10 November 2008

Gimpy Looks Outward

I’m in withdrawal, of course. I’ve now been an administrative cripple for over a week. Some of my friends have taken to call me Gimpy. With no running adventures of my own to write about, I turn to the achievements of others.

Oh, the glory! My local running club, The Highland City Striders, has fewer than 40 members, but what a crowd they are! Ten of us ran marathons this fall in places as diverse as Chicago, Iceland, Maine, and New York. That’s over a quarter of the club! One of our own even ran two. And our members completed every one they entered – an impressive batting average. But oh, the pain! I’ve lost count of how many of us are banged up and on injured reserve after this Marathon Mileage Extravaganza. Misery loves company, I guess.

Now, we’re always careful to be inclusive in our club. Joe Five-K, our equivalent of Joe Six Pack, cousin of Sarah Palin’s buddy Joe the Plumber (remember her, or have you already blocked out that trauma?), is just as welcome and just as important a part of our club as any of us more deranged types. But what’s cool here is the motivation factor. A number of our fall marathoners were first-timers, and I would hazard that at least some of them never considered such a feat possible before they started running with the club. And that’s the beauty of any running club. Our mission is to promote health and fitness through the sport and camaraderie of running, and by Jove, it works. Just by showing up at a club run, you’re inspiring the next guy to stick with it, push a little, try new things. Get out there with your club!

So, in absence of my own bipedal adventures, I asked our fall marathoners to send me some thoughts on their races. Sandee Fillios slogged all the way to Chicago to notch her first, and provided some great commentary. In her words:

My first marathon was filled with so many emotions. Landing in Chicago was almost surreal. Wow, I am really doing this! And I am ready!

Though I traveled alone, I’d already met a wonderful woman named April on my layover in Philly. She invited me to join her and her friend Jay from Los Angeles on the limo ride to my hotel. I was already feeling a sense of runners’ camaraderie by the time I landed in Chicago.

Time alone, when not with Jay & April, was filled with reflection. What could I have different I my training? Where would I like to go for my next marathon? Would there be a next marathon? How am I going to do tomorrow? And of course, the critical question, are the Red Sox going to win tonight?

On race morning I was still full of questions. Basic questions haunted. Should I drink this Gatorade Energy since I never tried it before? Should I still eat my banana? When should I stop drinking water? And of course, maybe I shouldn’t have stayed up so late watching the Red Sox?

I knew the answers. I had already decided upon them the previously. But being a first-timer, I felt the unease and worry of doing the wrong thing.

I often feel that sense of camaraderie amongst runners. And there I was amongst 34,000 runners, ready and waiting for the start of the race… And, we were off! The crowds were cheering. The runners were shouting. Everyone was hyped and ready to go! The thrill was on! There was never a time on that course where you didn’t feel support from the crowd. They were cheering anyone’s name they could read.

Then, I read my first sign. It read, “Go Mommy Go! I Love You!” That’s when the tears started to flow. I felt as alone as anyone could feel amongst 34,000 runners. I missed my boys and I so desperately wanted to see them holding these signs. After another 10 signs the tears stopped flowing and simply I pretended those signs were for me. That’s right! They were for all the mommy’s running today. I didn’t anticipate the tears would flow so early. I didn’t expect them until I crossed the finish line.

I found myself talking my way through most of the course. I set plenty of intermediate goals, which helped a lot. There were times that I was so fatigued, but I was so thankful I hadn’t hit the wall. When was that wall coming anyways? You know, “The Wall” that wasn’t going to allow me to pick up my feet to run, the one that was going to force me to walk. But I’m glad to say that I never came face to face with “The Wall”. I had heard it wasn’t pleasant.

The tears I expected at the finish didn’t come. Instead, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy, accomplishment, and pride – but no tears. I congratulated a girl who finished behind me who was crying, and repeating, “I can’t stop crying!” That’s how I thought I was going to feel.

By the way, did I say pride? I felt like now I am a runner. I am a marathoner. Boy, was I proud when they put the medal around my neck! I felt like I couldn’t wait for my next marathon. So much so that upon my return home, in my excitement I pushed too hard, right into an injury. That’s a mistake I will not make the next time I finish a marathon. Which might be in April. Bring it on, Boston! Anyone have a number?

And lastly, thank you to the Highland City for all the support and guidance you gave me throughout my training. You all helped turn a non-runner into a marathoner in less than a year. Yay! I couldn't have done it without you! ¡Muchas gracias!

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