YOU DON'T NEED OT BE A RUNNER TO COMPLETE A MARATHON. YOU JUST HAVE TO RUN ONE.
Posted on August 13 2020
I have the kind of family who tells you that you can do anything. Turns out … it takes a marathon to make you believe it. Many of life’s marathons are figurative, others are literal. This post is about the literal kind.
To give you some background, I have a baby sister. Frankly, I adore her. When she is sad, I feel sad but, typical of sisters, when she is angry she just makes me laugh. It was this sister who decided she would run marathons. Strange decision for a non-runner but, there you go, she’s a strange girl. Not only did she decide she would do it … she went out and did it … several times.
After running the NY Marathon some years back, my sister returned with wonderful stories and a sense of achievement that I didn’t really understand but admired nonetheless. I should have left it at that, but I didn’t. Not one cell in my body wanted to RUN a marathon and not one cell in my body thought I could … however, I am superficial enough to know that a large part of me was desperate to SAY I had.
My fate was sealed by my sister’s enthusiasm, “… imagine … we could go to NY for your 50th and you could do the NY Marathon with me – it will be awesome”. I had never been to NY, I love my sister and I love travelling with her so, running a marathon seemed like a small price to pay. A holiday in NY factored heavily in my thinking. It didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t run even 1km.
Now, you can enter the NY Marathon in a few ways, qualify on time, win a spot via a lottery or raise funds for charity. As it was my first marathon, I was unlikely to qualify on time – mind you, I didn’t let the fact that I couldn’t run 1km stop me from checking what the qualifying time was … just in case! I also didn’t win a spot in the lottery so raising funds for charity it was.
My helpful sister suggested that Team Fox was the obvious choice for me. My beloved Grandfather had Parkinson's disease and, as a child of the 80's, I idolised Michael J Fox. I was “sold”, all I had to do was raise $5,000 and I had a spot. Initially, I was terrified as I didn’t have $5,000 to throw at the problem should my fundraising fall short of the mark. I needn’t have worried though, my dear friends from around the world were lining up to pay money to see me run somewhere. I would like to say they were being supportive but, as an unfit, card-carrying non-runner at the time, I had my suspicions.
Now all I had to do was to learn how to run. I took a fairly technical approach to the project. Step 1: build an appropriate play-list, download as many running apps as possible and join as many running groups as possible. Step 2: Find fault with all of them because running was still hard. Step 3: Delete all apps, throw in the towel several times and vow to start running soon.
Despite my best efforts at “self-sabotage by App”, by early-2019, I was slowly but confidently running 5km and thinking to myself, how hard can it be?
Then came my first fun run - 10km in Newcastle, Australia. My sister and I lined up in the 30+ degree heat and off we went. It was bloody awful. It was hot and sweaty, my boobs chaffed (I didn’t even know that was a “thing”), my feet hurt and, at some point mid-run I realised that 10km was twice as far as 5km. As I vowed I would NEVER do this again, it dawned on me that in November, I had committed to running 42.2km in New York and that 42.2km was 8.5 times further than 5km. I am deluded but I am not stupid … I started to plan my exit. I discussed it with myself for most of the run. I was OUT!
Meanwhile, my sister had finished the run a good 30 minutes before me and there she was, all shiny and excited, cheering me on at the end. Damn … I bloody well had to go to NY!
That started a pattern which pretty much lasted the year. Train, attend fun run, plan escape, see sister at the end cheering, sign up for next fun run … and the next medal.
As I continued to train, my body gave me a crash course in anatomy, muscles that I didn’t know screamed their presence. I learned that shin-splints are all too real, that plantar fasciitis is agonising … oh … and delightfully, if you run far enough in the wrong gear chaffed breasts become scabby breasts. All in all, a real treat!
The bizarre thing is that, while your body is quietly giving way, your mind is getting stronger. Somehow it takes your “limits” and moves them without telling you. When you start, 1km seems impossible, but at some point you find yourself telling someone that your 15km “short run” is coming up. On what planet is 15km a “short run”?
Anyhow, long story short, having used every cent of my $1,200 extras health coverage on physiotherapy, remedial massage, A.R.T therapy and Alter-G treadmill sessions (look it up here, it’s where you do your 30km run when shin-splints threaten to derail your marathon nightmares https://www.alterg.com.au/), I was ready to go.
In November 2019 I went with my sister to NY. I met Michael J Fox and I ran. I ran the whole way through the 5 boroughs of NY, stopping only to meet and take a photo with the Harlem Fire Brigade. Along the way I saw the people of NY and then my wonderful husband and daughters cheering for me. 500 meters from the end I saw my sister (she finished over 2 hours before me) cheering me on. Finally, 6 hours, 28 minutes, 55 seconds later, I was done.
Turns out – you don’t have to be a runner to complete the NY Marathon. You just have to complete the NY Marathon to be a runner.
Oh … and my baby sister was right … it WAS awesome.
Strange/baby little sister is JOI Co-Founder Amanda