A marathon is 26.2 miles. (A quick glance at Wikipedia states that the distance is attributed to the legend of Pheidippides and his run from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon.)
Last November, I was sitting on our couch in the city watching the ING New York City marathon and the achievement that so many of those runners was about to recognize. And I was jealous of that satisfaction and pride months in the making… now mission accomplished. I know that may not be the reaction that everyone has to the marathon. I’ve played sports all my life and have run marathons before having kids so this yearning was somewhat in my wheelhouse. Running may not be it for you, but you know the feeling I’m talking about… whether it’s finishing a DIY project, delivering a child, walking for charity… accomplishing anything you’ve spent a while preparing for is a great great thing.
Sooooo, I put my name into the NYC Marathon lottery. And got denied. But the City of Brotherly Love welcomed me with open arms. Hello, Philadelphia, November 18, 2012.
I’m not writing this post to toot my own horn or to outline a training regime or to extol the benefits of running, but rather to share a unique experience, give you a little insight into my little pocket of the world and because, well, it’s what I’ve been up to!
That said, obviously this sort of a thing takes training and I had to find time for that. My husband is wildly encouraging and stepped up with the manpower during the last few months when runs took longer and longer. My training nutshell is to mark the calendar 3 weeks before the marathon date with my longest run (22 miles); then, moving backwards I take away 1 mile a week until I get to a mileage that I could currently run. E.g. Marathon Sunday was November 18 which meant I needed to run 22 miles on October 28; working back, I was going about 6 miles on July 8. Simple as that. Ideally, I’d be running shorter runs midweek, but with kids and babysitters and all the DVR to catch up on, it just didn’t happen. (Again, I’m not endorsing this training regime, but it’s all I could come up with.)
Fast forward to marathon weekend. With anything you’ve spent months preparing for I was nervous but excited. I brought my niece and Eleanor with me to pick up my number down at the Philadelphia Convention Center. The girls were troopers and thank goodness for the kids section: bouncy obstacle course, crafts, lollipops… everything I needed to erase the 45 minutes of traffic we were stuck in getting there.
7:00 start= sleepless night and early wake up. But lots and lots of adrenaline. A cup of coffee (girl needs her caffeine) and an English muffin and off to get my run on. The fun part of these things is eavesdropping on so many conversations at the starting line. Just about everyone is talking about running in one way, shape or form… whether it’s previous runs, training philosophy, gear, or recovery, running is in the air. (Incidentally, for this race, 3000 “NYC Marathon Refugees” were invited to enter a lottery for the Philly marathon after NYC cancelled their run in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. These runners were loud and proud!)
Running for me is usually a nice chance to be with my own thoughts for a little bit. Sometimes my runs aren’t so relaxing as I’m tired or sore or just not into it, but thankfully most of my runs are a nice break from the chaos and hullabaloo and juggling on the home front. I told myself that this run was no different than my other runs, just a few more people on the running route.
Favorite signs? I didn’t stop to take pictures of them, but I tried to remember some of them: 1) Go faster. Don’t stop. (That’s what she said.) 2) This is the worst parade ever. 3) Dream like an American, run like a Kenyan.
The irony of a long physical endeavor like this is that the very end is absolutely the most painful (feet aching with every step, stomach queasy from bouncing around for 3 hours straight, hips tired from running up and down hills) and yet it’s also the most jubilant as you know that you can do this. That feeling alone is enough to get you the final few miles.
In many ways, the last .2 of the marathon is the best part of the race. That’s when you see that finish line in your sights, and you know that all of those solitary runs and missing toenails and hours with your “Running Mix” got you here.
My husband told me not to say this next point, but another reason for me writing up this post is simply to say that just about any goal we set for ourselves can come simply down to mind over matter (he said that running that long is insane and decidedly NOT mind over matter…). If you still have post-traumatic stress from running the mile for your grade school Presidential Fitness Test, then maybe a marathon isn’t your thing; but maybe it is. Your thing might be reading War and Peace. Your thing might be taking singing lessons. Your thing might be making a salad from the first crop of vegetables in a newly planted vegetable garden. Whatever “your thing” is, you CAN do it. One little step at a time, one mile a week, go for it.
Let me tell you, that moment of crossing the finish line is worth whatever it took.
p.s. How beautiful is this?! I’m thinking this might be a nice paint scheme for my next piece of furniture… modeled after the Philadelphia Sanitation Department.
p.p.s. We needed our phone to get back to the parking lot… not a time for a walking tour of the city.