The Best Way to Cross the Finish Line is One Step at a Time

When we were in high school, my brother, coming off a season of cross-country racing, impulsively decided he’d run a marathon.  I was jealous and privately resolved that I’d someday run a marathon, too.  But there was college, then grad school, then work, and before I knew it, I had two children and was contemplating my 40th birthday.

Through it all, I kept running, but never seriously and never with a training program.  If I decided I wanted to enter a 5K or a 10K, I just ran a little more than usual.  The marathon dream kept getting pushed back…maybe when the kids were teenagers.  That was only 11 years away, after all.

But one day, sitting at work, I received an e-mail from a fit friend:  “Have you ever considered running a marathon?”  Only for the past 26 years!  It was just a few weeks earlier that I’d finished a half-marathon feeling good, enough to keep on going.  Now, with my friend’s involvement, I’d have the support system.  I decided to try it.

So I chose a spring event – Virginia Beach’s Shamrock Marathon.  I found a beginner’s training plan online, tacked it to the wall, and never looked back.  I did whatever the plan told me to do.  Three miles, nine miles, 18 miles, rest days.  If bitterly cold weather forced me to the dreaded treadmill, I climbed on.  If 4 inches of snow had fallen the day before, I sloshed through it.  I learned to leave my family for Sunday runs.  Sometimes after a multi-hour run, I’d find myself lugging my 25-pound toddler son around, but I wrote it off as strength training.  The goal eliminated all barriers.  I believed that if I did each days training, the 26.2 miles would be a breeze.  And it almost was.

But after all the miles I’d racked up, I forgot to arrange for a decent 5 a.m. breakfast on marathon day, a lapse that caught up with me in the final 5 miles.  I fought fatigue, the wind, and increasing self-doubt by remembering how I’d taken the training one day at a time – making time for the runs, learning to pace my self through the miles, and focusing on each step of training as part of the larger goal.  I kept thinking about how far I’d come and that just a few more steps would get me to the finish.  And I got there, finishing in just under four hours, reaching my goals (one, to finish; two, to finish in the 4-hour range), but completely depleted.

I got the flier for next year’s marathon in the mail yesterday.  Will I do it?  I haven’t decided yet.  But I know I can.

Christine Bucher

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