Running a marathon race is no small feat, and it is certainly not for everyone. In fact, the majority of us will never even get close to the start line. According to Statistic Brain, less than 1% of the U.S. population has run a marathon race. Growing up, I was never a big runner, but I became part of the 1%. Over the years, I have developed a bit of an obsession with running. It became, and continues to be, a great way for me to check out and ponder life. I’ve endured injuries that have prevented me from running for a few years here and there, but I always come back to it. There are 3 reasons why I decided to run a marathon, and why I did it again 8 years later even though I swore I never would.
In the last decade, I have done several 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, but the year I turned 30, I decided it was time to tackle a full marathon race while raising money for a cause. I joined Team in Training and raised more than $5,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society while training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. Although I have never personally experienced childbirth, I think it’s fair to analogize that it is similar to running a marathon race – it is painful, emotional, and takes a toll on your body. Afterwards you swear you’ll never do it again, but as time goes on, you tell yourself it wasn’t really that bad and you can definitely do it again. The marathon race was a bucket list item that I was proud to have accomplished, but I told myself, never again! I stayed on as a mentor for another season with Team in Training because I loved the training program, coaches, mentors, and volunteers, and I wanted to give back and help others attain their goal.
In addition, my sisters and I have an annual commitment to Relay for Life, where we walk for 24 hours and raise money for the American Cancer Society. Raising awareness and money to support such causes makes the training and events more meaningful. It is so rewarding to cross the finish line knowing that you have not only accomplished a physical challenge but have also raised money for your favorite charity. If this sounds like a motivating reason to sign up for your first race, Run for Charity can help you find the right charity and event to run or walk.
The reason I became part of Team in Training and raised money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is because I lost one of my closest friends to Leukemia. Although I started my running career years before in the Army, she was the reason I kept running and pushing myself to run farther. Whether you are running in honor of someone who is currently battling cancer or disease, or who is a survivor, or whether you are running in memory of someone who has passed away, running for them can help you get through the challenge of completing a marathon race. It is easy to complain about the pain that comes with training, the time commitment, how tired your legs are, etc., but when you consider what your loved ones have endured battling cancer or disease, it doesn’t seem so bad. If they can fight back, so can you!
Last month, nearly 8 years after my first marathon race – which is plenty of time to forget the pain – I ran the Sketchers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. While I was wrapping up my nearly 9 months of world travel in September last year, I decided that I needed a goal to come back to, and I had always wanted to run the popular “stadium to the sea” course. I joined LA Road Runners (LARR), the official training program of the LA Marathon, and received their 26-week training calendar that started the weekend after I arrived back in the states. I followed that training calendar to a tee, never missed a run, and even moved up pace groups, which meant not only a faster pace, but more weekly mileage. I was running 5 days a week with a weekly average of 35-45 miles, and never felt better.
Tragically, my best friend, who I had spent 3 months traveling with last year, passed away suddenly just days before the race. I had trained for nearly 6 months and knew I was physically ready, but as it turned out, I was not emotionally ready. It is tough to say how the race would’ve turned out if I was not grieving. I really struggled to push through it, but I told myself that it’s what my friend would’ve wanted, and I still finished with a very respectable time. When I saw my friends at the finish line, I burst into tears and told them never again! While it wasn’t the day that I expected, I am proud of myself and am able to take satisfaction in what I accomplished. I could not have done it without the support of LARR, my fellow runners, my friends, and random spectators who cheered me on and encouraged me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I will continue to run for a cause, in memory of my friends, and to challenge myself because as much as I complain about it, I love running. Whether or not I’ll do another is still up in the air! For anyone who is considering running a marathon, please be sure to follow a proper training calendar, join a running group, and take care of your body. Regardless of why you decide to run, be proud of yourself for crossing that finish line, no matter the time.