(Note: This blog was written on Monday, May 6, 2013)
A few days, Friday to be precise, one of my high school classmates and closest friends asked me what motivated me to run.
That left me a little dumbfounded. I didn’t have the smartest answers for it, except to say that last year, I saw my husband run his first Marathon (in the US or ever? I’m not sure…) at the New Jersey Marathon in Long Branch. I told this friend and the others who were with us for dinner that night that in that race, I saw “fat people” (I literally used these words in our dialect during the conversation) run and actually finish.
I think, while I had to dig a little deep for that answer but with that answer coming out of my mouth, nonetheless, it was mostly honest. In fact, it was in that race that I made the commitment to run the New Jersey half-marathon this year.
Prior to the 2012 NJ Marathon, I already ran. Sporadically, however, dependent on the weather, the mood, the new shoes, the tech gadgets. In fact, the first time I ran a full distance of more than 6 miles was in 2011, in the middle of a cold spring day, while vacationing in Virginia Beach. That night I just could not stop running and I was proud of myself.
I started buying more running “essentials” from thereon. Nothing, however, could propel my behind off the couch again and my legs into the streets after that beach run. Once summer came, weather was my excuse. And the line of alibis just would not end.
Until May of 2012.
With my then 6-year old daughter, I watched the flock of runners— all shapes and sizes and ages— cross the finish line for the half and the full-marathons. Some so fast, it was hard to record their finish with my slower, older-generation iPhone. The 90 percent were slower that many of them, half-marathoners, were outran by the marathoners.
Like the imaginary light bulb, an idea came to me. “If these ‘fat people’ can do it, so can I.” (I apologize for using the “fat” word. I swear I almost banned that word in my household).
In retrospect, though, it was not just the sight of the overweight runners that triggered the interest in running and finishing a race. It was the spirit of being in a marathon. Or the spirit and the atmosphere that you feel in any race.
Old runners may take this “spirit” for granted. But for newbies like me, it is something that gets you going. It’s the random banner that says “Run, Stranger, Run.” It is the random cheerer on the sidewalk that yells out (and it never fails that there is always one that yells this in every race) “Good job! Still looking good” when you know you look like shit from hell, gasping for air. It is the random little boy with an oversized race shirt that extends his arms out, waiting for someone to give him a high-five.
It is all that spirit and more. And the spirit that is intensified as you cross the finish line.
This is what I felt. This is what “motivated” me to run, if only to answer my classmate in an even more detailed manner.
So two days after that conversation in a dimly lit, ant-laden bar in St. Marks, I ran my first Marathon.
And it was an accomplishment borne out of that experience of watching my husband cross the finish line last year.
I finished my marathon (read: 26.2 miles. I had to emphasize this because other countries refer to marathons as any race— 5k included). I finished at a lagging time of 4 hours, 45 minutes, and 8 seconds (4:45:08). I had openly said my goal was to finish less than 5 hours. Secret goal was 4:30 or under.
In the end, my legs can only do so much and no matter how I pushed, it just would not push hard and fast enough. I blamed it partly on the Benadryl (mistake no. 3). I blamed it partly on the headwind (not really mistake no. 2 but could be reason no. 2). Secretly, blaming it on the tapering schedule, which I followed that left me still doing 6 running days on the week of the race (mistake no. 1). (Note: I followed a running method, which may have been too intense for me. More on a separate blog sometime).
Still, I am proud I made it.
And yes, as I read Marc Parent’s chronicles this week, I realized that, in fact, it does make sense. While he talked of running gaits in a different context, I, in a way, parallel the inner motivation that propels a runner to run, regardless of shape and size. And yes, gait.
We all have our reasons, our motivations why we run.
Initially for me, it was just about the challenge knowing overweight individuals can do it.
Having crossed that arch, which, at that point, I didn’t even care about as to what time it said relative to the gun start, it changed my view and perspective about running.
We run for our children. We run for those who cannot run again. We run for ourselves.
I run and am now itching to run more marathons because I had come to that epiphany that running distance is a test to limits of the mind and body. It is the embodiment of the realization that sometimes, often times, the mind can certainly, definitely, absolutely compel the body to break its limits.