One year ago yesterday (November 2nd) I was visiting my friend Jennifer in New York City to run the New York marathon. I've been reminiscing about it because my brother in law, Jacob, is going to run the San Antonio half marathon this month (in two weeks I think). Sometimes when he calls to talk to Peter he'll ask to talk to me and tell me how he's doing and how his training is going.
When I talk to him I can't help but feel a little envious! He's very excited and he's enjoyed training for a half so much that he's considering doing a full marathon. He's experiencing the exhilaration that you feel when, never having run more than a few miles at a time, you're now running 10. Previously you thought 10 miles might be impossible but now that you're doing it, your mind begins to flirt with the idea of doing 26.
New York was my second marathon. The first marathon I did was in January of 2008 in Houston. I'd started running maybe a year before and let me tell you it was painful. Peter will verify this. I just wanted to get into shape so we started running around a 3 mile loop at Rice University. We chose running because it was a very easy and cost effective thing that we could do. Actually, running is the wrong term. When we started it was more like a combination of walking, staggering and wishing for death. I hated it.
But after several excruciating months I could run all three miles! This in and of itself was a ginormous accomplishment for me. I didn't even like running and I could go three miles! So as time went on I realized I needed a goal in order to stick to my exercise. So I set my sights on the Houston Marathon. It makes no sense that I made that my goal. That's like someone who just rowed a boat across a pond declaring that they would next be rowing across the Atlantic. But I guess I was up for a challenge.
So I gradually started increasing my distance and before I knew it I was running 10, 12, 15 miles. And along the way, something really great happened: I started to love running. I loved it! On the nights before my long runs sometimes I couldn't sleep because I was nervous and excited and dreading it all at the same time. And afterward there was such sweet, exhausted relief at having accomplished the week's run. I was not an athlete, never a runner, and I was running more miles than I ever thought possible. I've told Peter before that this experience changed my life in some ways. I still struggle to put into words what was so transforming about it. But one aspect was the fact that whole new worlds of possibilities opened up in my mind. I began to consider that perhaps other things I'd always thought would be impossible for me might actually be achievable with some hard work and "pounding the pavement," so to speak.
I ran the Houston Marathon in Jan of 2008. It took me 5 hours. I loved it. I felt so great the whole time. I ended up doing the final training runs and the marathon alone because my running partner had to drop out due to injury. But I didn't mind that. I actually kind of liked the solitariness of it. The fact that I was the only one that could keep putting one leg in front of the other. Yet at the same time drawing strength from the hundreds of people around me that were in the exact same position.
I loved that marathon so much that I signed up for the New York Marathon for the November of that same year. That experience was not as exhilarating since I'd been through it before and the marathon itself was more difficult because I had more aches and pains (and bowel and bladder issues which I won't go into here). But it was still deeply enjoyable and the fact that it was in NYC made it very exciting.
Anyways, I'm here to tell you that barring any serious injuries or disabilities, if I can do this ANYONE can do this. Anyone. Literally. I'm not a gifted athlete. At all. Ever. Still after running for three years, I'm not a great runner. But if you've ever thought about about doing a marathon, you can! Or if not a marathon, there's probably something else that you consider impossible that might not be after all.
If you're a runner or you might want to be a runner or even if you're neither of those things you might like this video. It's a Nova program called Marathon Challenge. You can watch the full episode online. When Peter and I watched it, we both cried at the end. It chronicles several people who overcome significant obstacles to do the Boston Marathon.