I have fallen into a lazy once a month blog post, though I am happy to say I have resumed a regular running schedule and will soon have some kick-ass new artwork to share for my upcoming exhibition. But right now more important is my superstar Guest Blogger Nancy. I did not clear it if I can use her full name. You see Nancy is very secretive. In fact this post will blow your mind. I have known Nancy for just over 5 years, we met backpacking and she is an avid hiker who lives in the Adirondacks. But Nancy had a big secret that she only just revealed to me on Tuesday. I just had to share it. How one could keep this secrete is a real mystery.
Nancy: I’ll see if I can condense 11 months into a few sentences to tell you how this all came about. Last December 6, 2009, my 67-year old neighbor, Don, (who I hike with sometimes) sent me and nine other friends and family the following email:
The 2010 Marine Corp Marathon is Sunday October 31. We only have 10 months and 3 weeks left to train. Registration opens online 4/7/2010 for the first 30,000 applicants. Check this out: marinecorpmarathon.com We need to average 14 minutes per mile for the first 20 miles (4.6hrs) because they re-open the 14th Street Bridge to traffic at 1:15 and close it to runners. Run for your life, Don
What prompted Don to send this? His 20 year old grandson invited “Grandpaw” to do it! I sent Don a reply saying that I thought his invitation was a hoot! Me? Run a marathon? I would be the neighborhood cheerleader – he could be the runner. He sent me the following reply:
I need a running partner not a cheerleader. When you tell someone you will meet them at 11 for a run there is a 100 % chance I will run otherwise I might skip it. Actually “a run” is really not applicable at this point, I have been heading out for 2-3 miles of a 50% very slow jog and 50% walk, although every “run” now is a little less walking…
So, I said we could do a trial run – to see if we were at all compatible as running partners. I didn’t even know what to wear. I had only done 2-3 mile casual jogs in the summer. This was December in the Adirondacks, with snow and freezing rain. We did a couple of these run-walks in the early winter, until our dirt road became unsuitable, then we had our own winter agendas. In early spring, we did a few more, neither of us were balls of fire, but we were having a nice time and I was grilling Don about everything I could think of marathon-related, and he was just so filled with enthusiasm for marathon running. One email he sent said
You will be a different person physically when you can run for over an hour and then when you cross that finish line, you will never be the same…….. You and 30,000 others.
So in late March, we booked rooms in Washington, and on April 7th, when registration opened on-line, we registered – Don, his grandson Troy, and me. None of the other nine invitees took him up on it. Now that we had paid our $90 and reserved our $234 a night rooms, we were committed! Then I needed to break the news to my husband, Peter, who was on a cycling trip in Mississippi. I sent him an email that something to the effect of – Wanna go to Washington in October? I have decided to set a new goal for myself – I have registered to run the Marine Corps Marathon. His response was lukewarm, not opposed actually, but I just don’t think he understood the excitement. I had not had a goal since 2006, when I was completing the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondacks. It was time! My goal was three-fold: 1) avoid injury 2) complete the race and 3) have fun. I kept it that simple. The KISS principle at work.
I did a bunch of on-line research and found an article in a magazine with a beginner’s plan. I merged a 26 week plan and a 30 week plan into a plan that would work for me, I hoped. It had runs 4 days a week, cross-raining one day a week, and two rest days. Week one started on April 5. Of course I had to be flexible. I hoped and prayed that backpacking and mountain climbing and paddling were good substitutes for running or great cross training.
Don and I did an occasional jog or hike together, but mostly we did our own thing. Then on June 6, I got this email from him:
A quick medical update, sorry. During my recent screening colonoscopy they found a small, 2cm, stage 1 (the lowest level) growth. The CAT scans indicated that it has NOT metastasized great news!! And it will be removed next week. The only not so great news is that the recovery time (before I can run again) is 2 months because they will be taking a chunk of the colon. The post-op pathology reports will be the final word if additional treatments are indicated. For the record I feel like I am extremely lucky!!!
I plan on running as soon as I can. It does not seem rational that I will be in shape to finish the MCM. But whether I start or finish – I will be there! And just being there again will be a wonderful motivator!
We had talked about participating in a pre-marathon race, just to see what it was like. Don recommended the Boilermaker 15K in Utica. That fit perfectly into my training schedule, so Troy and I registered for that. On July 10, Troy, Don, Peter and I went to Utica and on the 11th, Troy and I ran that race, with Don and Peter as our drivers/spectators/ support team. THAT was REALLY fun! What a cool event. 11,000 participants and the most amazing crowd support. I wasn’t a star, but my time was respectable, I thought, for a first-timer. Peter was relieved to see that I didn’t drop dead or anything, which is what he thought would happen. He semi-reluctantly admitted that he guessed this was the green-light to proceed with the rest of the marathon training. I really think he was worried that I would be injured or something and wouldn’t be around to make his lunch.
The rest of the summer and fall were just spent sticking to my schedule as much as I could, always alone (except for my one jog with Hilary and Maryanne.) The runs culminated in a 20 miler the week of October 4th. Don thought I should do a 22 mile run for my longest one, so I compromised on a 21. I did it in laps – always looping back to my car where I would refuel and blow my nose. Running is a drippy sport! Then the taper began. In a way it was a relief – I had gotten that far with no injuries – but it also made me really antsy.
Peter and I headed for PA to visit my mom a couple days before the race, then on to Washington. It was the same weekend as that Jon Stewart comedy rally – the traffic was unbearable. Don’t drive to Washington! It was impossible to do the carbo-loading I intended to do while sitting in a traffic jam. Lesson learned. Eventually we headed directly for the convention center and packet pick up. The expo was huge: 30,000 registered for the marathon, plus there was a big 10K, plus the wheelchair people, plus all of their families, etc. The rest I think you already know – the thrills, the excitement, the port-a-potty wait, the mass of humanity, the pain, sticky soles at every Powerade station, the unparalleled feeling of that medal!
Oh – and the weather!! 49˚ at the start, high of 61, variable breezes and a few fair weather clouds, mostly blue sky and sunshine. Could it get any better???
The course is superb-minor hills, emotional scenery (monuments and memorials galore, Potomac River, Smithsonian, Capitol, Whitehouse, Holocaust museum, plus cute marines in uniform, helicopters, bands, crowd support… on and on.) One guy had a sign on his back that said, “If you can read this, I’m not last.” Another sign said, “Run like angry Kenyans” and another said, “Toenails are over-rated.” The finish was extremely well marked and organized, Peter and I found each other easily. We made our way back to our room where I took a shower and put my feet up on two pillows and just smiled and smiled.