"Well, the biggest reason is that we know there are more children and I've got to be healthy and strong enough to be able to handle pregnancy and keep up with all the kids I've got. I also need a goal to keep me motivated."
"Well," he said, "there's two ways to look at fitness, you know. You can train to be fit, or you can try to run a marathon just to say you've run a marathon." He then warned me about pushing too hard and crashing, with the clear message that he thought training for a marathon wasn't very smart.
The conversation ended soon after, but his advice, though a bit unwelcome, made me consider again all the reasons I'm doing this. I don't think ego is one of them (though you're free to disagree if you like!). I've never been particularly impressed by other people's running. I just figured there are some people who can run, and then, well, there's me. I'm not a runner and if you had told me three years ago I would run a half-marathon and then train for a full, I would have laughed in your face. I didn't run then, and I thought it was just something that wasn't really possible for me, much less something I'd enjoy.
And then, two years ago, something changed. I began to run, a little bit at a time until I could run a mile without stopping, then two, and then three. I ran a 5K during the worst part of my last pregnancy and kept running at shorter distances until I was about six months along.
But I still didn't enjoy the running. It was something I was doing for fitness and for exercise, but not because I looked forward to it. In January, with Katie finally sleeping a little better, I knew I needed to do something to get back in shape before the rest of our kids arrive. I planned to run a half marathon on June 11 and began training for a 10K in March (which I wasn't able to run in because my treadmill broke a month before the race).
My reasons for running have changed a lot in the past six months. When I started in January, they were primarily two-fold:
- lose weight.
- get back in shape.
That's not to say I've loved every run. Some have been really tough. I've felt sluggish and slow and weak sometimes. Ironically, it's the shorter runs that give me the most trouble sometimes, and certain times of the month are harder than others. I'll get out for three miles and loathe it, asking myself, "How come it's so hard to go three miles when I went eight (or ten or twelve) miles just last week? Shouldn't this be getting easier?"
But it is getting easier. I avoided hills the first few months of my training, but now, I look forward to tackling them. I used to scoff at the guidelines for running -- you are working at an appropriate level if you can carry on a conversation -- What? Really? Some people can talk and run at the same time? Impossible!
But now, I can do that. I can keep up a conversation throughout both short and long runs. Last week's 10.5 miles was run with a new friend and while we huffed our way a bit through some tough hills, we also had a great two-hour conversation.
I decided as I ran further and further that I would need one more race to keep my motivation up through the summer, so I added the Hobble Creek Half Marathon to my schedule in August.
But still, up until the night I signed up for the St. George marathon lottery, I never really thought I was "marathon" material. I comforted myself with the thought that I probably wouldn't get in anyway, and I panicked a little with the thought that maybe I'd be pregnant by then and not able to run. But DH was supportive and we decided that even if something interfered with the marathon, like an injury or a pregnancy, the worst that could happen is that I'd lose the entry fee. And the best that could happen is that I run a marathon, lose the rest of the weight, and gain all the benefits from the training along the way. Pretty good trade-offs.
So now, if I were to articulate the reasons I'm training for a marathon, they'd go something like this:
- Running has taught me some amazing life lessons (blog post to follow).
- I think, just maybe, I might love to run.
- I know I love to run long distances.
- I still have thirty pounds to lose (though I'm down 33 now!)
- I'm starting to think that maybe I really can do this.
- I love running in races and it doesn't bother me that I'm at the back of the pack -- there's just more people to encourage back there! It feels great to accomplish something and to cheer on all the others who have made an effort to be there.
- I'm turning something that was a weakness into a strength, and I'm learning something about myself and my capacities in the process.
- I love how great I feel after any run longer than four miles.
- I love that I can come home from even a long 10-mile run and carry on the rest of the day as if nothing unusual has happened. It doesn't wear me out or take away from my family.
- Raising a large family takes an enormous amount of energy and dedication, just like running a marathon. If I can gain the strength and push through the trials of running to reach my goal, then I'm so much better prepared for the marathon which is my life.
- I want to be fit enough so that I can quickly rebound from the challenges of pregnancy, particularly as I get older (I'm 33 now). I want to get strong enough so that it's easy to get back into running after the necessary breaks I will take on behalf of my unborn children.
- I want to set a good example of fitness and goal-setting for my kids.
- I want to become a life-long runner, with the fitness to play basketball with my teenagers, and the energy to keep up with the possibly-huge number of grandchildren I might enjoy.
(by the way, I don't really run with my arms up high like that -- I was just hamming in front of the camera.)Ultimately, I don't think running a marathon "just to say I've run a marathon" enters into the equation. I'm going into this prepared to adjust my expectations and my goals if life brings me the unexpected, and I'm being careful to train at a level I can sustain without injury. I know a bit about interrupted goals, and if I get pregnant sooner than I expect, I can either adjust my plans for the marathon or put it off a few years.
So, thanks for the advice, my friend. I understand the risks of pushing too hard and I will be careful. But still, I'm headed for that finish line, even if it doesn't happen on October 1st.