Think back in your life – specifically to the goals that you set. How much time went in to satisfying your most memorable goal? I don’t know if I would list this as my greatest achievement, but it will definitely last in my memory as a very rewarding goal that took more than a year to achieve. What I’m referring to is my recent completion of the Chicago Marathon on October 10. The impetus for this came from a conversation with my mother in the summer of 2009. She asked if I would ever be interested in running a marathon, and I immediately gave her an emphatic NO! The conversation meandered to marathon relays, half marathons, and shorter races, with my Mom finally saying, “Well I’m going to do it.” This was going to be her 50th birthday present to herself. At the time I couldn’t think of a better present than to surprise her in Chicago and run the race with her (unfortunately, I was thinking that she was referring to the half marathon).
So, when I discovered later that she was talking about the full marathon – 26.2 miles! – I decided that, while although still a surprise, I had committed to this present, and was going to stick with it. March 2010 rolled around, and I was signed up for my first marathon.
While I had a good amount of support and expertise from friends and colleagues, it definitely seemed like a daunting task to undertake. For one, I AM NOT A RUNNER. I have been playing soccer for over 20 years, but endurance running is not something I have ever enjoyed. Secondly, I was not interested in affecting my physique or fitness (strength) levels in an effort to become an endurance athlete. And probably most importantly, I had no idea how to train for a marathon, or how I was going to fit the training in with all of my other time constraints.
Well, courtesy of a client, I had the beginnings of a great training program: “Run Less, Run Faster” by Pierce, Murr, and Moss. This program seemed right up my alley – only 3 days per week of running with only 1 of them being long runs. So while running for distance was never my thing, I jumped into it with all the enthusiasm I could muster. Boy was that a mistake; starting from a minimal training base, I bit off more than I could chew, and was pretty sore after every training run for a few days to follow. That all subsided, fortunately, and I was able to accumulate a good training volume.
The big surprise was definitely a surprise – Mom had no idea I was coming, and I definitely put a smile on her face. I was conscious that my arrival might put a crimp in her pre-race routine, but fortunately that was not the case: it became a real family affair with the rest of the family around for support. Picking up the participant packet and walking through the race expo left me with a feeling I wasn’t expecting-anxiety. This was the first time I started to question my training and preparation. Was I ready? Had I trained long or hard enough? The gravity of the impending marathon was finally starting to weigh on me.
All those questions and doubts disappeared when I awoke at 5am for the race. The jitters never came back and I was ready to go! After the starting gun went off, and my mom and I gave our parting good lucks, I was off. Since I had trained for months by myself, racing by myself wasn’t hard to get used to, and I was running high with all of the other runners and supporting spectators. As the finish approached, a huge weight seemed to lift off my shoulders (too bad my legs didn’t feel any lighter). Walking through the finishers’ corral, all I could think about was rooting my Mom onto her own finish. Unfortunately the throng of fans, spectators and racers made it impossible to reunite at the finish. However, the post-race party really hammered home what this goal meant to me: not only did I work really hard to accomplish an extraordinary physical feat, but I did it to support someone very close to me. And that gratitude and happiness of sharing the marathon with her was the greatest reward.
So what goal are you working on?