on wet roads when I can’t even remember the last time I took my bike out at home on a dry road, NOT hungover. But as we turn off the main road and disappear along the small country roads, I find myself unable to stop smiling. I feel at home. Free and happy.


We begin climbing. Erin easily leaves me behind on the hill as I huff and puff, switching through my gears and hopping out of the saddle – trying anything to get myself to the top.   I’m reminded how badly out of cycling shape I am, especially compared to my days at Bucknell when I used to be the one to leave Erin behind. But when I get to the top, Erin and I both stop and look out quietly at the valley before us. Fog sweeps through the farmland and the rolling hills of the Appalachian range surround us. My heart swells. This is where I fell in love with cycling as a student. And I find it happening all over again.


Going back to Bucknell was a lot like going back in time. While there are definitely changes to campus, most of it looks the same to when I was a student, and upon arrival, Erin and I fell into a similar routine as one we would have had as seniors. After checking in, we threw our belongings into our dorm rooms and immediately headed out for a run. We ran down the quiet roads we used to run every day at school, whether for xc practice or for our own solace. I had forgotten about how peaceful the roads are, how hilly they are, and how satisfying it felt to leave the busy city-life behind. Ten miles later, when Erin and I were sated from re-exploring our old stomping grounds, we showered, got dressed up and headed out for a drink. Just like we would have five years ago.

I have so many amazing memories from my time at Bucknell. My life changed there and what I learned helped shape the person I am today. I met my husband. I met some of the best friends I have in my life today, and I learned how to have a voice for myself. But most importantly, I learned how to love myself. When I first got to Bucknell in August 2008, I was not a healthy person and I wasn’t living life. But after being at school for a few months, I wanted to make a change. Bucknell and some of the people I met helped me see how beautiful life is, and helped me want to be a part of it again. And for that, I am forever grateful.

And while I have these great memories from Bucknell and had a wonderful transformation, not everything was perfect. So, as Erin and I stood on the Sojka Lawn at our welcome back reception, we were acutely aware of how alone we were. Many familiar faces floated past as we huddled next together sipping our drinks, but no one from all our small network was present. Most of Erin’s friends were in the geology department and couldn’t make it back. Most of my friends were on the cross country team or Dave’s year, and also couldn’t make it back. Fraternity and sorority life at Bucknell is enormous, and we watched as these brothers and sisters congregated together in the same exact groups I used to see mill around campus. Erin and I never joined a sorority. For a moment, I realized what it felt like to be on the outside again.

It wasn’t until the next day after Erin and I finished our fateful bike ride did we catch up with some friends. Erin and I walked around campus to see the new buildings and I revisited the track I plan to finish my 57 mile run on in November. There was a lot of, “remember this…” and “remember that…” as familiar sights evoked vibrant and often funny memories at school. There were also a lot of, “I miss this.”


Toward the end of my senior year, I couldn’t wait to graduate and get into the “real world.” I wanted to leave because after Dave graduated, I felt isolated from the cross country and track team, and struggled to make any other friends. Standing on campus during reunion weekend, I realized I had no idea how good we had it, and how I should have cherished every second there.

Dave, Erin and I watched the sunset on the quad that evening, sipping wine as the blue sky melted into hues of yellow and pink along the mountain range. I didn’t want to leave the next day. I felt safe. Happy. How had it been five years already? We spent the rest of the night dancing and drinking like we were students again.

The next day Erin and I woke up early, loaded the bikes onto the back of my car, and headed back to DC. As we drove through campus one final time, I felt sad to be leaving. There were so many times as a student I hopped into my car and blew through campus, leaving it behind like it was nothing. But only now that I’ve graduated and been in this real world for five years, do I realize how naive I was during these times. Waiting to turn onto Route 15, I took a final glance at Rooke Chapel in the rearview mirror. It’d be months before I heard those bells ring again. But it was okay, because I at least knew I’d be back.

All in all, I’m happy I went back for reunion weekend. I’ve been in a funk lately, but being back at Bucknell helped me work through a lot of questions floating around my mind lately. I’m gaining motivation for my run again and inspiration for my writing. It’s baby steps. Sometimes, it’s nice to revisit the past so you can remember what made you the way you are today, and help you realize the only way to stay strong is to keep fighting.








Change is confusing.

There’s a sense of loss throbbing deep within me.  It’s an indescribable darkness pulsing, growing.  The problem is not I feel sadness.  The problem is I don’t feel anything at all.  I am empty.

Lately, I’ve been losing myself in music.  Music is powerful.  It has the power to transform my mind and the power to transport me to past moments good and bad.  One song takes me back to hot summer nights in high school, speeding home as I race curfew, windows down to blow my hair up into a wild dance around me.  Another reminds me of a slow, cold winter day at work, chatting idly with a friend as we watch the sun sparkling off the melting snow on the sidewalk.  And another takes me to sitting in my car alone in the driveway, watching the windows fog up around me as condensation runs down the glass like falling tears.  The memories tug me this way and that, but the music fills me.  It fills the empty voids and I am sated.

Maybe the emptiness is because I don’t believe in myself.  It’s hard to believe I can be a strong runner again when I literally had to pull myself out of bed yesterday because my entire body ached like never before.  I feel old.  It’s days like this I wish most for some sort of answer as to why my body has turned on me.

I’ve always wanted to inspire.  To catch people before they fall down the same paths I have found myself stumbling along.  Lifting people up makes me happier than running, biking, hiking, or writing combined.  Helping someone feel whole again and seeing a smile on their face makes me feel not so broken.

Sometimes I forget it’s okay to feel.

We are all storytellers, and I often overlook this.  It’s astonishing to me when people have opened up so willingly with me, telling me their fascinating stories and I wish I could be just like them.  But I am ashamed of my story.  I am not yet brave enough.  Growing up I did not learn how to be vulnerable or deal with emotions.  I used running to deal with every problem I encountered.

So, I’ll keep on carrying on.  The emptiness will pass whether I find my answers or not, I’m sure of it.  I’m writing again and cautiously running, trying to [frantically] prepare for my August Ragnar Relay.

The emptiness may be there and I acknowledge it.  But if it thinks it’s going to win it’s sadly mistaken.


© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved