October 14, 2013: On Second Thought

Chicago Marathon 2005
My dear friend, Kristi, and I have run together for over fifteen years. About ten years ago, at the coaxing of our other running friend, Angy, we joined a larger group of more competitive runners. This new group was comprised of a wide range of ages, motivations for running, and eclectic personalities; a nice way of saying people who run at 5:30 each morning couldn't possibly be normal.

The varying runs and runners brought a new element of interest to Kristi and my routine and the change up was welcome. Rather than talks of kindergarten the potty-training, the runs quickly became all about logging in miles and tracking running paces. This was when running a marathon entered our radar screen and seemed like something we could actually accomplish.  Our logic was that we were logging in the training miles, so we should be up for running the distance.

Kristi and I toyed with the idea of a marathon, but always fell back on the fact that we weren't marathoners.  That was we them, not us. In all actuality it was probably a combination of being chicken and a bit lazy. That changed one night after a call from my cousin. Angelina was a college student in Chicago. In summers past, when she was nanny to my boys, Angelina ran with Kristi and I. Perhaps it was our soft spot to our sweet Angelina that created a "yes" response to her pleading question.

"Will you and Kristi please, please, please train and run the Chicago Marathon with me? That would be sooooo cool!  Please?"

Without running it by Kristi first, I said "yes". Kristi couldn't make it to Chicago that marathon weekend, but committed to run the Omaha Marathon and train together. Two marathons were placed on the calendar and Kristi and I were now part of the morning runner group who were training for something.

And then we ran, and we ran, and then we ran some more. We listened attentively to the other runner's training plans and past marathon experiences. We logged in miles until we could barely move and then we would plan the next run. Honestly, it was a bit like Groundhog Day. Kristi and I would beg people to join us on different legs of our training runs to entertain and tell us stories. My brother, Matt, would keep us company while riding his bike at our side. Other runners would pick up miles during our long 20+ mile runs.

Our first big event day arrived. Kristi tackled the hilly Omaha Marathon. She did it and her running comrades cheered her on to the finish line. An official marathoner.

Next it was my turn. I flew to the windy city for my big event, but with no Angelina to accompany me. She had an ankle injury and couldn't participate. Several from my running group had entered this marathon as well. They were seasoned marathoners with paces much quicker than my four hour goal. I was solo.

As with anything in life, a person can find a friend if they take the time with the right person. My new found running friend was a lady by the name of Dana. She too was running her first marathon. Dana had a little more motivation than me as her entire hometown in Illinois was monitoring her performance. She was the wife of a local pastor and a personal trainer at a gym when not raising her kids. A local radio station was following her; broadcasting her quest to run her first marathon in less than four hours. How about that for peer pressure?

Although we stuck together through mile fifteen, it was at this mile marker that I experienced side cramps, but somehow I rallied through.  Dana kept with the four hour pace runners and we parted ways. I did see in the final results that she clocked a final time of 3:58. No public humiliation for my new friend, Dana.

Angelina joined me for the last five miles. She really wanted to be there to support me since this was all her idea. By mile nineteen, I was not happy. Angelina was chatty and encouraging. I was crabby. In a moment of temporary insanity, I was mad at my sweet, smiling cousin. I remember asking her to talk about anything, but not to ask me any questions or expect an answer. Nice.

I now get the whole "hitting a wall" thing. The last five miles felt like the first twenty in total. But Angelina and I crossed the finish line hand in hand and in just over four hours. Angelina was beautiful and vibrant after completing her five miles. I was cross and looking like death warmed over.

As we were greeted by the barrage of volunteers lining the finish, Angelina was told over and over, "Oh my gosh, you look so good. You don't even look like you finished a marathon."  Angelina's response with her electric smile was simply, "Thanks!"  If I wasn't dead woman walking, I would have insisted she fess up that she was nineteen miles short. But I was too tired. Instead I ate my granola bar and sucked it up. The post-marathon festivities were fun and I enjoyed the euphoria of being able to say "I ran a marathon!"

Kristi and I earned our running badge of honor and needed to decide on our next step in the running world.  As we reviewed our adventure, we came to the conclusion that we were the first marathoners in history who actually gained weight during our training. Our conclusion was that we overcompensated on the eating once we thought we burned a gazillion calories. We also concluded that we really didn't like spending all of our free time running. Surprisingly we had other hobbies and interests outside of running.

The most simplistic way to describe our overall running motivation is that we like to be able to button our jeans. Since we didn't accomplish that with the marathon, we decided to move on to Plan B. No more marathons for Kristi and Sandy. The joy is that we can say we ran one. To the non-runners in the world, this is just as impressive as those who run them all the time. We earned the badge, but are officially retired from the sport of running marathons. Now back to working on buttoning those jeans.

Some coffee after marathon training


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