This past weekend, I ran my 30th marathon in just under 13 years. Re-energizing afterwards, I thought I’d take a few moments to reflect on what it’s meant to me.
To give context to some things, you’d need my story first. I was not an athletic kid. I was rather sick for most of my life up till when I was 8, living in Viet Nam where I didn’t have access to a lot of health care while at the mercy of a dirty city post Viet Nam War.
During my teens in Canada, I dabbled in some recreational soccer, ball hockey and tennis with friends for a few years, but that was about it. I was OK at it, but I wouldn’t say I was any good. Distance running was an impossibility to me up to university, when I only did so to vent frustrations from building up sometimes. The anger management was great. My potential was not. I got calf cramps after like 2 miles in a 5 mile race and walked it in. People able to run distance were like gods to me, to be able to go so far under their own power, without killing themselves and often looking effortless, running and chatting and laughing.
I picked up true distance running at the age of 25 while in Vancouver, British Columbia, where a fairly active population motivated me to do something physically with my skinny, but not strong body. I was all of 5’3″ and 90 lbs. Neither weight nor health were motivators for me to do something, though I was naturally under weight despite eating a lot. It was just a waste of potential to have a body able to engage in athletics and not doing so.
I got my proper distance running start through the Vancouver Sun Run 10K training clinic. After doing my first 10K, I kept it up from friends I had made and not wanting to lose my new god-like status. That was just for me considering what I thought of distance runners, not the way I acted to others or expected them to think of me. It’s hard to convince oneself to drop one’s god-like status, you know!
The next year, I had gotten bored of 10Ks, but did not want to more than double up to do a half-marathon (21.1K) until a running friend also decided to step it up. While in training for that, I volunteered at my work place’s water table at mile 18 of the Vancouver Marathon, where I saw all kinds of people go past. This was after they had ran 18 miles, of course, not 18 metres where it wouldn’t have meant the same thing. There were young, old, pregnant, post-pregnant, big, small, tall, short and just about every classification you could think of. I looked at them all, constantly thinking Running is easy for you compared to most of these people so you should at least try to do one of these marathons.
Well, who knew 30 marathons later??? I bet my work place never knew the monster they created that day. Some of us in that office just ran and thought it’d be nice to help out while being inspired, but goes to show you never know what impact some little seemingly random or slightly intended action might have.
I didn’t exactly commit to a marathon that day in May, just intending. It was only after my first half-marathon in Delta, British Columbia, in August, when a few friends said they’d be willing to drive me to Portland, Oregon, to run one in two months’ time if I wanted, that I committed. Two month ramp up to a marathon is highly NOT recommended!
Portland was a memorable experience, as much for the good as not. I got cramps at mile 18 and hobbled in, most of it downhill when I wish I could have ran. I cried at the end, having remembered from where I came when I couldn’t even run around as a toddler and being the scrawny geek throughout my school years. Yet, here I had completed one of the most lauded of athletic achievements for the commoner in having completed a marathon.
The joy of having done it helped quell a lot of the aching and soreness the next morning. However, lying in bed, I thought to myself, So, is this the fittest I’ll ever be? Will I be talking about this in the past tense for the rest of my life? Is it downhill from here, possibly back to what I had been before?
Heh. To that what sounded like a dozen egos responded with a resounding HELL NO!!!
And thus, my journey began… when I was 26.2 years old, no less. There are 26.2 miles in a marathon for those not familiar with the distance. I didn’t realize it until later, but you could say the marathon was in my Destiny.