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Eventually we thin out. V and Beth pull ahead. Gayle and Anjali drop behind. And I am walking alone. It’s okay. Beth and I may lose each other in San Diego. This is good training. I just need to stay ahead of Bert, who catches up to me if I linger at a water stop or even stop to retie a shoe. But he doesn’t pass me for long. That’s what counts.

At one point, my toes start to cramp. So I imagine a foot rub. Toe by toe, at the base, in the middle; what it feels like to have each spot rubbed. Slowly, my foot relaxes. Later, the top bone of my right foot starts hurting, but I can’t stop for it; re-lacing the shoe will slow me down too much. I trust that I’ll sort it out before the actual marathon. One thing I notice: I don’t stop and stretch as much as I used to. In fact, all day, I only do it at stop lights, to make use of the time, and once to open my hips. I really have gotten stronger.

Somewhere in the day, Verna has to stop for awhile, and I catch up with Beth. We’re a loose team walking. She’s a bit ahead of me, sometimes I catch up, but mostly I keep her in sight and let her pace me. We don’t talk much when we do keep time. We need the breath to keep this pace. In my head, I’m humming Ode to Joy and singing “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…” Anything that works! Later, Renon will tell me that each time she saw me, I had a huge smile on my face.

The last water stop is the 20 mile mark. We stop to refill our bottles, and Bert pulls up behind us. “Well, there’s good news and bad news,” he says. “Which do you want first?”

“Oh give us the bad news,” says Beth, exhausted.

Bert is smiling. “If you keep this pace, you’re not going to get to take the bus.”

We did it. We kept a 16 minute mile for 20 miles. There were still two miles to go, and straight up hill, and Bert passed us, but who cares? We didn’t come in so far behind him to make a difference. Nothing is etched in stone, and I won’t take it for granted, but Saturday was a good day. We did 22 miles in just under six hours.

Sunday I rested, iced and elevated my feet. I am happy, proud and sore. Both feet have some swelling, but I am tending to them. Today it took me 45 minutes to walk two miles. I passed an old man with a walker and thought, He could take me; I am so slow. But that’s okay. We have two weeks till the marathon and no more big walks. The most we will do is six miles. My right foot still hurts, but I have time to recover. Now it’s about the subtle stuff. Stretching, hydrating, doing the inner work, getting enough sleep, building my resources. Bert says that there isn’t much we can do to impact our speed in the next two weeks, but San Diego is a Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. That’s why I picked it. I think a band every mile will do a lot to fuel my joy.

American Stroke AssociationIn 2005, I stunned myself by signing up to walk the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon on behalf of the American Stroke Association. This post is one of a series of reflections and Training Tales from that time. The whole series begins here.