“Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Francis of Assisi
I’m so close to the marathon it is scary! The hardest part of the taper is slowing my eating down as much as I have slowed my running and not running harder and faster as the miles decrease.
Last weekend I had the privilege of running a 5K with a good friend Danielle. She was a cross country runner in high school, but family and life had gotten in the way and she hadn’t run in years. When she was diagnosed with RA she didn’t think she would ever run again. When we met, the fact that I run and have RA blew her away, she was so excited about the prospect of getting back into running and getting back into shape!
On the day of Danielle’s 5K, I was scheduled for a 16 mile long run so I headed out to the base, ran 4 miles to warm up, and then met her at the 5K start. It had been many years since Danielle had run more than 2 straight miles, but she was determined to finish the 5K without walking. We took it very slow, between 13 and 14 minutes per mile, but she kept running. It was hard for me to imagine that last year at this time, I was training for my first half marathon on this same stretch of blacktop, running at that same pace. Now running that slow just about kills me and I see only a tiny difference in my heart rate by slowing down so dramatically. With only a few beats per minute more, I can run 11 minute miles now.
We didn’t talk much during the 5K. I would let her know as each half mile mark chirped from my Garmin, but we just ran side by side. As we approached the end and could see the finish line, Danielle was brought to tears. She couldn’t believe she was going to do it, finish a 5K without walking! She choked up so badly she nearly had to walk! Fortunately, she was able to calm down and keep plugging away. We crossed the finish line somewhere around 40 minutes and she was ecstatic! Unfortunately her RA flared up a bit the next day because of the extreme effort, but it didn’t last and she is looking forward to the next 5K in a few weeks.
It was such a wonderful thing to participate in that special event in her life. I may have been part of the spark that got her going, but the hard work and determination was all Danielle’s. I pointed out that it was almost 2 ½ years ago to the day that I ran my first ever 5K and now, in 2 weeks, I will run my first full marathon. I’m still constantly shocked at my own progress. Some days I feel like I only dreamed that 2 hour finish at the Outer Banks. When I run a 9 minute mile in training I think to myself, “Did I really run this fast for 2 straight hours!” I don’t think this is all that unusual. I think many of us constantly underestimate what our bodies can do. It is our minds that hold us back, not our muscles or bones.
I realize now that when I run, I may be out there slogging away by myself, but I’m not running alone. When I cross that finish line in two weeks, I will cross it for every person diagnosed with RA, every middle ages house wife, every couch potato that is over 35 and wonders if it is not too late to get in shape. Getting out there as a real person, not some elite Olympian or lifelong runner with long lean muscles and years of training, shows people that marathons are for mortals. Normal people with a little grit and determination can do this. You don’t have to be fast, a 16 mpm average will get you over the line before the course closes. You do have to train, a LOT, marathons are not handed to you. Even walking for 26.2 miles is not something a person in good shape can just decide to do in an instant. It takes planning, hard work, and days of getting out there in all weather. Whether you feel like it or not you have to consistently put in the miles.
So far this year I have kept up with my written log, recovered from nasty shin splints, and run just over 200 miles (20 of them barefoot). I believe I am a runner. I believe I can run a marathon. I believe I can inspire others to seek more from themselves. I started running because I needed to. I continued running because it helped me so much and I discovered it was something I COULD do for myself. And now, here I am, doing the impossible.