December 04, 2016
Why do I run marathons?
My brother, Tim, recently completed the Seattle Marathon. And his time was a Boston Marathon qualifying time. To say that he is stoked is an understatement. To say that I am jealous is also an understatement.
I have completed a total of 5 marathons- the first one the year I turned 40, back in 1999. It's hard to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line that first time, but there were definitely tears in my eyes. That moment was made even more special because my daughter, Jen, who was 12 at the time, chose to run the last 300 or so meters with me. I had no idea she was going to join me, and the thought of that gesture still makes me emotional.
I am especially proud of that race given that I had unplanned abdominal surgery in June, and finished the race in August. I had trained prior to my surgery, and I did do a bit of training afterwards. But that race was a testimony to how quickly the body can heal. And also to the spirit of determination, I believe.
Since that first marathon, I have completed four more, the last one in Victoria, BC in October, 2014. That race was brutal and I dug as deep as I could to just cross the finish line. My training was a series of illness and injury, but once I had registered for the race, I was determined to see it through. Some might call that persistence, or tenacity ... or maybe it was just the stubbornness that I inherited from my dad. In any case, once I started down that path, there was nothing that was going to prevent me from crossing the finish line - even if I had to crawl across it. I didn't actually crawl - but my pride may have been the only thing that kept me upright during that race.
Not So Bad
Tim, on the other hand, finished that same race about an hour and a half before me. Now, in my defense, Tim is also nine years my junior. He also may not have subjected his body to as much abuse as I did during my youth. Maybe. I don't know that - but it makes me feel better to think it so.
I have had two children - and I liken running a marathon to the experience of childbirth. You prepare for it as best you can - education, diet, exercise. And during the marathon, as well as during childbirth, you swear you will never ever subject your body to this kind of abuse again. After the race, as you sit in the bath and let the body begin to heal, you savor the experience while still vowing to never commit to this kind of insanity again. Same feeling as after having a baby.
A few months down the road, after those memories fade, you start to consider it again - thinking that it really wasn't that bad. I believe that every mother in the world can relate to this kind of insane thinking.
Long Road Back
My last marathon, however, has been over 2 years ago now, and I'm still very aware of how tough it was. I have been working to heal some deep-rooted inflammation in my body and running a marathon is not on the list of recommended treatments. I'm not there yet, although I am starting to believe that I've turned the corner on that healing.
However, I miss the sweet taste of victory that, for me, is crossing the finish line after running 42.195km, or 26.2 miles. I suppose I could run shorter races. I have run a number of 10K road races. I have also completed a half-marathon. But after completing a marathon, the shorter races feel like cheating to me. I like to challenge myself and, for me, the marathon is a challenge. I know there are bigger challenges - an ultra-marathon or a triathlon.
Never Say Never
I would never say never and, even though I love my running, the ultra-marathon feels out of reach for me and my body. I have a short frame and short legs and I am not lightly-built - so I'm not exactly designed to win distance racing. I never run a race to win - I run to finish. Especially in a marathon, the goal of finishing is a win for me. As for a triathlon, I need to work on my swimming. It's on my list - just not high on my list right now.
I believe Tim once told me, before he started distance running, that he didn't have the body for marathons. Agreed - maybe he'll never be a competitive marathoner. But he has now completed 8 marathons, running his first back in May 2014. I'd say that's a pretty decent track record for someone who doesn't have a runner's body. I'm happy for him.
As for my own plans, I am tentatively planning on another marathon next year. I am definitely feeling the urge again, and Tim's qualification for the Boston only serves to inspire me again.
Will I ever be able to qualify for the Boston? I'm thinking most marathoners aspire to that goal so I'd be lying if I said it doesn't matter to me. But that goal depends on me having better health than I did back in 2014. So if and when I decide to register for another race, my goal will still be just to finish. A good strong finish -ie. a Boston Marathon qualifying time - will be icing on the cake.
B - The Healthy Guerrilla