This may not seem like a big deal to lifelong runners. But to a tried-and-true non-athlete such as myself, it was a HUGE deal. I quit the soccer team in elementary school because the coach was a yeller. I was a cheerleader in high school, where most practices consisted of eating Twix bars and gossiping about boys. I did run as an adult, once, when I was trying to catch the bus. I tripped and fell in the street, ripping holes in the knees of my tights. I spent the next week on crutches. Nope, not an athlete.
I’d always *wanted* to be an athlete, though. The costumes looked cute (“They’re *uniforms,*” a friend helpfully pointed out). And athletes always seemed so bad-ass. But what kind of athletics could I possibly pursue? Besides, competition was never something that appealed to me. That sort of thinking kind of flies in the face of what athleticism embodies.
Running always sounded kind of cool. Other than good shoes, there wasn’t much equipment involved. You didn’t need to be on a team (and undoubtedly risk the disappointment and ridicule of fellow teammates), you could do it at your own speed, and you could run pretty much anywhere. Plus, there were some cute clothes involved.
But those distances – 5K, 10K, 26.2 miles?! – sounded impossible. How could anyone run almost 30 miles at once? What would that feel like, physically and emotionally? I wanted to know, and I decided that, before I died, I’d run a marathon. I had no idea when, but I was going to do it. (Also? It seemed like the perfect goal to keep putting off but keep mentioning to people.)
Almost two years ago, we randomly got a Team in Training postcard in the mail. If you were looking for an endurance event, you’d get great coaching and support, if you helped raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “I’m going to run the Marine Corps Marathon,” the hubs, a fellow couch potato, announced to me in February 2010. And, by God, that October, he did.
That competitive drive I always lacked? Suddenly, it reared its head. Oh, yeah? Run a marathon, will you? I can do that, too, ya know. And so, this past spring, I signed up with TNT. I committed to raising $1,000 to support life-saving research to eradicate blood cancers. And I committed to training to run the Marine Corps Marathon – all 26.2 miles, in a row. I was a living embodiment of insanity: a late-thirties mother of two young hooligan
children, with absolutely no physical prowess but gifted with the innate ability to trip over dust molecules. But I was psyched!
There was snow on the ground that first day in March, when all I had to run was a measly two miles, and I thought I might actually die. I ran through a gorgeous spring, a hot-as-hell summer, and then a chilly fall. I ran by myself, and I ran with my team, and I ran with my chunky toddler in the jogging stroller (who was cool with it, as long as he had a steady supply of snacks). I ran on trails, and I ran around my ‘hood, and I ran on the treadmill at the gym (enduring endless episodes of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” which is actually tolerable on mute) late at night, after my family had gone to bed. My mileage increased, and before I knew it, I was running five miles, ten miles… 16 miles… 20 freakin’ miles!
There were the inevitable highs and lows: a few injuries, the excitement of the impending glory, followed by the anxiety of actually having to live up to my commitment. But I kept at it – the only thing in my life, aside from my marriage, that I’ve ever truly committed to – and before I knew it, the race was here.
I was freezing. I was semi-terrified. I was excited. I was in excruciating pain by the last few miles. But I crossed that finish line, and a Marine put a medal around my neck. It was the most difficult physical exertion I’d ever felt in my life (and I say this as a woman who birthed two babies), and it was the most exhilirating sensation. I RAN A MARATHON.
The day after my race, one of my coaches posted on my Facebook wall: “Diana, you totally rock. So much fun running with you this season. You were great out there yesterday and I am proud to say you are officially a bad-ass.” Yeah. A bad-ass in a cute costume!