It is a new year and many of us set goals that we will pursue. Today’s blog entry was written a few years ago, in April of 2007. It’s a reflection on a goal I set and achieved.
It all began in June of 2001 as I waited in line for a bus along with hundreds of spectators and participants of the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon. With nothing to do but wait, I struck up a conversation with the tall, lean Indian woman who was waiting beside me. She piqued my interest when I noticed that she did not run for a particular cause (many of the participants around us ran for the Cancer Society). I found out that she entered the event on her own for the sole reason that she was soon to be 40 years old. I was pretty impressed because I also learned that she was not really an “athlete”, but an average person who did some walking and running once in a while. At that point in time, a thought ran through my mind that this is something I could do in the future. I filed that thought away until December of 2006 when I celebrated my 39th birthday.
I remember sitting at my desk during my lunch break and reflecting on the past year and thinking of what the following year had in store for me. As you already know, after 39, comes 40 and this is an important milestone for many, me included. Hmmm…what would I do to make my fortieth year in this world memorable? It occurred to me that I didn’t have to wait until I actually turned 40 to mark this milestone. I could set a goal before this highly talked about number made its entrance, and work toward it.
The thought of what I could do lingered in my mind for a few days and then out of the blue (well, not really) I retrieved and dusted the idea I had saved – sign up for a half marathon. At first, I was hesitant to share this news with my family thinking that they would snicker at this somewhat preposterous proposition. After all, I rarely go walking for exercise and my treadmill had become a very expensive clothes hanger. I decided to take the plunge and tell my husband. Without hesitation, he expressed that it was a great idea! The next step was to tell my three teenagers and of course, my children like many other teenagers thought that their mother had lost her mind for the umpteenth time. They didn’t have to say anything, being a mother for 19 years (and a teenager once myself), I have become adept at reading minds and interpreting rolling eyes!
On Christmas day, to my dismay, my husband announced to our guests that I will be participating in a half marathon. At that time, it was no longer a quiet thought in my head. The publicity that my 40th birthday goal had gotten propelled me into action and so I commenced my training in January of 2007. I must confess that at that point in time, I did not select a venue nor set a date for this self-imposed challenge.
For several nights I surfed the internet and read out to anyone who was listening (most of the time it was just the bird) the various upcoming events. There were quite a few from which I could have chosen – Canada, New Jersey, New York, Georgia, Tennessee, and good old Florida. I vacillated between Georgia and Tennessee until my family got tired with my indecisiveness and they made it known to me. Finally, I chose the Country Music Marathon scheduled on April 28 in Tennessee since it allowed me four months of training. I was thrilled that my husband willingly agreed to participate in the event with me.
Once the registration was completed, it began to sink in that I had committed myself to a major test of physical endurance. I am not into sports, I’m not a fan of any nor do I participate in any. Needless to say, I did not tell many people of my event.
I did most of my training at the local college campus. I bought myself an MP3 player, but I could not get it to work even after several phone calls to the expert, my teenage daughter. I did not bother to take it back with me on future training days and my teen was happy to relieve me of this piece of “inadequate” technology. Although to some it appeared to be a boring walk day after day, for me it was quite the opposite.
I could not wait to finish my day at work and my afternoon routine at home – it was as if I had a love affair with the running track. Nature and my thoughts were my walking partners. Each day I walked was a time of ruminating, reflecting, and reminiscing. Each day I walked, I had the pleasure of watching the beauty of the glorious sunset as its splendor dipped into the horizon. Living in South Florida provided me the enviable opportunity of having perfect training weather. I regularly called my friends and relatives in NY just to let them know how great it was to be outdoors in February, the heart of their winter.
I was very nervous and excited during the final week before my event. I began to doubt myself…would I be able to complete the 13.1 miles? To make matters worse, I twisted my ankle a week before my event while walking backwards, yes, walking backwards. I was horrified that I had sprained it and would have to cancel my trip to Tennessee. Luckily for me, there was no swelling and that was a sure sign that all was well. The positive outcome of this slight twist was that I was forced to take a few days of rest, a much needed break as any seasoned runner would tell you. While off the track, I tried my best to shove all the negative thoughts and feelings aside by counseling myself that I trained hard and if for some reason I did not complete the event, I could do it again. My self-talk worked.
The days prior to my event, I received warm and encouraging calls from friends and relatives who reassured me that they would be cheering me on from afar and tracking my progress via the internet. I felt very special.
Finally, the big day arrived. I had heard of “race day magic”, but nothing prepared me for the excitement and adrenaline as over 30,000 participants queued up at the starting line of the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon. I waited in my corral for almost 45 minutes with other participants before reaching the starting point. Although I was excited and caught up in the moment as I stepped over the electronic timing mat, I did not forget to start my own stop watch. My husband and I started out together and remained together until the first mile marker. Then, as agreed upon earlier, we parted ways. I kept on walking and he veered off for a bathroom stop! Just about this time I was very apprehensive and nervous. Would I cramp up? Would I fall and hurt myself? Would I twist an ankle? To take my mind off my negative thoughts, I introduced myself to the woman who was walking beside me and we set off toward the second mile marker. It seemed that I had just left my husband when I felt a little slap on my behind – it was him running past me.
I kept pace with my walking partner until the 3rd mile when she decided to move on. At the 4th mile marker, I trampled my negative thinking and hooted and cheered from that point and at every mile marker there after. The supporters were fabulous – babies to grandparents – they all came out to cheer us along. They offered a variety of snacks and beverages including beer, whiskey and coffee. I recall fondly the little girl who gave high fives to anyone within her reach while her mom passed out cereal snacks. It was the first time in my life I felt proud to litter the streets. It was a good feeling each time I grabbed a paper cup from the eager volunteers, drank the water, and then tossed it aside.
Having gained my confidence back at the beginning of the 4th mile, I decided that I was going to continue the course in the same manner I did in my training. My thoughts and nature kept me company – I enjoyed the beauty of spring time in Tennessee. I called my children, friends, and relatives in Florida, New York, and Canada to give them updates on my progress. We shared some good laughs that day on the hilly terrain of Tennessee. I was having a good time, a real good time.
Just after I passed the 11th mile marker, I whipped out my lipstick from the pouch around my waist, applied it and then turned to the young woman beside me and asked her, “Did I put on the lipstick properly?” She laughed and laughed so much that I am sure she lost a few seconds off of her finishing time. She reassured me that the lipstick was on perfectly. At the 12th mile marker, I pulled the bobby pins out of my hair and untied my pony tail…and at that exact moment, the photographers zoomed in on me. Needless to say, when I later looked at that photo, it seemed that I had just rolled out of bed – my hair was a mess. I was having a good time, a real good time.
At the beginning of the 13th mile, event finishers and spectators were standing in the sidelines cheering and cheering. Their generous support kept me smiling and smiling. Since I knew that I wanted a photo finish to this self-imposed physical challenge, I combed my hair with my fingers, wiped the salt off of my face, and started a light jog toward the end. As I approached the finish line, I blinked back tears of joy, raised my arms in the air, and thanked my God for His guidance and strength as I met my 40th birthday goal.