“I am the last person anyone would ever expect to walk a marathon. A quintessential bookworm, I was the proverbial kid picked last for every team in gym, and always with someone assigned to keep me away from whatever ball we were attempting to kick, catch or volley. I never learned to skate or skateboard. And when my little brother and I got bicycles for Christmas, he was out of training wheels within a week, while I took a few wobbly turns around the block and nestled back into my corner with the novel of the hour. Four years later, I still couldn’t ride a bike and only learned because my dad made it a summer project. I loved to dance and had taken ballet for years, but in the rigid distinctions of childhood, I was the artsy kid, and my brother was the jock.
“So no one was more surprised than me when, in 2005, a postcard appeared in my mailbox, and my hands began to shake. The postcard was an invitation to train for a marathon with the American Stroke Association, and apparently, some part of me was saying yes.”
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That’s the beginning of an essay that was recently published – and podcast – on the Ellis Martin Report. It’s a reflection on what I learned from training for a marathon, as well as the catalyst for this retrospective of the meditations and Training Tales I wrote during what was referred to as “Deb’s Marathon Madness.”
My mother had died in 2001. Not from a stroke, but her death was just as random (an arrhythmia, which made her heart stop). We had occasionally talked, jokingly and seriously, about training together for something like a Revlon 5K someday. And after she passed, my brother had thought about the possibility of running a marathon in her honor. But it wasn’t really on my bucket list until that card arrived in the mail and my heart started to race.
I was less certain, however, two weeks later, when I attended the information/recruitment meeting. This wasn’t only about intense training – something I’d never done in my life (I was 43 at the time) – but it also involved fundraising, something else I’d never done. Both scared me. Training for the marathon would involved walking hundreds of miles in preparation to walk the 26.2 on race day. The commitment for the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, my race of choice, was to raise $2,500 for ASA, or pay it myself. The commitment for the Kona Marathon was almost twice that.
“So what do you think?” asked the coach, after the presentations. “Shall we sign you up?” He was a tall, lean man with a white beard, who had 15 marathons under his belt.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m just here for information. I’m an October baby. I don’t make quick decisions like this.”
“I understand,” he said, and a slow, knowing grin spread across his face. “I’m an October baby, too, and let me tell you something: You’ve decided. You just haven’t committed.”
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The posts to follow are real-time chronicles from the literary archives. I hope you’ll come along for the ride. The easiest way to do that is to subscribe to the blog. Or you can drop in and see where you find me. And who knows, maybe it will inspire you to move a little more than usual or challenge yourself in some other outlandish, ridiculous way. If so, please let me know.