I decided to run my first marathon right before I turned 40. Running had been a part of my life since I was in ROTC as an undergrad at the University of Vermont, and I quickly learned to enjoy the stress relief and accomplishment I felt from running. For years I ran to have fun, to tune out the noise of the busy world around me, to breathe fresh air, and to stay strong. As I neared 40, perhaps as a way of thumbing my nose at middle age, I decided to run a marathon.
I didn’t tell anyone except my husband, afraid that I’d fail. Runner’s World magazine provided training plans, guidance on what and when to eat, and tips for race day. Before I started marathon training, my longest race was a 10K – 6.2 miles. A marathon is 20 miles longer, but I figured it was just more steps forward, for a longer period of time.
I lined up at the very back of the crowd at the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT. The folks at the back are usually friendly and helpful, and I was encouraged by their enthusiasm. Mike took a picture of me at about 4 miles into the race, with a big smile on my face. The smile later turned into concentration, then grimaces (blisters), despair (would I ever finish the race?), determination (my parents taught us to never give up, and if I didn’t crumble during Army boot camp, I certainly wasn’t going to let a marathon stop me), and finally relief and joy.
I ran my 32nd marathon this past weekend in Milwaukee, state #28 on my quest to run a marathon in every state. What started as a way to prove to myself that 40 isn’t old and washed up became an integral part of my life over the past 14 years. I purchased one of my favorite shirts at the Marine Corps Marathon: “The few, the proud, the Marine-athoners”. Only .5% of the US population has completed a marathon. It doesn’t matter if you win the race, place in your age group, or come in last. When you cross the finish line after 26.2 miles, the enormity of what you just accomplished slams you square in the chest. You logged hundreds of miles in training, learned to tolerate or even like the taste of sports drinks and gels; delt with blisters, sore muscles, frozen eyelashes, drenching heat; understand the terms ‘interval training’, ‘hill work’, and ‘taper’ and have come to love a device called simply ‘The Stick’. You gave up family outings, rescheduled work meetings, got up 2 hours early to fit in a run, and changed your eating habits. You learned that you’re stronger than you thought, both in body and in spirit.
For the past two years I’ve led a women’s marathon training group, encouraging other women to take up the marathon challenge and meet it head on. Training for and running a marathon with other women multiplies the fun and the emotions. You’re excited to see your family at the finish line, and you also search for your running buddies, the ones who got you through the training miles and would never let you give up. Together, you’re marathoners.
If running a marathon is on your bucket list, join us as we start training November 17th for the Shires marathon on May 19, 2013. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, and check out our training group Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TrainingforMore
Be part of the .5%.