Life After Running

I can vouch that there is no good way to begin this topic after writing dozens of different openings over the past few months. I’ve reminded myself that athletes retire all the time, and it’s probably a difficult transition for all of us. But it seems especially difficult when your head is still in the game, and it’s only your body that has given up. At a time when there appears to be no limit to human endurance, it’s hard to accept that your body does indeed have its own independent limit.

I’ve been a runner since the early 90s. My son was in elementary school at the time, and now he’s thirty-six. I ran every morning with an inexpensive watch on my wrist to be sure I made it home in time to dress for work. And when I took a new job that required travel, I ran in beautiful and interesting cities all over the country.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunities to run in Italy, Spain, and Ireland; and on a treadmill in India where I watched the miles go by in kilometers for the first time. I experienced the horrible side effects of running at altitude when we first moved to Ecuador, and the excitement of running with an elite runner when I went to Africa. But the long runs here at home that followed the river down the mountain to the next town over where my husband met me at LuLu’s for lunch – those were my favorite runs.

Runners remember every race – the mood of the race, the course, every ache, pain and decision we make along the way, but it’s the places I remember most.

My husband encouraged me to run a 10k race in 2007. “It’s only six miles,” I remember him telling me. He realized it was actually 6.2 miles while he was waiting for me at the finish line. I found out when there was no finish line at the six-mile mark, and my lungs were already about to explode. The Chicago marathon followed a few months later, and that race changed everything. Training for marathons, recovering from marathons, planning for the next marathon, researching my injuries, researching new training plans, writing about injuries, writing about training – this became my favorite pastime.

The funny thing about following your passion is that if you go in too headstrong, according to some experts, you may crash and burn at the first sign of hardship. You have to ease your way into this new love, bond with it, and nurture the relationship over time. This way you don’t throw in the towel and quit when the going gets tough.

On the other hand, if you don’t throw yourself into this passion wholeheartedly at some point, you may never realize your full potential. I had the pleasure of easing my way into running slowly over many years, and also throwing myself at it completely.

If you truly follow your passion, your life is going to change. The challenge is to regain control of your life afterwards. The Passion Paradox

Achilles tendinitis took hold in my right foot in 2018 a few months after my first 50k. It was my new favorite distance, and I was determined to run this new further distance again – and as many times after that as possible. But when the swelling subsided there was another problem.

Some runners have run with Haglund’s Deformity in one or both heels for years, but it’s a painful existence that never improves. Your heel feels like there’s glass moving around inside. It swells, gets stiff, and then it’s painful to even walk. Surgery is an option, but it’s not pretty nor a guarantee.

I spent much of the spring and early summer of 2018 doing physical therapy to resolve the Achilles tendinitis and re-strengthen my calf. Eventually I could run without pain, but it didn’t last because the bony protusion of Haglund’s irritated the area around the tendon. So I ran every other day, continued therapy, iced my heel daily, and basically spent the last half of 2018 experimenting. I was willing to try anything, but nothing worked, and the pain and stiffness grew consistently worse. About a year ago, I threw in the towel and retired.

An injury leaves you irritable because of the lost time from training. Knowing you won’t ever run again leaves a pit in the bottom of your stomach that’s hard to resolve. I had been careful to identify myself with things other than running all these years, but there was still the question of what would I be associated with so strongly going forward that it would give my heart a place to land.

Around the same time that I retired, I also partially tore my left rotator cuff leaving my shoulder in a painful frozen state for months. Adding insult to injury, a 60-pound dog jumped up and bit my nose while I was saying hello to his owner.

I can’t begin to count the dozens of angry, untethered dogs that have scared me half out of my mind over the years. Two boxers would bolt through their invisible fence on my long runs down the mountain every week. I dreaded them with all my heart. One particularly lively laborador in South Carolina nipped at my elbows, jumped onto my shoulder, and tore the shirt right off my arm. Dogs were everywhere. I had developed a strategy of sorts: turn off my music, move to the other side of the road, stop for a minute, walk, and I’d yell “FOOEY!” when all else failed. Not one of them ever made me retreat, and they never bit me. Then, this seemingly harmless dog on a leash across the street from my house bites me while I’m standing still. It was as if my whole identity was being attacked.

My husband helped me sort through my thoughts in those early months of 2019. He researched surgery options, different shoes, orthotics, even other sports I might try. Meanwhile, I started walking the trail around the lake by my house. The pace was soooo slow, and every runner that passed me was an awful reminder of why I was on the trail around the lake in the first place. But I could walk for as long as I wanted without pain, and when I finally let go of being angry I realized I really enjoy these long walks.

Abby Wambach writes in her memoir, Forward, that she realized, “Soccer is no longer what I do, but it will always be a part of who I am, an indispensable thread of my past.” She recalls a friend giving her a metaphor about retirement:

“Trapeze artists are so amazing in so many ways because they are grounded to one rung for a long time, and in order to get to the other rung they have to let go. What makes them so brilliant and beautiful and courageous and strong is that they execute flips in the middle. The middle is their magic. If you’re brave enough to let go of that first rung, you can create your own magic in the middle.”

I’ve traveled all these miles for all these years with just my own two feet, and it’s been an amazing journey in every way. My shoulder has recovered, the scar on my nose is hardly visible, I’ve learned to manage my injured heel, and I’ve let go of that first rung.

The Chicago Lakefront 50k was my last race, and my favorite race.

The Running Formula

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Enter a distance you have run recently in miles or kilometers, enter the time it took you to run that distance, enter the distance you want to predict, and click calculate. The formula was devised by Pete Riegel in the late 70s to predict how fast a person could run one race based on their finish time of a previous race. I bet I’m not the only runner to obsess over, or cuss this formula.

Using my last half marathon time of 1:56:20, the formula predicted I would run a marathon in 4:02:32. Of course we all know the formula can’t predict everything that magically happens on race day. . . which began last Sunday when the alarm rang at 3:45am. Our clocks had sprang forward a few hours earlier, already leaving me with one less hour of fitful sleep.

After two days of debate, my husband had finally agreed that I should drive myself to the starting line. It was only the 2nd time I have ever gone to a race by myself, but the race director had been insistent that all runners should be on the shuttle bus to the race venue no later than 6am – which would put us back home again at least 2 hours after our oldest dog could no longer “hold it,” if you know what I mean.

I brushed my teeth, dressed, had breakfast, and my husband fixed a cappuccino for the road – a routine that is exactly backwards to everyday life. I had filled water bottles, and packed extra clothes, in case the forecast didn’t fib and it rained. My husband gave me a kiss, and told me he’d see me at the finish line around noon. It was 65 degrees (18ºC) at 4:30am when I left home.

 

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Most runners will consistently improve when they first start running, even if they do everything wrong. I know this to be true because I did everything wrong. At some point, however, it becomes harder and harder to best your finish times. With the natural slowing experienced with age, I’ve always believed it to be a “win” just to maintain. Nonetheless, runners live and die by setting personal records, achieving Boston Qualifier times, and forever running faster. I am no exception.

I drove myself to the race, completely forgot to bring along my purse (i.e., no money), panicked when the directions took me on a toll road, marveled that there is such a thing as “Pay by Mail” on a toll road, shared “war” stories with a fellow runner on the shuttle, sat on the curb between taking turns standing in line for the porta-potty, positioned myself at the starting line, and ventured off on 26.2 miles all by myself.

The race was touted as “Flat and Fast” – the reason I chose this race in the first place. It was not flat.

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Tobacco Road Marathon Elevation; the fourth ‘flattest’ course in North Carolina.

The American Tobacco Trail is a 22+ mile trail of rolling hills. There was a 2-mile stretch on the road before the trail where the half marathoners turned left, and the rest of us turned right onto a ‘granite screenings surface’ – a naturally decomposed granite created when granite is compressed and broken down into a combination of sand and gravel. Somehow in my search for the perfect, flat and fast marathon, I didn’t realize this course would be mostly sand. By the end of the race, I had sand everywhere.

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The home stretch.

Things went well for the first 2 hours, and I felt pretty good until mile 22 when I bonked. Determined to run that 4-hour marathon, I didn’t accept that this course wasn’t flat until I had spent too long at a flat course pace. I also didn’t accept that it was warmer than one might expect for an early spring morning.

It crossed my mind that an elite runner would walk off the course, preserving their effort for a day when their body cooperated. As usual, I decided I had worked hard for a medal and I wasn’t leaving without one.

There were several miles between 22 and 26 that I walked – only to remember my husband had been standing at the finish line since noon wondering where I was. He later told me he had positioned himself directly in front of the line, and worked his way further and further back down the course as time went by. His next move was to start walking the course.

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Sometimes a race just feels right, and sometimes it doesn’t. As soon as I crossed the finish line I told my husband, “I don’t ever need to do this again. I’m done.” Wisely he smiled and told me I could tell him that tomorrow, not today. He was right.

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Hunters running in a cave painting made 2,000 to 3,000 years ago in Zimbabwe.
From Racing the Antelope.

Berne Heinrich wrote the book, Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us About Running and Life, (xii + 292. HarperCollins, 2001) where he proposes that humans have evolved into endurance hunters. Athough a biologist by profession, he has held the masters (40 and older) world record for an ultramarathon (100 kilometers) from 1981 through 2007, and at the end of 2007 he was inducted into the American Ultrarunning Association’s Hall of Fame.

Heinrich makes the case that our bodies are physiologically well adapted for the long run; from our flexible Achilles’ tendons, arched feet, and strong big toes to the fact that our lungs, blood and circulatory systems supply oxygen for aerobic processing that allows us to burn fat for energy – the key to fueling the body for the long run.

Perhaps most importantly, Heinrich argues that we are psychologically adapted to endurance running since we can visualize far ahead and use our imagination to motivate ourselves.

Yes, this is the life of a competitive runner. We wake up the day after a grueling race, assess our errors, re-visit the formula, and vow we can run this race to the peak of our ability. We vow to try again.

At the end of my very, long race day, my husband told me yet again how proud he was of me. He said, “You are my warrior.” I gave him a tired smile, and warned him that sometimes warriors die. He said, “No, sometimes warriors have to live.” That’s when I realized I had survived, and I would have to try again.

Are you ready to run a Marathon?

Record numbers of recreational and competitive runners are flocking to the marathon distance. According to the latest Running USA Marathon Report, 550,637 runners ran a marathon in 2014, up from 541,000 in 2013, and nearly half of these runners were in the masters division, 40 and older. With such popularity one could mistakenly assume that somehow the marathon distance has grown easier to cover.

I don’t think the marathon distance will ever seem easy, but with a healthy dose of motivation you can select a proper training program and find yourself at the starting line of a marathon in as little as 18 weeks’ time.

Answering these questions will help you gain the most from your training, establish your personal goal for the race, and protect your body in the process.

image#1: How Fit Are You?

A few years ago, the word on the street was that endurance running caused heart disease – a claim widely supported by the sudden deaths of multiple elite and recreational runners. Numerous articles were written, based on varying studies, although opinions clearly differ depending on the author’s view.

One such study, the Mayo Clinic Proceedings Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise, included the following statement in the opening Abstract:

… Additionally, long-term excessive sustained exercise may be associated with coronary artery calcification, diastolic dysfunction, and large-artery wall stiffening. However, this concept is still hypothetical and there is some inconsistency in the reported findings. Furthermore, lifelong vigorous exercisers generally have low mortality rates and excellent functional capacity.

While more conclusive testing is obviously warranted, an interesting study emerged from Sweden in 2009, as reported by Ned Kock, a researcher, software developer, consultant, and college professor (interestingly, not a runner).

Data was collected on males and females aged 55 or older who had participated in a 30-km (about 19-mile) cross-country race. Only runners who had no diagnosed medical disorders were included in the study. The data included patterns of exercise prior to the race, as well as participation in previous races. Blood was taken before and after the race with several measurements obtained, including measurements of two possible heart disease markers: N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP), and troponin T (TnT).

The BNP test is used as an aid in the diagnosis and assessment of severity of heart failure. Low BNP was found to be a predictor of survival to age 90 in men. For patients with heart failure, BNP values will, in general, be above 100 pg/mL.

Tests confirmed both markers increased significantly in all participants after the race. Excessive elevations during the race would be problematic, as would permanent elevations. In these test subjects, however, the levels do not stay elevated.

The fascinating observation was that the increases in NT-proBNP and TnT are generally lower in those individuals that had participated in 3 to 13 races in the past (154.5 post race). They are higher for the inexperienced runners (180 post race), and, in the case of NT-proBNP, particularly higher for those with 14 or more races under their belt (204 post race). Baseline values were also lowest among the groups with 3-13 prior races (53 for runners with 3-7 prior races; 52 for 8-13 prior races).

The study’s findings concluded that (1) individuals who had elevated markers of heart disease prior to the race also had the highest elevations of those markers after the race, and (2) large increases in NT-proBNP were more common among the runners who were too inexperienced, or too experienced. The ones at the extremes. In this study, how much was too much? 14 prior races.

Eliminating the controversial aspect of whether endurance running causes heart disease, this data warns us that entering a race under-trained is as dangerous as over-training……we should avoid the extremes.

#2: Finish or Place?

A pack of street sweepers and security vehicles trail behind the last runners. They knock on the plastic doors of every Porta-Pottie checking for race participants.

An 80-year old man in Arizona laughs over the parade of vehicles behind him at the back of the pack. “I don’t care about that,” he chuckles. “I’m here for myself, and I will be the first last walker in this race.” With the finish line in sight, he breaks into a run, crosses the line and throws his arms up to receive the very last finisher’s medal… as the crew breaks down the barricades around him.

For some, just finishing the race is why they started the race in the first place. For others, it is a race against their own personal best time, and as compared to others on the course that day.

Runners are often obsessed with Race Pace – the fastest speed per mile that can be maintained for the duration of a race.

There is, however, such a thing as a Pace Race: a competitive, timed race in which the objective is not to finish in the least time, but to finish within the prescribed time and in the best physical condition. It’s a personal choice – no wrong answers.

Boston Memorable finishes An exhausted John Moe, 50, of British Columbia (2:50:22) gets a pick-me-up from medical personnel after crossing the finish line. (Globe Staff Photo / Matthew J. Lee)

#3: Ultrarunners: the lunatic fringe?

A study involving 1,212 subjects, the Ultra runners Longitudinal TRAcking (ULTRA) Study (Martin D. Hoffman and Eswar Krishnan), has something that may surprise those who believe ultra runners as a bit of a lunatic fringe: ultra runners experience no more injuries than runners in shorter distances. Similar to the findings from the Swedish study,however, runners who were younger and less experienced in ultra marathons – races longer than the standard 26.2-mile marathon – appeared to be most at risk of injury.

Ultra marathon runners who had sustained an exercise-related injury in the prior year were distinguished by several characteristics from those who remained free of injury. Those sustaining an injury were younger and less experienced at running, had relatively less focus on running, spent a greater proportion of their exercise time at high intensities, and were more likely to have performed regular resistance training.

What do the ultra runners know that the younger runners should learn? Ultra runners, especially older ones, tend to run long, but not very fast. They know how to pace themselves.

runnersworld.com

“Even if I have to crawl, I’ll finish.”

On March 1, the day after his 80th birthday, Bill Dodson of Mountain View, Calif., tested his limits.

On a frigid day in Caumsett State Park on Long Island — competing in a 50-kilometer (31-mile) race, Mr. Dodson made a dogged effort to set a record for the 80- to 85-year-old age group. The existing record: 5 hours, 54 minutes, 59 seconds.

As the wintry day wore on, flakes began descending, and by the time Mr. Dodson was on his final 5K loop, it was snowing heavily.

He struggled on, slipping and falling twice on the slick pavement. Both times, he arose and continued to shuffle along. With the finish line in sight, he fell again. And this time, crawled across the finish line.

He missed the record by eight seconds.

Just over a month later, Dodson attempted another record, this time at the National 100K Championship (just over 62 miles) in Madison, Wisconsin. He finished in 15 hours, 5 minutes and 47 seconds, beating the national record for 80- to 85-year-olds by more than two and a half hours.

“Most 80-year-olds can’t do that, but if you can’t, you ought to be doing whatever you can.” (Dr. William Roberts, medical director for the Twin Cities Marathon).

Damian Hall at the finish of 2013’s Cotswold Way Century 102-mile ultramarathon PIC: NICOLA DUSTERHOFF

Finish As Strong As You Started

For the better part of three months, I have been singularly focused on the two weeks ahead of me now…. the end of renovations on our lovely, old home.

The whole process has not been unlike training for a marathon. Initially, the race is so far away that day-to-day efforts seem trivial. The slow ramp-up of mileage over the months hardly relate to the race at all until finally, we reach that long, grueling 20-mile run and realize in a matter of weeks all this training must come together so we can run the full distance… and survive. It is at this point of realization that also brings with it a touch of panic.

faucetFrom the moment we determined the remodeled floor plan of this old house, my attention turned to finding the perfect finishes to transform this blank canvas into our home. Finishes that would complement the architecture, yet reflect our personal style. My InBox holds no less than 35 emails confirming various orders from toilets to drawer pulls and a doorbell; items that required varying degrees of effort to uncover them from the vast sea of online shopping.

Had my piggy bank been stuffed with unlimited funds, this job would have been straightforward. There were oodles of perfect choices where money was no object. This project, however, was more like searching out the best bottle of wine for under ten bucks.

The parquet fit perfectly in the kitchen.
The parquet fit perfectly in the kitchen….

The treasure hunt for some items was downright delightful. The light fixture for the main stairwell, for example, appeared in Wayfair’s clearance corner quite unexpectedly. A $400 fixture that now sat in an open box for $89. I threw it in my cart without a second glance.

There were a pair of faucets for the master bath reduced to $40 each by a nice vendor on Amazon, and the beautiful parquet tiles my Aunt had stashed in a warehouse were the exact number of tiles needed to fill the kitchen, which was completely void of hardwood flooring.

These were the things that came together effortlessly…perfectly.

.... with just enough tiles left over for the butler's pantry.
…. with just enough tiles left over to highlight  the butler’s pantry.

Then there was the 10″ toilet.

Who knew toilets were configured by their rough-in size? I spent weeks searching every nook and cranny under the planet for this one toilet. It was the item that nearly made me looney as I tried to will the look I wanted onto this strange toilet, at the price I wanted. That toilet tormented me to the very end.

Finally, these beautiful treasures began arriving at our doorstep. The kitchen drawer pulls shipped straight from China; the packaging still retaining the smell from this foreign land. A beautiful, gold faucet was packed in a cloth bag as if it were a piece of jewelry.

 

Not everything was perfect….fridge text

The toilet for the 3rd floor bath was cracked, the dining room chandelier was missing three crystals, the granite slab for the kitchen counter-top broke, and the handles on the refrigerator and freezer did not match.

Things were falling apart right there at the finish line.

Training for the marathon, we work our way through a training plan that best fits our level of experience and life, yet we may still find ourselves challenged by something. We urge our bodies to respond to the challenge, willing it to adapt. Pace, speed-work and nutrition are researched in an effort to prepare ourselves to go this distance. Finally, we arrive at the starting line….where things can and will go wrong.

Somewhere in the middle miles of this race, when you’re tired and irritable, it’s easy to make bad decisions. We begin to accept second-best…. we just want this race (project/job/commitment) to be over. The thing is, when the race is over you can’t take back what you’ve done. Better to hold true to your resolve…. stand firm to your commitment to do this thing right.

My husband has given us advice over the years whenever we have decided to leave one job in favor of another, “Finish as strong as you started.”

The devil is in the details, true in life and in running, but we can stand firm to our commitment to do this thing right, and finish as strong as we started.

A DNF Discussion

There are books titled Did Not Finish, you tube videos, even a website, didnotfinish.com. For an athlete these words are rarely uttered in private, avoided like the plaque.

According to Wikipedia, “DNF denotes a participant who does not finish a given race, either because of a mechanical failure, injury, or involvement in an accident.” A definition can not even come close to explaining what DNF really means to an athlete.

The term, DNF, is used in all forms of racing, including automotive racing, horse racing, cycling, track and, of course, distance running. While DNFs vary between competitive discipline, the rates within individual events are the lowest.

A 2009 New York Times analysis of New York City Marathon results concluded that recreational competitors were more likely to finish the race rather than be classified as DNF. Elite runners, on the other hand, are more inclined to drop races rather than risk injury and put a future race in jeopardy.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics, three of America’s six competitors failed to finish. Ryan Hall lasted just 46 minutes 57 seconds before dropping out. Paula Radcliffe, current women’s marathon world record holder, hit the wall in the 2004 Olympic Marathon and dropped out.

Bill Rodgers was a successful American runner and former American record holder in the marathon whose victories made him a hero during the running boom of the 1970s. He registered a DNF in his first marathon, the Boston Marathon, in 1973. What if a discouraged Bill Rodgers had never run another marathon? What a loss there would have been for the running world.

Shameful or Exceeding the Limit

One reason for not finishing is injury. But another is that runners may realize they are not mentally prepared to go the distance. When you hit the wall, it seems absolutely impossible to put one foot in front of the other for just one more second. Maybe another reason a DNF happens is because you have over-achieved in your racing effort…

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I found a runner who blogged about his own DNF:

“If you don’t miss a flight once in a while, then you’re wasting too much time waiting in the airport!” In other words, play-it-safe perfection isn’t an optimal strategy. It’s wiser to take risks, and sometimes fail — in order to do better overall.

Analogously, for some runners DNF are scary, scarlet letters of shame. They stand for Did Not Finish — meaning in some minds “Dropped Out”, “Quit”, “Couldn’t Hack It”, and the like. Other’s say if you don’t get one eventually then obviously you’re not trying hard enough “to win” when you race.

I almost dropped out of my last marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon. An argument raged in my head: is it better to register a time so much slower than is typical for me, or to drop out and not register that race in my little book of races at all? Eventually I decided I had made it that far and I wanted a medal for my effort, regardless of the time. In some ways, the disappointment of not having a stellar performance was just as difficult to accept.

It’s what you do with the disappointment afterwards that matters. You can let it prevent you from ever running again, or it can motivate you to run another marathon right away…. to prove you can do it (which is what many runners tend to do), or you can use the experience to help you improve.

The runner quoted above ended his post with words perfectly written:

If we choose to retire and hang our running shoes on the hook, there is nothing further we can do. But if we take courage, brush off the dust, and go back to training we have a chance! Maybe not today, or next week, but sometime down the road and each time we cross the Finish line the memory of the DNF will diminish and one day the pain will no longer be there.

Carry on, runners.

Marine Corps Marathon Postmortem

Webster says postmortem is the analysis or discussion of an event after it has occurred, and that seems an appropriate definition of what I’ve been going through non-stop since Sunday afternoon.

The only way to describe the gun firing on 30,000 post-taper marathoners is controlled pandemonium. There’s cheering, pushing, bumping, shoving, jackets and gloves flung in the air, runners darting in and out and in front of other runners – it is a sea of arms, legs and feet whose sole purpose is to move forward when there is no room to move forward.

It was three miles into the race before I could reach race pace and I’m quite sure I spent another three miles attempting to make up for lost time. I’d catch myself speeding up and I’d slow myself down. I’d get caught up in the crowd, waving to the spectators or relishing the time that I had a few inches of the course all to myself and I’d realize I was going too slow. This went on and on and on….until it didn’t.

My husband watched my splits and noticed I was on schedule for a 3:58 finish. This was about the finish I had expected, but it was not the finish I was to have.

Somewhere after the half I knew something was wrong. My legs were cramping and I realized I had pulled a muscle in my right calf…..it really hurt.

It has been a long time since I’ve run a major marathon. The past several years I have run smaller, suburban races. The race director plays a large role in the personality of a small race and some can be bland while others are simply magical.

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The largest flag ever held by a sky diver at the opening ceremony of this year’s MCM.

A large urban race takes on a life of its own – the opening ceremony is grand, the runners diverse and the whole race a spectacle. One of the best parts of a grand race is the finish line. The crowds await your arrival and seem to think their very cheers can propel you through the pain. During the hard, grueling and lonely training runs it is often the image of this finish line that plays out in my head.

By mile 19, I had stopped at a medical tent but changed my mind before I went in. I had stretched, drank more Gatorade than usual thinking it might alleviate the cramps, walked, ran, gotten mad, felt sorry for myself, talked to myself out loud, re-calculated the finish time a dozen times and what pace I would need to carry, and finally I accepted that I would have to walk to the finish. I walked the last seven miles.

I promise you it is much harder to walk a marathon than to just run. I tried four times in those last seven miles to start running again but knew it would do more harm to my calf than it was worth. For several miles I forced myself to maintain a 15-minute mile walk so I could still finish under 5 hours but eventually dropped to a 17-minute plus pace and finished in 5:04:08.

It would be easy to say I had a bad marathon but I don’t think that’s fair. It was a great experience. I really enjoyed the spectators. I didn’t wear my cap and some of them yelled out, “Look at the gray hair!” and then they’d give me a big cheer. The kids were so cute holding out their hands. And the marines made the event so very special.

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The Marine Corps Memorial on our moonlight tour

How can you possibly expect to run 26.2 miles on any given day of your life perfectly? There are so many other variables for most of us – it’s not our job to run 26.2 miles perfectly. And so, we do the very best we can on that particular day. We adjust to what the weather, our bodies and the race throws at us – we finish the race, do a postmortem and move on to the next opportunity to show off our best stuff.

Along those lines, it was interesting for me to learn the female winner at this year’s MCM was 29-year old Kelly Calway. Kelly was from Colorado – not Kenya or Ethiopia, she finished in 2:42:16, is the mother of a 6-year old, a captain in the U.S. Army and she deploys to Kuwait this week. She said, “It’s awesome to win this race, representing the United States Army…. It’s the last thing I’m doing before shipping out. So it means the world to win this race.”

What a perfect ending to a perfectly fabulous race.

Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com
Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com

The People’s Marathon….done.

This marathon has been dubbed by my husband as the “hurry-up-and-wait” marathon. The lines were horrendous, the mass of runners overwhelming…. the sheer logistics were massive.

The marines were tall and handsome and they proclaimed, “Ma’am, you’re doing great!” whenever I saw them. Bands played, spectators lined the streets and cheered us on for almost the entire course. Little children held out their hands anxious to give us a “low-five” at every turn…. and I touched every little hand I could reach along the way. Mothers handed out Halloween candy and tissues for our runny noses.

There were runners in wedding attire, a clown suit, bare feet, and a few in wheelchairs. We ran on highways, bridges and by monuments. A marine put a medal around my neck. They stood side-by-side along the finish line and every one shook my hand and told me what a great accomplishment this was. Everything in between the starting line and that finish was frustrating, painful and emotionally moving.

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All marathons are an experience and sometimes the experience becomes more enlightening as the days pass.

We have spent the “day after” re-living the event and re-discovering our country’s sometimes turbulent but beautiful past.

There will be so much more to say in a couple of days when I am safely back at home in the heart of the mountains I call home.

For now, I look forward to analyzing every one of the First Lady’s inaugural gowns, much to my husband’s chagrin, and touring the Air and Space Museum (to make up for the tour of the dresses), and then  a nice little moonlight tour of those monuments I barely saw along the course of the “hurry-up-and-wait” marathon. Talk to you again in a few days.