I’m a marathoner.
When I use the word ‘marathoner’ I’m not referring to the ever-popular length of time spent with Netflix, the "Walking Dead" or "Orange is the New Black." I’m a marathoner in the traditional crazy sense of completing a 26.2 mile running race.
Yes, those people you catch on television every now and again, appearing to be in agony as they run, yet later sharing their feelings of excitement and joy for completing the distance. Yep. That’s me.
This fall marks three years since I completed my first full marathon in 2013. The months leading up to, as well as the ones that followed, were all about running, training, eating and the marathon. I talk little about the marathon now, but as I prepare to write a story on Boston Marathon qualifier Bob McCune it seems timely to share a bit of my personal experience.
Truthfully I was excited when our editor approved sharing a local Boston qualifier story with our readers. Boston is the Olympics of all races for the recreational full marathon runner. Unlike other races, you can’t just sign-up to run Boston, you must qualify.
As if it weren’t enough that this breed of people pay money to run through public city streets, there’s an even crazier group of us that dream of someday qualifying for Boston. A dream which can be a daunting one as qualifying times are tough and even then you’re not assured of getting in due to space and interest. Interest, which has massively grown since the bombings of 2013.
I ran my first race, a 5k, five years ago in 2011. As hard as it is to believe now, with dozens of races under my belt, including a Big Sur 21 miler and three full marathons, I trained for that 5k. I was not a runner prior to registering for that event. I was scared and had little confidence in my ability. To make matters more stressful, my children would be waiting at the finish line.
Fast forward two years and my love of running had grown. In fall 2012 a friend breathed life into the notion of running a marathon. The words shared as I completed a half marathon I still remember, “You can build the endurance, you can train. It’s the mental game of the 26.2 that is hard. You have that. You can do this.”
What I did not realize at the time or even the day that I learned I had been granted a spot in the 2013 Nike Women’s Marathon San Francisco was what the word ‘train’ would come to mean. It would mean that during the course of 16 plus weeks I would log a total of 450 plus miles on my legs (and in my head) to prepare. It would mean early hours of running alone in darkness and sometimes in rain to get my training in. You can’t fake a 26.2 mile run. The body is not built to sustain such distance without preparation. I had to learn proper hydration, fuel and pushing through mental and physical pain. What shoes, socks and everything else would serve me best during the seemingly endless miles of the race. I was not out to just finish. My kids would be at that finish line just as they were my first race. I intended to finish smiling and — I did.
It is reported that less than 1 percent of Americans have completed a marathon.
As a once sedentary, mother of two who came back to the ‘fit life’ game long past my prime years, I can honestly say it’s a daunting statistic.
So why the marathon? What prompts us to continue or to even start? No two reasons are the same. It’s a personal journey, often shared by veterans guiding you and friends sharing in the dream.
For me it’s a two word answer — I can. Lots of people run, not very many run the marathon. Even now, at the age of 40 plus I can still set a goal, look it in the eye and own every last minute of it. Some races we come away from ready for the Wheaties box, while others send us second guessing everything we have ever believed — so we do it again.
And ultimately as each training program is filed away and life returns to the ‘usual’ I walk a little taller, give thanks for the body that got me there and then I look to what’s next.
Life, after all, is about the journey. It’s a never ending chapter book and we possess the power to make those chapters memorable or just like the others.