Since sixth grade the goal was to run a marathon. Being naïve and invincible, it wasn’t a matter of if but when. Plans were put into place, but there wasn’t a sense of urgency and sixth graders are easily distracted. So are seventh graders. And forty-year olds. It was more of a dream.
I was in southern New Hampshire in sixth grade which happened in the early 80s. The very early ‘80s. Almost the 70s. Southern New Hampshire is a Boston suburb, and everything Boston-related was magnetic to sixth grade boys. The Red Sox. The Bruins. Larry Bird and the Celtics. Hating the Lakers. Hating the Yankees. And Bill Rogers and the Boston Marathon. Nike, New Balance and the running craze were taking hold. I knew I wanted to run the Boston Marathon and conquer Heartbreak Hill. So I started running. I worked up to 6 miles, then made a jump to 9 miles. That 3 mile jump, combined with walking around school in super heavy, steel-toed hiking boots gave me incredibly painful shin splints. I quit running. I played sports that required running to train, and I was always among the fastest on my team in distance runs, but I didn’t stick with running for the sake of running.
The dream of running a marathon remained buried somewhere in my mind. Jealousy struck in college when I heard of a rugby teammate who ran a marathon. The dude was in worse shape than I was, evidence by his large beer gut (but countered by his very large, tree-trunk shaped legs which also made him deceptively fast on the field). Later in law school the same thing happened when I learned of other friends training for and completing marathons. Truth was, those friends WERE in better shape. I worked hard. At work. Physically, I was soft.
Finally after law school I dusted off my dream, put a plan around it, and trained for a marathon. Four times. Four times the plan was devised. Four times something jumped in front of the plan. Three times it was an injury, the result of competing with a younger version of the older runner. What would make it different this time?
The difference was a strong commitment to finish. To finally do this. 2013 presented significant professional and financial challenges and a minor physical challenge with an annoying calf and Achilles problem. But the goal of running the marathon remained.
You know what they say . . . the fifth time’s the charm!
At forty-six years old on October 13, 2013, I completed my first marathon in Chicago with my brother and in honor of my wife, a breast cancer survivor and MS fighter (raising over $1,500 for Susan G. Komen along the way). My youngest son and my parents joined me in Chicago to cheer us on. My daughter was sick, so she and my wife cheered via text message and phone calls.
It was an incredible experience on a beautiful sunny day in Chicago. My brother Chris is ten years younger and has been running triathlons for the last few years. He had a far stronger foundation heading into race day, and the ability to run FAR faster. He wanted to hurry up and be done with it. I made sure he took his time and enjoyed the scenery on his first tour though the city of Chicago.
As recently as the week before the race I had problems with my calf and Achilles, so I should’ve been happy to have finished. And I was. I was also disappointed and somewhat embarrassed by my time. Those leg issues kept me off the road for much of the month of August (when my posts on this site ceased), so the fact I finished was definitely an accomplishment. While people said they were impressed, I wasn’t impressed with the results.
So here we are at the end of the year. I’ve spent my time since the marathon working on my next “before” photo, eating unhealthy foods combined with almost no physical activity. And now it’s time to look ahead at 2014.
Yes, I ran a marathon. Yes, I am proud I accomplished that feat. But that really wasn’t the dream back in 6th grade. Maybe that’s why I feel unfulfilled. The dream was to run the Boston Marathon. Hmm . . . To run Boston means I need to qualify. To qualify as an old man in his forty-sixth year, that means I need to run 26.2 miles in less than 3 hours and 25 minutes. That’s less than 7 minutes 49 seconds a mile.