The Long Run

I crossed an item off my bucket list yesterday. I ran a marathon. I know that is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things but it was a goal I set and I’m pretty happy that it was achieved.
I have been training for 6 months but at my age of 58, this task clearly would have been easier if I was 30 years younger. 26.2 miles is a long way on foot and against a clock. But I made it and in the process of becoming a marathoner, I discovered that as a first-time marathoner, I make an excellent college football TV watcher. I was so slow, I finished just behind Gary, the one eyed, one legged dyslexic pirate who lost his peg leg at mile 4 and hopped backwards the rest of the way and just ahead of Gary’s pet brown-throated, three toed sloth that he had trained to run marathons.
While I count finishing something I never thought I could – or would – do as a personal milestone, I had a chance meeting on the bus during the 40 minute ride up to the start that put things in perspective for me.
Sitting next to me was a diminutive lady a few years younger than me and we got to chatting. I’ll call her Jill because I didn’t ask her if it would be OK to write about this. We talked general stuff at first – have you run this one before, how many marathons have you done, etc. – but when she told me she was from Vancouver (I spent a lot of time there over the past few years) it got a little more personal. She was a psychiatrist who worked ran a clinic not far from where I lived when I was up there. She told me this was her 100th marathon and that she had flown down to run and was flying back home after the race.
She noted that counted in those many marathons was not one she really wanted to do – the Boston Marathon. She hoped to go fast enough to qualify for it at this race but was worried that she would be too slow because she had not trained very well over the past few months. She asked about my training and soon the conversation turned to her process and when it did, I heard something that I didn’t expect to hear. She said, “I haven’t run much in the past few months because I’m just getting over my last round of chemo. I am a breast cancer survivor.”
“Thankfully, it was caught early but the chemo really takes it out of you, you know?”
I asked her how many rounds and she said, “Just two after the tumor was removed. I was very lucky.”
“How long ago was your last treatment?”
“Six weeks ago.”
“And you are here?”
“Where else would I be? This is my life and the way I choose to live it. If I alter my life, the cancer wins and I won’t allow that to happen.”

Life throws us many curve balls and not everyone can hit them. She can. Out of the park. There is much research indicating our bodies are capable of far more than we think. The mind wants to give up long before the body is exhausted. Challenges come in all shapes and sizes – we won’t always be able to overcome them all but if Jill is any example, we can handle a lot more than we might think. You can do whatever your mind allows. For now, this was the upper limit of my fitness and endurance. I’m sore as hell but feel pretty good today. I dropped from 204 to 199 during the race, most of it was fluid loss – I’m back to 203 today, so the re-hydration is going well.

There were days I would rather be shot than get out and run but I knew that was the price I had to pay to make it. I set three goals – 1) cross the finish line, 2) do it in less than 5 hours and 3) not die. Two out of three ain’t bad. I might have made 5:15 if I hadn’t bruised my left heel by mile 20 and grew a gigantic blood blister on my right foot – those two little surprises slowed me considerably the last several miles.

I hope everyone finds this post inspirational, my chance meeting with Jill certainly inspired me…and it just isn’t about running, it is about all the challenges we think are impossible.

I looked up Jill’s finish time. She needed to go under four hours to qualify for 2018. She finished in 3:41:33. Go Jill, I’ll be checking the listing of the Boston finishers in 2018 for your name. I’m betting I’ll find it.

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