I’m going to begin this 6 month journey to complete my very first marathon. 26.2 miles. It may not seem significant to some but to me, it has become a bucket list obsession. I have not always been the “svelte” person that stands before you now. And in my best Dolly Parton as Truvy voice…”there’s a story there.” Yes there is! And what a story it is.
I intend to keep a log of everything I think, feel, do, train, eat, supplement, etc. for the next 29 weeks. That is the length of time that I will be taking to train for and recover from my first marathon. I am 40 years, 5 months, and 29 days old at the moment that I am writing this sentence. I did not even pick up my feet to run a step until I was 36 years old and had almost died from a life threatening lung disease. When I picked up my feet to run that first step, a marathon was not in my sights. Hell, I didn’t even want other people to see the pitiful sight that was me at that stage, so I would run/walk (hyperventilate) at 5:00am in my very small town so that no one could see me with my awkward form, tramping down the block like an elephant in tennis shoes. I knew nothing about running. I had no idea that I needed special shoes, clothes or other paraphernalia. What I found though was an avid love for being on the road, feet hitting the pavement, heart pounding in my chest, and music blaring in my ears.I spent an entire season teaching myself to run. I ran every morning, Monday through Friday. I got up early, I went outside and I ran. It took me the whole season to get up to running 2 miles without a walk break, but what an amazing accomplishment that was the first time I did it. When I began running, I was significantly overweight and a smoker. Two things that were definitely not working in my favor. I remember going out for my morning ritualistic run and the first thing that I would do upon returning home would be to light a cigarette. It was several months into this new lifestyle when I had my Sesame Street moment, as I like to refer to it. One day, while smoking a cigarette it began to dawn on me that I was eating better, taking vitamins, exercising, practicing yoga…and smoking. Hmm, which one of these things doesn’t belong? I made a decision to quit smoking, got some Chantix (not through the usual route) and told no one what I was doing. I finally beat my 20 year nicotine habit. I didn’t advertise it, try to get attention or pity for it. I just did it, as the Nike ad says. I was two weeks off of them before anyone noticed. By then, the hard part was over. That was 4 years 1 month and 4 days ago (as of the date that I am writing this). I have never regretted my decision to quit smoking. Immediately after quitting, I began to see an improvement in my running ability and endurance. This pushed me to keep going.
As the weather got colder though, my lungs were not conditioned to adapt to the cold air entering them and I abandoned running for the winter. I used my elliptical and yoga to maintain what I had started. I couldn’t wait for the weather to break to get back out on the pavement. As soon as the weather warmed up, I was out there again. I was surprised to find that I had not lost the conditioning that I had built the previous season. Again I ran every morning, Monday through Friday. And when I met my current husband, I did not abandon it. I still ran every morning. When we were dating, he would even get up in the morning and ride his bike alongside me while I ran. I began to build some friendships with fellow runners and they encouraged me to get into my first timed race. I was reluctant to do that. I had not focused on time up to this point. But, I am usually up for a challenge, so I went for it. On September 27, 2009 I ran my first 5K. Can you say hooked? Because that was exactly what I was the minute I crossed the finish line. So a month later, I signed up for and completed my first 10K. Why not, right? A couple more competitive races, including one at midnight on New Year’s Eve and I had officially caught the race bug. I was not concerned with winning, or even placing in the races, just finishing.The moment I crossed the finish line of my first 5K, I was thinking about 26.2 miles. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what that kind of distance would entail, but I was hungry for it. Unfortunately, fear overrode my hunger. It was like a starving man in the jungle trying to figure out how to kill the lion before the lion kills him. So, instead, I set my sights on half of the lion. That I could successfully manage, I thought. I began training for the Glass City Half-Marathon. A local, flat qualifying course. I went for it. Week after week I hit the pavement, tracked miles, built playlists and learned how to control my bowels (yes, there’s a story there too). On April 25, 2010 (one day after my 38th birthday) I finished the Glass City Half-marathon with a time of 2:24:45. A time I could totally live with. I then went online and immediately registered for the Detroit Half-Marathon and began training through the summer for a fall race. This time, I trained with an injury. Plantar Fasciitis. Not being a professional athlete or much of an athletic person, I had no idea what I was up against. I also didn’t realize that this race went over the bridge to Windsor, Ontario and came back through the tunnel. I knew it was an international race because I had to get a passport to qualify to participate. I’m not sure why the bridge/tunnel didn’t register with me but needless to say, I did not train on any hills. I was seriously overwhelmed when I realized what I was about to do. But I made it through that race with an injury and inadequate training.
So, at this point I have nothing standing in the way of me and 26.2 except fear. For 2011 I diverted my attention to a Sprint Triathlon. Again, I am not an athlete so it took a lot of effort for me to train to simply complete this event. I was scared to death of drowning in the quarry before finishing the first leg of the race. Gratefully, I didn’t drown and I did finish. I wasn’t last to finish but there were not many behind me. That’s okay though, I did it and…I got the sticker. Now my car has an OM symbol sticker, a 13.1 sticker and a TRI sticker. I am on a quest to earn a 26.2 bumper sticker.After the triathlon, I found a specialized gym training system called Extreme Results by Vince. Hmm, new addiction. The only way I know how to explain the type of training is this: it’s like Insanity on crack with punching bags. It’s an amazing workout and refined my body into a condition that it has never been in before. I put running on the shelf and basically went full out in this new training style. There are a few races that I am particularly partial to. Race for the Cure (obvious reasons), Racing for Recovery (addiction recovery is personal to me) and the Turkey Trot (guilt free Thanksgiving eating afterwards). So, even though I had not really run since the TRI, I signed up for the Race for a Cure and got my second best 5K time ever. Shocking me, to say the least. Something was working. A few months later I entered the Turkey Trot, again with very little running up to that point and got my best 10K time ever! What? Something was really happening. I ran sporadically over the next year, when it fit into my Extreme Results training and yoga teaching schedule but nothing too much. Again signing up for the Race for the Cure in September 2012 and finished under 30 minutes! Unheard of! A month later I finished the Racing for Recovery 5K with an 8:49 pace. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself running an 8 minute pace! Now, I am really getting pumped up and stoked. I start to really see 26.2 as a doable possibility. So I get down my Marathon Training book and start building a vision for the Glass City Marathon in April 2013.
That brings us to the present and the reason for this blog. I need you to help me. Help me train, help me keep going on the days that I don’t want to, hold me accountable when I slack and cheer for me when I am rocking it out. I intend to record every single moment of the next 6 months not only for my benefit but for others to benefit from in the future. So other people can find the encouragement they need to reach their goals and go beyond their wildest dreams. If this former alcoholic, chain smoker, donut smashing, overweight Queen of Negativity can get here….well then, so can you! Let’s do this!
A picture of the Ambassador Bridge during the Detroit Half