The fact that I just ran the Chicago Marathon for charity is a lie. Don’t get me wrong – I believe in the cause and I still have every intention of hitting my goal of raising $2500 to benefit PresenTense. It’s just that the whole charity piece is really an excuse to do what I really want, which is run – run really far.
I started running almost eight years ago when I was 100 pounds overweight. Back then, I was good for about 30 seconds of slow jogging before getting winded. It wasn’t a pretty sight and I was embarrassed to be bumbling down the street all red-faced, sweaty, huffing, and puffing. I consoled myself saying that I probably looked more ridiculous sitting around all fat and doing nothing about it than I did when I was running. I would run as far as I could, walk to catch my breath and then try and run again.
Seconds turned into minutes. Minutes turned into city blocks. City blocks turned into miles. Miles turned into my first 10K race. From there I just kept running, each time trying to get a little farther and little faster. I have never won and I have never taken any awards or prize money. Each time I put on that bib, I am only competing with myself. I am only trying to beat my own personal best time or distance.
I am far from declaring myself an athlete, and I still feel the raw pain that comes with marathon training. Over 300 miles of training has physically beaten me down these last six months. I have fewer toe nails and more blisters. I have chaffed, bled, and ached everywhere. My body has rejected the abuse of my training all over itself in all sorts of uncomfortable and unimaginable ways. I assure you that it has not been glamorous. This has been no “fun run.”
Why do it then? I run because I can. I run because there was a time when I couldn’t do it or even imagine myself doing it. Now I can. Running is my Everest; it is there, and I must conquer it. Running 26.2 miles means that I can go from my home in Maryland, through DC, across the bridge into Virginia and back home again.
On Sunday, I attempted to run that distance in four hours or less. I came in just a couple minutes short at 4:02:53. Eight years ago, however, I couldn’t spend four hours on much of anything. Now I inspire myself and others to go the distance.