It was 5 o'clock on a Thursday evening. I stood up from my desk chair and was greeted with a loud crack from my lower back and a dull ache spread across my hips. I took a step forward and my calves burned. I moaned.
"Why am I doing this?" I asked my office mate. I ask her this question everyday. And everyday she laughs at me. "I don't know! Because you're crazy."
"Right. Good answer. And now I'm off to do it again."
"How many miles tonight?"
"I think eight. I'm going to shoot for six and try to push from there."
"How long will that take?"
"Forevvvvvvver!" I whine.
Every fiber of my physical body wanted nothing more than to go home and take a nap. I wanted to nap, to cook dinner, and to watch The Sing Off. I did not want to go to the gym. But. Dammit. I'm training for a marathon. And so, I headed to the gym to face my old foe, the treadmill. Armed with my trusty tote bag, loaded with one sports bra, capris, tank, socks, sneakers, baggy t-shirt, headphones, I went towards the neon lights of LA Fitness. My training plan called for eight miles. That meant I had to eat a large lunch, chug 2 water bottles throughout the day, and wouldn't be getting home well past dinner time.
It was there on that stupid treadmill at the seventh mile, bored out of my mind, sore from my hip right down to my toes, the time is ticking closer and closer to eight o'clock that I realized THIS is the marathon. Sure, I'll gear up on November 20th and gather in corrals with thousands of others runners. I'll be excited, nervous, cold, scared, and anxious. My feet will cross that first timing mat and I'll be off. I'll run 13.1 miles and want to be done. I'll walk through the water stations. I'll hit a proverbial wall at mile 21 and find something in me to push further. I know my body is strong enough and my spirit is determined enough that I will cross that damn finish line.
Because I've been doing this damn marathon for 3 years. The marathon is pushing through the exhaustion. The marathon is not giving into excuses. The marathon is setting a goal and working towards it.
The marathon is running five miles to meet a friend on a brisk fall day and then hammering out 15 miles after that. The marathon is heading to the gym after a long day at work to get the miles in. It's leaving the parties early on weekends to be running by the time that most parties would be winding down. It's running 20 miles by yourself. It's running at night when the gym is closed for renovations because you're committed to the training plan (even if you're afraid of the dark). It's pounding out 16 miles on a treadmill because a Nor'easter is raging outside. It's coaching Girls on the Run, followed by running five miles. And following that with 45 minutes of intense cross training. The marathon is finding way to fit everything in. The marathon is being too tired to run and too determined not to. It is discovering deep wells of strength, stamina, anger, inspiration, motivation, and drive within yourself. And then actually using it. It's that incredible feeling of achievement earned from tackling one double digit run after another week after week.
The start line of the marathon is not in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum. It was the first day I decided to try to run. A training plan calls for 16 weeks. The distance is 26.2 miles. The marathon is more than miles run. It's a compilation of weeks or years or even a lifetimes worth of work. The 26.2 miles will really be the easy part.