I celebrated my 65th birthday by running a marathon. How I did it provides some guidelines that we can all use to make the most of our prime years.
Running a marathon at any age is a challenge. Runner’s World magazine says that 90% of Americans of any age cannot run three miles (five kilometers) and the same is true for many other countries like Canada where I live. A marathon is 26.2 miles (42 kilometers). I am not an athlete, barely making it through gym class when I was in school, but I do keep active and jog slowly. I had finished one marathon at age 60 by doing a lot of walking. This time, I was going to train, hope to run the whole distance and improve my time.
An audacious goal inspires people. Several friends encouraged me by agreeing to walk the half marathon and by offering their holiday home in Phoenix where the January marathon was held. “Bring your bathing suit,” said my friend. “We have a pool and Phoenix is warm.” Famous last words.
Marathon day was 27 degrees Fahrenheit, well below freezing. I piled on layers of summer clothes with socks on my hands because I had no gloves. I was three miles into the run before my toes thawed out. At least it was dry with no ice or snow.
The run then went well until mile 17 when I hit the wall. Even after taking a walking break and having a drink, I could not run any more. With tears in my eyes, I walked to the next water station to wait for the sag wagon to drive me to the finish. Water stations were 1.5 miles apart and the one I came to had only water, no first aid and no bus, but by this time I was feeling a little better and walking a little faster. I got to the next station.
By then, with only six more miles to go, I had figured out that even if I walked the rest of the way, I would still be in time to get a finisher’s medal. On I went.
“Hello Roz,” said a voice behind me (my name was on my race bib). It was a woman in her 20s who had just come up behind me. “You have kept me going,” she said. “I knew if you could do it, I could do it too, and I have been following you the whole way.” WOW! Me, a pace bunny for a twenty something! That was an inspiration. She then took off to sprint to the finish line as I kept to my slow pace.
Then a male runner only a couple of decades younger than me offered congratulations. Why was he congratulating me? I looked up. The finish line was in sight and we were both going to make it. I congratulated him and used every last bit of strength to sprint to the finish where my friends were yelling and cheering me in.
Running a marathon at age 65 is possible. I did not run the whole distance, but I did finish, 18 minutes faster than I had done at age 60.
Let us go from strength to strength.
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