Growing up in an Irish Catholic family in a suburb of Boston, Sunday was typically a very low-key and predictable day for us.
Of course there was the morning Mass. We had several time options to choose from beginning as early as 6:00 a.m. and going until 12:45 p.m. The 8:30 was popular for it's lead-in to the mid-morning brunch; and the 10:45 was the "folk Mass" with guitars and singing and child care in the sound-proof room. As we got older, we took advantage of the Saturday evening Mass, leaving Sunday morning for much needed adolescent sleep.
My family had a tradition of sharing the 'big meal' at mid-day on Sundays. Usually between 1:00 and 3:00 we would sit down to a roasted dinner of some sort, with all the fixings. This would take an hour or so, and was followed by reading more of the Sunday paper, watching the Red Sox or Patriots on television, doing homework or playing outside. Supper was something like cereal, PB&J or leftovers. Lest we forget, Disney came on at 7:00.
It always seemed to me that Sunday was a quieter day than the others. In a state like Massachusetts with its "Blue Laws" not all the stores were open or their hours were abbreviated, and families generally seemed to stay close to home. It might be a day for visiting relatives or catching up on things at home, but definitely not a "work" day.
When I was living on my own, I continued to consider Sunday a precious rest day - I think that was in my blood - but how I opted to spend it changed quite a bit.
There were the college years at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Yep, 26,000 students and life as a co-ed in a 22-story high-rise dorm. There was always something going on, especially on Saturday nights, and one can imagine how Sunday mornings were spent. Perhaps we can call it a recovery day. Still a day of rest, I suppose; it just might have been shorter than other days.
It was during this time in my life, though, that I began to pursue running for the sake of running. I had always played three sports throughout high school, though never cross country or track. And in college I played Division I lacrosse during the spring season. I was "running" for sure but never for too long. I discovered that Sundays were a good day to take a leisurely run.
During graduate school there were the assorted waitressing jobs that called for Sunday work hours. I worked at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass. which boasted a fabulous Sunday brunch. I often worked that shift, and it was one of those gigs where you didn't have to work too hard. People served themselves from the buffet; I just needed to clear their plates and pour juice and coffee. To boot, it was a nice price point per plate! Despite the good tips, I never really liked to work on Sundays. It was a sacrosanct day, after all.
When I moved to Maine in 1987, I'd been running a little more consistently, had participated in some races, and was fairly committed to my fitness and health, in general. In fact, a Sunday morning aerobics class at the Regency Hotel, a walk around Prouts Neck in Scarborough, or a run around Peaks Island became my spiritual practice. And while it may not sound like rest in the true sense of the word, it certainly did not feel like work.
I started training and racing consistently once I joined up with the Run to Win team, coached by Brian (Ziggy) Gillespie. It's here that I learned how key a regular long run is to develop a distance base and provide a foundation for all runs, especially races. Training for marathons, the long runs are the bread and butter and just how long they are is relative to where you are in your training. The schedule I adapted to reserved Sundays for this prolonged activity.
Today, my husband and I live a running lifestyle and can hardly imagine a non-running Sunday. This winter we ran with a group on Sundays training for the Mid-Winter Classic 10-mile race in Cape Elizabeth. We decided the weekly group should continue, as its such a nice way to cover the miles. Beginning March 4th, Ziggy Gillespie's Nor'Easter Run training program will workout on Wednesday evenings with a long run on Sundays; and May 31st begins the Peak Performance Maine Marathon and Half-Marathon training program, also with the group run on Sundays. Not coincidentally, we plan to combine these efforts to enhance the long run with other runners.
Do I still think of Sunday as a day of rest? You betcha, just only after a good long run.