Monday, October 26, 2009
I was asked to write an article concerning my running for our village newsletter. This is my submission:
I was never an athlete, never thought myself capable of doing long distance running or any type of running for that matter. All that changed in 2004 when I signed up for the Race For Life and got hooked. With 6 marathons, 8 Halves, several 10 milers, countless 10ks, 5 Miles and training runs, I now say: I AM AN ATHLETE!
You might wonder why someone would brave the cold, the uncomfortable heat, brisk winds, pelting rain, early Saturday morning long runs, additional longer distances, muscle aches, bruised toenails, and all the other trophies running provides. What could possibly be the motivational force that would propel them onward day after day, mile after mile?
My journey along this trail began as a tribute to my mother’s battle with Cancer and the honour of her memory. I pay her homage each time I run and remember her 2 ½ year battle with a disease that has probably touched all of our lives. Once I completed that race I wanted to find out just how far I could run and how strong my body was.
As if stepping stones I set myself goals of turning my run/walking outings into further and further running only distances. I began exploring the various routes available in and around my village. I thought of which hill I wanted to return on and that helped me to decide which exit path I would use. It didn’t take long for me to learn much of the geography of the area as I didn’t limit my excursion to just the roads. Great cross county footpaths criss-cross this beautiful area and are a joy to explore.
I began finding extensive information on internet websites, magazines, and from other runners. I was reading all things running. The Ribble Valley 10K hosted by the Blackburn Road Runners was my first race of that distance. It was freezing cold, icy and glorious! I had achieved a goal I had worked months for. So the obvious question was: What’s next?
Again I wanted to see what I could achieve and the next logical step up would be to run a Half Marathon to celebrate a year anniversary of running. I prepared myself by entering races of shorter distances and working myself up to the 13.1miles of a Half Marathon. A blistering hot, hazy June 2005 Sunday in Blackpool was my testing ground. Despite the smouldering oppressive noontime completion, I smiled as I approached the finish line to receive my event medal. Again it was time to ponder that question: What’s next?
Could I take that huge leap from a half marathon to a full marathon in a year? Could I celebrate my second running anniversary with a 26.2/42K mile glory run? If I truly wanted to see what I was capable of and how far I could push myself then the answer had to be YES! There would be hundreds of training miles to complete, hundreds of hours of time to prioritize for training, and hundreds of pounds to set aside for shoes, running events, clothing, assorted gear and nutritional needs. Yet even after considering all of that I eagerly signed up to run the June 2006 Edinburgh Marathon.
Preparation for Edinburgh included the Cardiff Half Marathon where I watched my husband complete his first of now eight outstanding marathons. I saw firsthand a glimpse of what 26.2 miles could do to an athlete’s body; the grimace from hours on one’s feet and the intense soreness that makes simple walking up stairs a hardship. I also witnessed the immense pride of accomplishment that radiated from his face and those of the other marathoners when they crossed the long toiled for finish line. I wanted to experience that. I wanted to forever have that memory and carry it with me into the years ahead.
So it was to be; June2006 in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, on another hot and steamy June Sunday I ran with my heart the 26.2 miles of my very first marathon. Even though I prepared well, trained hard and was mentally ready, I didn’t know on the day what I would experience. Although there were thousands of racers out there on the course, I was alone in my thoughts. It was me putting the miles to the road. It was me feeling the body aches and stings of sweat in my eyes. It was me that was for the first time running over the 20 mile mark. And it was me seeing an arch of deep blue balloons hovering over the finish line at the foot of Arthur’s Seat beckoning me onward until I too crossed over the line; arms outstretched and tears streaming down my face. I was now and forever a Marathoner! I have the joy of replaying that moment anytime I wish.
For someone who isn’t a runner it may be hard to understand the reply to the question, “Why would you put yourself through that again and again?” I could start by saying that I love travelling to cities such as Dublin, London, Edinburgh, New York, Berlin, or Boston; of meeting and/or watching elite athletes strive for perfection in their encounters . I could add that it’s a wonderful hobby that my husband and I both share hence the hours we converse, plan, and support one another at various events and training. I could add that I enjoy perusing over the thousands of race/running photos we have taken and, the scrapbooks I have put together that chronicle our achievements. I could show you the dozens of event shirts, race mugs, coasters, and various other mementos that we have collected as awards for a job well done.
Those are all tangible reasons why I run, but not the real reason. For the real reason why I and perhaps many others run lies deep within us. It is a force that urges us outside, to pit ourselves against the elements, our inner thoughts, our doubts, our ambitions. To allow me to feel the exhilaration that occurs when I finally crest the hill and look to my right and see the immense expanse of the Ribble Valley. To feel the rush of wind in my face and hair as I push just a little bit more, a little bit faster, on the downhill towards my village.
I savour these moments and events. For I know that there will come a day that I won’t be physically able to do these runs. They will have become collectables to adorn my memory. But for today, I run. Because I can!
What about you? Why not lace up and make some incredible memories!
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Marathon Woman. That’s what my shirt reads, and that is what I am. Back in April of this year at the Boston Marathon expo I had the honour of meeting and conversing with Kathrine Switzer. I had just purchased her book just a few days earlier but knew a bit of her fantastic story. (If you don’t know who she is you MUST Google her name and learn. If you are a woman and run marathons, you have her dedication to the sport to thank!) So it’s no wonder I chose that shirt to wear as my hubby and I slowly walked the 3 miles back to our hotel after a hot yet satisfying Berlin Marathon on 20 September 2009.
With an ankle injury that hampered my training I was frustrated and concerned about how I would do during the race. I had to alter my training runs to compensate for time lost and performance limitations.
There was a churning in my stomach when I counted the weeks left and the shortcomings of my training. Sensing my anxiety, my marathon running husband asked how I was feeling concerning the upcoming race. I explained my concerns and told him of the various physical niggles I was experiencing. He wisely suggested to me that to go to Berlin and ENJOY the experience; to run to the best of my ability on the day and take it all in.
Hearing that was like writing me permission slip to go and do. I knew that I had a running base of 5 years, of 5 previous marathons and training, of determination, perseverance, and endurance. I would not be able to race this marathon due to my shorter training but I could run it, walk when I needed to, enjoy it, soak it in, and complete it. This is what I set my mind to do, for you see, I believe we run a marathon in our mind and transfer it to our feet. It’s the mind that pushes the body, that speaks to it in those exhausting “Why am I doing this??!!” moment or miles and shakes it into submission to keep on going for one more mile, one more kilometre, one more water station….just one more….
It was a glorious morning 20 September in Berlin. We awoke early, had our typical breakfast of muesli, fruit and milk. Our kit bag was already packed from the night before and all that was needed was a shower, get dressed, and begin our day- break 2+ mile easy paced pilgrimage to the start area.
The sun had broken as we neared the beautiful wide tree lined area within the Teir-garten on the boulevard Straße des 17. Juni. From all adjoining streets athletes were making their way as if following a homing beacon which pulled them towards the start area. Our race bib pinned to our shirts allowed us access and the hunt for where to drop our bags off began.
The area was now hustling with athletes from around the world completing their various race preparations of changing to racing shoes and socks, ensuring timing chip is in place, slipping out of warm up pants and sweatshirts, attaching sport gels, hydration packs or belts, tuning iPods, syncing GPS watches, consuming the last of necessary fuel such as bananas, breads, bars, etc. and then finishing by covering up in bright yellow disposable type ponchos provided by the race organizers to await the final walk to their designated start corral.
Needless to say, the tent where my kit bag was to be placed was quite a distance away from my husband’s. Therefore while closer to his drop off tent we both prepared ourselves and after placing his bag in the care of the race organizers we pushed our way through the now crowded area to drop off my bag. Having completed that we were less than 30 minutes before race time, and with a kiss, a hug, and exchanged encouraging words of “Run strong, have a great race, and see you at the finish!” we walked in opposite directions disappearing into the stream of other racers.
It’s amazing how in that throng of thousands upon thousands I was alone in my own thoughts. I was part of a “Marathon Army” directed by race marshals to assume my position in the order of start and joined what was to be nearly 40,000 others. I listened to conversations being spoken in German, French, Spanish, English and other languages I couldn’t determine. I quieted myself and thought of my husband 4 corrals ahead of me and silently prayed for him to have a safe and memorable race. I thought of all that had led up to that morning and me standing on the start line. I was grateful for another opportunity to run 26.2 miles/42 kilometres someplace that I had never been before and to do my best.
Then without warning a large cluster of yellow balloons appeared in the sky beyond my area and as they swiftly floated upward in the cloudless sky, the crowd began to cheer and applaud. The race had started and like penned race horses jostling for positions the atmosphere around me started to ignite. Minutes later I began my slow migration towards the start gates, picking up my pace until finally the gates were in view. Crossing through them and letting out a cheer, the electronic ring of stepping on the start mat signalled that now I was officially in the race.
The sides of the street were lined with spectators cheering, shouting, waving flags and just watching as the parade of racers passed by. They had been there to see the elite field begin over 12 minutes before me and now it was my turn to step in those earlier athlete’s foot strikes.
The day was indeed glorious, not a cloud in the sky where it’s blueness was like a tent capping the incredible event. Predictions were that it would be warm with temps rounding out near 26C/78F before noon. That can hamper anyone’s marathon running!
All along the course the bands played, the wonderful spectators cheered and yelled, clapped and called out. Some of the route was familiar due to the sightseeing bus tour my husband and I went on two days earlier. I glimpsed views of the Bundeskanzleramt, the Reichstag, the Berliner Dom, the Fern-seh-turn, and Sudstern as I passed them on my way to the half-marathon mark. (13.1 miles/21K).
I had started out comfortably quick but could feel my pace slowing, my legs tiring, the heat beginning to melt me and turn me into a puddle. The water stops were a welcome site even through they were covered and littered with previously used plastic cups, and assorted other paper litter. I carried my sport drink within my Camelbak backpack and therefore refused the offers of tea, sport drink and slices of banana and apple. I consumed my SIS sport gels at the pre-determined times and took water as needed along the course.
The welcome site of the banner across the road announcing the half way point lifted my pace slightly as I crossed the Potsdamer Straße. By this time in my race within the larger race, the field was thinning out. I was beginning to see the same people in my “pack”; other athletes of a similar capability as me. We had run through areas that were the previous East Berlin, passed cafes with Sunday afternoon patrons sunning themselves with a pint of Germany’s best, over cable car tracks, and glowing faces of young children with outstretched hands with the hope of a passing athlete’s touch to allow them to take home a bit of the magic of this amazing athletic event.
Over three hours had passed and my mental talk was now of just to keep going, time isn’t the issue here, as my body was beginning to ache with each passing minute. It was then my mobile phone rang and I knew it meant my husband had completed his race. Excitedly I listened to his report. He sounded good and his time was an exceptional 3:22:38! His second fastest marathon finish and his first one run as a 60YO Vet. He spoke of the heat affecting his last 10K and the beginning of leg cramps as he approached the final 5K. His words were a great encouragement and mental boost. His race was complete and now it was my turn to bring Berlin home.
I pressed onward into the third 10K of the race and although I split my running time with some walk breaks I was feeling the effects of the heat and distance on my body. The spectators were still there; the restaurant chefs outside their establishment banging spoons on pots and lids, the fire brigades with their welcome fire hose showers to cool aching and overheating bodies, and the funnel made by samba playing musicians who encouraged you to dance along with them as you ran through their lines.
The streets were shaded on either side with trees at this point and I welcomed the respite as the temperature continued to climb and I knew I would show the effects with a lovely suntan. I welcomed the opportunity at water stations to dip the race provided sponge into a vat of cold water and empty it over my hair covered stars and stripes bandana.
Being towards the back of a marathon pack is a unique experience. Unlike the pristine streets and enthusiastically cheering spectators for the elite and earlier finishers, we who bring the race home contend with water station marshals that are clearing their tables, bicycle riders peddling through the course, young children racing along side, and official photographers who have the time to snap you several times before you pass by.
At 30K I recognized the familiar area where I stood just an evening before awaiting the arrival of the elite rollerblading Marathoners! I was on the Hohenzollerndamm nearing the famous and upscale shopping avenue of Kurfurstendamm . I had passed the 32K mark and had just another 10K left (6.2 miles) My time was slowing as I was keeping track via my 305 Garmin. I was measuring my distance in miles although the race was measured in kilometres and it helped me to gauge the distance remaining as I only saw distance markers at 5K intervals as I ran over the timing mats.
I now knew where I was as the impressive sight of the Kaiser-Wilhem-Gedachtnis-Kirche came into my view. I glanced to my left and from the exit of the underground came athletes. Emerging with their marathon medals around their necks their race long ago completed, they took the time to applaud me as I continued on my way towards my goal.
My phone rang again and my husband provided me with an update as to how he was doing and where he would wait for me. I told him of my fatigue, my aches, and my determination to complete the last 5miles ahead of me. With his words of encouragement in my ears I pressed on passed the familiar business district we had walked through on our way to the start line nearly seven hours previously.
I was now approaching the last 5K (3.1 miles) and trying to keep the wheels on to finish my race. I attempted to interject bursts of faster running into my now speed walking. I found it humours when approached by the sweep vehicle attendant and cautioned that the roads would be opening back up shortly and I was instructed either to speed up and/or move over to the sidewalk to finish my race. The thought of speeding up after being on the road for over 5 and a half hours made me chuckle. However, I followed his instructions and made my way over to the sidewalk and joined the rest of the pedestrian traffic interspersed with marathon athletes. This only caused my pace to slow even further.
After passing Potsdammer Platz I approached an area where the streets were still closed to traffic and the wide expanse of pavement beckoned me. I returned to the streets and continued on through the maze of large government and commercial buildings. The German flag on the horizon waving high above the Reichstag was where we were headed mentioned a fellow athlete. Feeling slightly faint and queasy I slowed slightly to regain my composure as I thought “Not much further” as I made another turn and passed over the 40K litter strewn timing mat.
It was now that I felt an urgency to complete this race, to pass through the awaiting finish gate and have my much toiled for medal placed around my neck. The slight cobble area signalled the approaching final bend and straight away of the Unter den Linden. Could this be it? Could this finally be the finishing stretch through the Brandenburg Gate? By the cheering of still remaining spectators, sightseers, Sunday afternoon café patrons, I could tell the answer was a resounding YES!
Then I saw it, like a glimmering beacon ahead of me, the much photographed and historic Brandenburger Gate. I willed that gate closer and closer to me as I found an incentive to increase my pace. To my amazement I was the only one at that point running, spurred on by the crowd lining the street, cheering me through the Pariser Pl., through the Brandenburger Tor and into my “Red Carpet Rock Star Moment”! It was just me at that spot; those cheers were for me, for what I had worked for over 6 1/2 hours for. I don’t know if the German announcer was saying my number or just encouraging the crowd to cheer everyone, I savoured those applauds as they rang in my ears. I showed my appreciation by my smile and the sweat running down my face.
Now it was just a few hundred feet away, I picked my gate and watched the clock as it approached a time I had never seen before in my 5 other marathon races. I found just enough drive for one final push and outstretched my arms to bring Berlin home.
Finally now after 6:40:47 I could stop. Through the muscle aches and the sweat and tears of completing my longest marathon, my medal was placed around my neck. In the distance awaited my husband and the stories we would share about our Sunday when we ran through the streets of Berlin.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I just thought I would add to yesterday's blog...
maybe a bit of proof that things DO indeed improve, that change is the one thing we can count on and that storms DO pass.
The sunrise was spectacular this morning.
The wind has died down to hardly anything.
The clouds are like those that resemble a mattress cover.
The rain has passed (for the time being).
I'll be able to run without getting wet or wind blown.
Just to reiterate yesterday's closing words, Keep Believing!!!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The rain is pelting down, the wind is whipping through the trees and across the fields as the remains of Hurricane Bill pass over the North West countryside.
I do have a run planned for today and it looks like it will be put off till this afternoon when I hope to be able to run without being slammed with pin prick sharp rain drops. I also hope to not be forced to run mainly through a head wind.
All this hoping and wishing brings to mind how it is so much easier to run in the fine, dry weather. Oh I don't mind the bit of light misty rain with a coolish feel as I put down the miles. But isn't it so much easier to deal with the nice-ities of things.
Brings to mind that is how it can be about dealing with life in general. Oh how much easier to cope with things in the sunshine of happiness, pleasent times, job security, white picket fence feelings and all that "good stuff". But what happens when the wind kicks up, the rain clouds form and then the Hurricane hits? Has the attitude shifted to doom and gloom?
I have the hope, the optomistic attitude, the glass half full mind set that somehow the storm WILL pass, the sunshine WILL come back out and the pieces left by the storm can be picked up and gathered. It's only because I have seen quite a few storms in my life both literally and figuratively that I believe this. Somehow, things DO have a way of working out.
So as I look out my raindrop splattered window to the misty covered hills beyond framed by wind battered trees and the sound of the churning northwest wind I know that calmer times will emerge. Also, no matter what I am facing today, or you are dealing with right now, it will pass. Things WILL improve. For to loose hope is to loose everything. Keep believing!
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