Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Not saying your goals out loud is safe. It's a way to keep from really committing to them, so that if you fail, no one but you knows or cares. Stating a goal aloud or in writing, however, makes a commitment to achieving it real. That's one reason I got married when my husband and I could have gone on living together: stating a commitment in front of a group of people you love and whose opinions you value sets it in stone (at least that's how it works for me).

This blog is my public commitment to the intimidating-and-perhaps-impossible goal of someday qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

I took up running because I thought I wanted to go to the Naval Academy, where my grandfather went, and everyone told me you needed to be athletic to go there. I wasn't athletic. I remember hiding under the bench during soccer practice so I wouldn't have to be goalie, or halfback (too much running), or whatever. I limped through one lap on the track and dreaded the annual physical fitness tests in PE at school (in fact, I hated PE altogether). Adolescence, and too many Dairy Queen Peanut Buster parfaits, made me chubby. But I thought the Naval Academy was cool. And I thought my friend Angela, whose entire family ran, was cool. Angela was skinny and athletic. I thought maybe running could make me that too.

So with my dad, I started heading out to the MKT, a former railroad track converted into a miles-long trail. Starting when I was about 12 until I graduated from high school, he and I knocked out two flat miles every other evening. I didn't get faster (a brief flirtation with the high school cross country team was a flat failure for me), and I changed my mind about the Naval Academy somewhere along the line, but the running and a 4-inch growth spurt did help make me skinnier and I kept running, often with my bulky Sony Walkman playing the tape of Paul Simon's Graceland in one sweaty palm. Once I got to college, I ramped it up to 3 miles at a time (that was the distance of the dirt loop around campus), and the summer after college let myself be talked into my first-ever race, the Advil Mini-Marathon 10K in Central Park, NY. I enjoyed the crowd of that all-female race, but after I moved to Houston that fall I stuck to my easy three-mile loops. And that's where I was, when one day in 1996 a co-worker told me that if you could run three miles, you could run a marathon.

Even after I started to run, I had always written marathons off as the province of crazy people (like Angela's older brother, who ran one when he was 12, the same age I was still downing Dairy Queen on a weekly basis). My officemate, though fit, wasn't crazy. He had joined a training group that organized its members by ability and gave them a plan for all their workouts. The group assembled itself early every Saturday morning for the really long runs, so you had a crowd of fellow sufferers to run these with. I had thought running groups were only for the Angelas of the world, fast talented people seeking to compete. The idea of a non-competitive group really grabbed me. The next year I joined up and began training for my first marathon. I was 23 years old.

To be continued......

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