August 8, 2008

Adventurous Woman: Marathon!

My friend, Maria, decided she wanted to run the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall of 2007. She had never done a marathon before and spent many, many months training for the event. This is her story:

AWB: When did you start running?I always enjoyed being active. My main mode of exercise was tennis starting in high school and continuing until my 20’s. My inspiration for running came from my father. He started running when it wasn’t the “thing to do” but I would watch him get up every morning and run 1 mile at our local high school track before going to work. I admired this in him and tried to emulate this in my life. I started running in college, although, it was painful and something I did not enjoy. In fact, I wasn’t very consistent. I couldn’t run more than 2 miles. I remember coming home for a weekend, from college and asked my dad if we could run together. We went out and I huffed and puffed my way to the 2 mile mark. He just smiled at me and encouraged me to keep at it. There was something inside of me that kept bringing me back to run. Over the next 20 years, as I concentrated on my family and my job, I “took a break from the whole concept of running.”

AWB: What made you want to do a marathon?
Three years before my oldest daughter was to move out of our home, I was at a Christmas party and was talking to an avid runner. This man ran in 100 mile events and I was very intrigued with the conversation. I made some comment to the effect that, when my daughter moves out I would love to train for a marathon. The words came out, but I never shared them with any other person other than my father, not even my husband. Somewhere inside I had this voice that kept bringing me back to running. About 1 year later, a young woman I work with—age 25, began training for a marathon. I overheard her talking to other staff saying that she was never athletic but had adopted the method of Jeff Galloway. His method entails running 4 minutes and walking 1 minute throughout. At this time I was 47 talking to this 25 year old. But, within the next year I learned of 3 women my age who trained and successfully ran marathons.

I have 3 children, but once my oldest daughter, who has a disability, moved out of our home, I started to re-evaluate my role in life. I was her primary caretaker and she required a lot of attention and supervision. Any hobby or activity that required a commitment was out of the question while she was in our care, so when she left, I had this huge void in my life. I had 2 younger children, but they too were more independent. I began asking myself certain questions. How are you going to spend your time? What are some things you would like to accomplish in your lifetime

AWB: What training technique did you use?I developed a nice friendship with a co-worker and we decided to run 1 day a week after work. We started with 1 mile and I suggested we try the Galloway method. I can remember our feeling of triumph when we went from 1 to 5 miles. We were very methodical. After weeks turned into months, we found ourselves running 8 miles. I finally said, why don’t we try a 10K race at the next Marine Corps Marathon. (At this point I was not focused or thinking of a marathon). So that’s what we did. The day of the 10K is the day I decided I would run a marathon the following year. I remember standing at the starting line amongst throngs of runners and thousands of spectators –what a thrill. I remember looking around and seeing all of these people coming out to cheer for us.

The critical moment came when I looked to the right, and saw another huge line. One simple thin rope separated the 10K runners from the marathon runners. I looked and saw myself in so many of those people. I turned to my friend and said, “We can do this. Let’s run a marathon next year.” Shortly after this I said the words out loud to my husband.

Shortly after that we joined a training group. This is very important and something I highly suggest for running a marathon. This particular group adopts the Galloway method and it’s free. They are called the Bethesda Rebel Runners. They meet every Saturday in Bethesda, Maryland and anyone interested is encouraged to join. (They can be found on yahoo groups.)

AWB: How did you keep yourself motivated during the training and during the marathon itself?Once we joined the group, motivation was not an issue. I can’t stress enough how wonderful it was to be involved with the group. The members were so friendly and supportive. Each Saturday we met in a circle and the more experienced runners supported the “babies.” I was in awe to learn how many women ran 10 plus marathons, and traveled all over the world running marathons. The members were from all walks of life, and getting acquainted while running and sharing all sorts of stories, took the pain out of the runs. As you may know, running stimulates endorphin production, so it gives you a feeling of well-being. We would also run all over the Washington, DC-Virginia area. Ten miles took us to the National Zoo; 16 miles took us to Reagan National Airport. I never thought I would run from MD to DC to VA. I took in the beauty of our nation’s capital and met wonderful people along the way. After each run on Saturday, I would call my father, as I drove home, to tell him how far we ran and how I felt. He was so encouraging and excited for me. I know if he had the opportunity, this would have been something he would have wanted to do himself. Several weeks before the marathon, my father passed away. This was a huge loss to me. I especially missed those “after run” conversations. But on marathon day, I felt him right there with me, and I thought of him and my family as I crossed that finish line. The next best thing of crossing that line was to see the faces of my family and how excited they were for me.

This group prepared me for the marathon. Physical training was one piece of the equation. I was physically prepared for the marathon. Hydration, diet, dealing with heat, cold, and rain, timing, and what to carry on your person as you are running all come in to play. We discussed mentality throughout, especially toward the end. Each week I learned something new as part of the preparation, and with that built confidence that I was actually going to do this.

AWB: Do you have any advice for women who would like to run a marathon?
For me, this was a personal and spiritual journey, as well as a physical feat. I wasn’t competing with anyone but myself. You have to really want to do this. It is a commitment of time—so make sure the time is right for you. I ran amongst young mothers, single career women and older women in their 60s who still come and look adorable in their running skirts.

AWB: What’s your next big adventure?I am still running with the group, but not training for any races. I love to run and enjoy my running friends, but I want the flexibility to go away during the weekends. Running is a hobby, and I can see myself doing this for many years. I may or may not run more races. This past Christmas my husband and I received tennis rackets from my second daughter—and so after many, many years of not playing, we are back on the courts. I am not sure what my next big adventure will be, but I am very open to listen to that little voice inside to see what it says.

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