I struggle with what I want to share this week. I feel like this post could go in so many directions. Is it about another virtual marathon? Is it about my 17th consecutive Marine Corps Marathon (MCM)? Should I write about it being my 40th marathon? Maybe I’ll just touch on all three, because if I go into deep detail, this will turn into a book, and no one showed up to this blog, ready to read a book.
Let’s start with the virtual race. People ask, “why do a virtual race when it just feels like a really long training run?” I will admit that YES, in so many ways it does feel like a long training run. The beauty of races is to be around all of the other runners; you know they have all trained and planned and worked hard to get to the start line. You are there as a community; you are there to push yourselves; you are there to support each other, and for the slower runners, there is ABSOLUTELY no competition with the other runners. It is You Against You. You plan. You save. You travel to get to your race. You explore a new city, or if you are running the same race, you see the same sites, but it looks a little different because you are different. The weather is different. The experience is different. What remains the same is the energy from the other runners and the spectators. It is something you really can’t replicate anywhere else.
When I started this year’s virtual MCM, I told myself that I was DONE with virtual marathons. I have now done three, and I don’t enjoy them. However, after some sleep and some fluids, and knowing that I have a year to make the decision, I can’t say whether or not I’ll do another MCM virtually. We live over 7,600 miles away from Washington D.C., and we will be living here for at least 3 more years. Can I commit to flying that far for a race for the next 3 years to keep my streak alive? I don’t know. Does this mean that I may have to run it virtually again? Maybe. Will the race director and staff even allow it in the future? Who knows? Is there something REALLY SPECIAL about running the same race for 17, 20, or more years consecutively? I would say so. It takes some serious commitment, and I am proud of the commitment that I have made.
To run the same race year-after-year, without missing a race, it takes a lot of luck, some commitment, and a lot of consistent running. Some years, we have been moving – literally in the middle of another military move. Some years, I have not been in a financial place to really be able to afford an expensive race, but we saved, and I got there. Some years, I have actually lived in Washington D.C.; it is so simple when you actually live in the city where the race takes place. One year, I broke my knee 6 weeks before the race, and I recovered enough to get there, to start, and to finish. I watched a video that I recorded 3 weeks after the break, and it brought tears to my eyes. Some years, I have run it alone. Other years, I have run it with friends and family. Last year, I ran it alone, virtually, here, in Okinawa, with special permission from the race director. This year, I ran it on Okinawa alone again, but because of Covid, I didn’t need permission; everyone is running it virtually. There is NO telling what next year will look like.
So let’s move on to the big 4-0. Honestly, I don’t even know how it happened. 18 plus years ago, I decided that I needed to accomplish something, because I had yet to accomplish anything that I felt was “challenging” or “impressive”. I had graduated from college and earned a Masters. I had yet to do anything significant with either degree. (I still haven’t really done anything significant with those degrees.) I hadn’t learned a new language. (I still haven’t done that.) I hadn’t started a family. (I still haven’t done that either). I hadn’t traveled the world. (I have since traveled with lots more to do). I needed to figure out how to do something in a short period of time. I was going to turn 30, and I had nothing significant to show for it, so I decided that running a marathon would be challenging and it may even impress someone. (I am still not sure who I was trying to impress). Well, it was challenging, and I found that I impressed myself. It also became something that I wanted to do again and again, but it was so hard, that I only wanted to do Marine Corps Marathon. One marathon a year would be MORE THAN ENOUGH for me. I am not that strong of a runner. Basically, I would start training in the summer, run in October, do nothing until the end of the year, start moving my body in January, and then I would start training again the next summer. After a few years of this cycle, I realized that if I ran all year, the training wouldn’t be so hard, so I began taking a couple of weeks off after the marathon (instead of a couple of months), and I began adding in a late winter/early spring race to keep me motivated and focused. Fast forward some years, and my siblings would ask me to run with them. My sister is a Disney fanatic, so we have run Disney together, and my brother gets wild ideas in his head, so one year, we ran a marathon in Arkansas, and turned around and ran another one in Oklahoma the next day. One day, you look up, and you realize that years have passed, and you have challenged yourself 40 times. Some races were easier than others. Some were more fun. Some were more gratifying, but they are ALWAYS challenging. No matter how fit you are…26.2 miles is far.
Reflections from this race: I think that I am most excited to be done with it so I can run FREE. Because I wont’ be “training,” I am excited to be able to run as FAR as I want, as OFTEN as I want, without concern or anxiety about saving my legs for the “long run” of the week. I love training. I love the process. I hate training. I hate being tied to a process. With this unique, love/hate relationship, all I know is that sometimes I LOVE running, and sometimes I HATE the run of that day, but I never HATE running. After almost 2 decades of endurance running, I can say that the sport and I have a special relationship, and regardless of how races turn out next year, I will still be running.
Quit reading if all you want is the good stuff, because there have been so many good memories, and I have shared a few, but KEEP READING if you want to know what it is really like. 40 marathons and countless hours on the legs hasn’t been all fun and games. It has taught me mental strength that I did not know was possible. I have chafed in places that I did not know even existed on my body. I have peed and pooped myself. I have barfed during and after countless runs. I have lost the same toenail multiple times and lost multiple toenails at the same time. I have fallen on my face by myself and in front of people. I have created puddles of sweat. I have cried. I have said “no” to more fun than I care to remember. I have said yes to heat, humidity, rain, snow, ice, wind, hills, and mud. I have questioned my existence on this earth and even considered jumping off a bridge. I have wanted to call friends to pick me up because I did not think I could walk another step. I have also pushed through…over and over for almost 2 decades, I have continued to put one foot in front of the other. I have shown myself that I can do something that often times feels impossible. I have shown myself what commitment means. I have shown myself that I have mental strength. I have persevered. I have created a human within me that can do hard things, can push through challenging times, and is resilient and confident.
Now the next goal in life will be to be able to consistently transfer that resiliency and confidence to myself when I take off the running shoes. I am still a work-in-progress, and I am still working on that transfer of will, strength, confidence, resiliency, and power to myself once I put on “regular clothes”. I will keep showing up here on Monday’s, and at some point in time, I will let you know how that life-challenge is going too. Thanks for reading. Stay strong, and know you are stronger than you ever imagined you could be. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.