Have you ever said something to someone that instantly produced a look on their face that said, “Clearly I did not hear your right or clearly you are sick in the head”… a look that said they would not feel more shock and surprise if you were to sprout a second head or strip naked in the middle of the grocery store? (If you haven’t had that happen, try telling people you have 12 kids. I get that kind of look more often than not). :)
I got that look the other day for a different reason though. I was sitting in the auditorium at our high school waiting for Des’s orchestra concert to start, and chatting with a couple we know fairly well. They asked about the marathons I had run recently (I had done Disney just a few days before) and asked if I had plans to run more marathons. I said, “Yes, I definitely want to run more soon. I love it.”
(Insert aforementioned look of shock, surprise and disbelief here).
Then the guy said, “You LOVE it? You LOVE running marathons?” in a tone that would be appropriate if I had just confessed to loving to eat rocks or swim with electric eels. They clearly thought I was nuts.
Here is the thing… when I decided to train for and run my first marathon, it was not something I planned on making a habit of. It was something I wanted to try, to accomplish, to be able to say I had “done”. I knew I could do it, although I definitely did not expect to like it. I thought it would be a one-time thing, or at least something I would only attempt again that proverbial “someday”.
I have liked racing since my first race, but I definitely thought any races in my future would be shorter distance road races. In fact, I remember finishing my first half marathon and feeling quite sure that there was no way I would ever be able to turn around after running 13.1 miles and run the same distance over again without a shower, nap and meal or two first.
A runner friend of mine told me last summer that I should do a marathon. I laughed. He said he knew I could. I protested. I mentioned it to Jenny and she said, “Of course we could”. I mentioned it to Josh and he said, “Of course you could”. I thought to myself, “Fine. I will.”
At first my goal was just to finish. Then I wanted to finish “respectfully”. Then I wanted to be under five hours. Then I read that Oprah had finished a marathon in 4:29 and I decided I wanted to do better than Oprah (I don’t claim to always be mature about these things). People told me I should just focus on fun and finishing for my first marathon. I tried to explain that I am not wired that way and that I had to care about the time. I didn’t want to just do it. I wanted to do it well. I know I am not super-fast and I wasn’t unrealistic, but I knew I could run a race that I could be proud of if I put the work in.
I enjoyed the marathon training more than I expected. I read about it being a huge commitment and burden on time, energy, etc. and I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t feel run down or worn out. I felt great! I liked having a plan to follow. I enjoyed the long runs. I liked the sense of accomplishment and the challenges set out before me week to week.
In the days leading up to my first marathon, I was acutely aware of how hard it would be. Everything I read talked about hitting the wall and how horrible the last six miles of the 26.2 are. I read race reports full of suffering and struggle.
When my first marathon was done I was pleasantly surprised how much I had enjoyed it. It was not easy for sure, but I would not say that I suffered or struggled. I never had to walk. I never hit the wall. I never wanted to quit. I was proud of my time. I felt great afterwards. I was exhausted for sure, but nothing hurt, and I loved the feeling that I had pushed myself so far and accomplished something so difficult. I loved the realization that my body could do it, and that I was strong. Before I had taken off my Brooks and gotten back to the hotel room I was talking about “the next one”.
And when I did “the next one” just a few weeks later, I enjoyed it even more. I wasn’t as nervous. I had a plan. I knew in general what to expect (although I know every marathon is its own journey and know that I very well may suffer and struggle in future ‘thons). I was more excited than nervous and I was more confident in my abilities. I still wanted to do well. I felt even better afterwards than I had after the first. And again, right away, I was thinking about when I could do it again.
The truth is, I do love running marathons. I love the challenge of 26.2 miles. I love the atmosphere of race day. I love the comraderie between marathoners. I love the feeling of crossing that finish line and having done something so few people ever will. I love the training, the planning, the preparation, the challenge, the anticipation and the adrenaline. I love the marathon. It’s my favorite distance to race. I want to do it again and again. I want to better my time, I want to finish more races, and I want more medals for my wall. (Come on...it may sound a little shallow... but the bling is fun!!)
I am glad I didn’t let myself believe I couldn’t do it. I am glad I didn’t listen to the voices that said a 33 year old mom of 12 who hadn't even been running for two years wouldn't find the time to train and probably wouldn't finish. I am glad I ignored the thoughts that I was too "average" to try something like that, and that it was too scary or would be too hard. I am glad I didn't let myself make excuses. I am glad I took the challenge that first time. Much like when I first started running, I took a chance at trying something new and difficult, put in a lot of work, and found something I love to do.
So go ahead… give me the “the look”. Call me crazy. I can take it (and truth be told I am sort of used to it). But it’s true. I love running marathons. And as long as my body feels good and I can get my training done without taking away from the most important things in my life, I am going to keep running marathons.
"What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?"-- Robert Schuller