Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Time of My Life

I thought I was prepared for the start of the New York City Marathon. I asked many questions of Uncle Sandy and Aunt Mary, who had run the race several times, and of my friend Tony, also a NYC Marathon veteran. I read "A Race Like No Other" by Liz Robbins, a book detailing the 2007 NYC Marathon. But on November 1, 2009, at the beginning of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island, when Mary Wittenberg, President and CEO of New York Road Runners and Race Director for this marathon, announced, "New York City is waiting for you!", and the Howitzer cannon blasted, and those opening strains of Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York" filled the air, I was speechless and couldn't move. Me, running the New York City Marathon? Then everyone around me starting walking, then jogging, then running as they hit the start mat at the base of the bridge. Surrounded by runners from all 50 States and 100 countries, I had no choice but to follow. My feet hit the start mat and there was no looking back. New York City was waiting for me!

The view from the bridge

In 1970 127 runners ran the first NYC Marathon. On the 40th anniversary of the race, 43,475 runners finished the race. And one of them was me.

For a little over 5 hours, I ran through all Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens (where I was born), the Bronx, and Manhatten. I didn't have my I Pod with me (highly discouraged in a marathon) but I was never bored. 2 million spectators lined the streets, cheering for us, calling out our names (mine was written on my shirt) and providing much needed moral support. Some of the heroes of 9/11, NYC policemen and firemen, were out in full force cheering us, when I felt like we should have been cheering them. 130 bands also lined the streets. Some were official groups, such as the full orchestra with the gold robed chorus in front of a Korean church, and the high school marching band in front of Bishop Loughlin HS playing "Gonna Fly Now", the theme song from the movie "Rocky". Others were unofficial, such as bagpipers on street corners and an elderly Asian woman banging a gong from her fourth floor balcony of her apartment building. Their music kept my energy up and kept me going.

What I didn't expect was that the other runners would keep me running. They were a very diverse bunch of people. 51% of the runners were from other countries, and most of them proudly wore their running shirts proclaiming their home countries. Fred Lebow established this rule at the time he founded the race. A Holocaust survivor, Fred wanted to repair the world as best he could, and being a runner, this was his way - to bring all the world together by running in New York City. I was moved almost to tears when I saw 2 runners in front of me at one point. Both were men, too young to have been living during the Holocaust. One had a tattoo on the back of his leg, a Star of David surrounded by barbed wire with the words "Never Again". The other man, running right next to him, wore a running jersey proclaiming him as a runner from Germany. I wish Fred Lebow were still alive to see his dream come true.

Me (bottom right) and some of my new best friends

Many runners wore costumes, such as the two guys running as the Blues Brothers, two men running as nuns, a guy dressed as a tennis player, complete with tennis whites and a racquet, and even a woman dressed as a suburban mom (more on that later). They were fun to watch. But what inspired me more than anything were athletes who overcame physical handicaps to run this race. I saw a Korean runner who had no arms. Even legs weren't necessary for some people to run 26.2 miles - I saw one runner without a leg, with a running hook for the other leg, and one runner who was missing both legs running on two running hooks. And at one point I heard from behind me "blind runner coming through" (so THIS is why I Pods are discouraged, I figured out) and I watched as a blind man, tethered to his friend, ran past me. If all these people can run a marathon, then all of us can do anything we want, anything we set our minds to. How humbling. It made me want to go out and conquer the world, and believe that I could.

The highlight of the race for me took place in between mile 16 and 17 (after we had just run the Queensboro Bridge, the most grueling of the 5 bridges we ran during the 26.2 miles). I ran right by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. I was running this race as a charity runner with Fred's Team, named for Fred Lebow, who died of cancer years after founding this race. We Fred's Team members raised money for pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Doctors, nurses, families, and most important, many of the kids who had received or are receiving cancer treatment were right there in front of the hospital, cheering me on as I ran by. Some of the kids, done with their treatments, looked as healthy as could be, others were bald and lying on hospital beds, but all were cheering for me, calling out my name, and making me feel like the biggest rock star in the world. The leader of Fred's Team was in front of them, yelling out, "Cindy, this is for you!"

The last few miles of the race were very tough for me. I had a stress reaction on my groin muscle from overtraining on August 2, and didn't run much at all the rest of August or September. I started up significant running slowly in October but only got 1 long run of 13.1 miles in. Nothing was going to stop me from running this race, but my legs just kind of stopped for a moment and I was worried about finishing. So then, like I've done in other parts of my life that were challenging, I just kept going, knowing I'd eventually see the finish line. When I felt like I couldn't stand up anymore, I saw those trees in Central Park with their brilliant multi colored leaves of red, orange, green, and brown, and I saw the signs: 1 mile to go, 1/2 mile to go, 800 meters, 400 meters, 200 meters, .2 mile, FINISH! Somehow my legs came back to life and I ran fast to the finish line, knowing I did it, I raised $3,550 for pediatric cancer research and I finished this race!

One of the many hundreds of volunteers handed me my medal; another handed me my mylar blanket and yet another handed me a bag of food and drinks. Then I began walking towards the end of the park where I would somehow find my way back to my hotel, even though my legs felt like rubber. And then I saw her: she must have been a runner, because she, too, had a mylar blanket, but she was dressed like a suburban mom. This woman was taking pictures of runners and she looked suspiciously like my college roommate and all around great friend - and then I said, "Kim"? And Kim said "Cindy! Congratulations!" Turns out Kim was trying to find Barb (our other college roommate, who started with her friend Ed in a wave 20 minutes ahead of me) and me, and she figured a good way to find us was to, um, "liberate" a runner's blanket so she could fit in with the runners and find us in the runners area after the race. Kim found us a taxi, which we shared with a husband and wife from Minnesota who had just run the marathon, then found us another taxi when the taxi driver decided to go off duty after he dropped off the first two runners at their hotel. That's Kim; always there when I need her!

And the celebration began. We met up at Carmine's, an old style Italian restaurant with huge portions of delicious Italian food. The ten people at the table were me, Uncle Sandy and Aunt Mary and their daughter (my cousin) Charlene, Uncle Jerry and Aunt Lee, Barb and Ed and Barb's friend Marcie, and Kim. Barb, Ed, and I held court as we regaled everyone with our stories of running in the world's largest marathon. I wish Debbie (childhood friend from NJ) and her husband Chuck could have been there but we had our own adventures with them the night before at our pre-marathon dinner in Little Italy (that evening deserves a blog entry of its own!) I loved every part of that night, sore legs and all: celebrating with family and friends, showing off our medals to everyone in the restaurant, including all of the other runners at other tables, and the feeling of a job well done.
Me with my two college roommates, Barb and Kim, celebrating our race

There are so many people to thank who got me here: my running coach Doug B., Doctor Bruce T., physical therapist Jeremy S., all the people who donated on my behalf to Fred's Team, my friends and family who celebrated with me in NYC, and Larry, always Larry, who sees every challenge as an opportunity to excel and got me here successfully as well as so many other places in my life.

People, mostly other runners, ask me what my time was in this marathon. I tell them my official time of 5:11. Runners who know my history look a little sad, since this is way slower than my time of 4:31 at the Disney World Marathon in January. But each marathon is different, like each experience in life. And my time of 5:11 in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1, 2009? That was the time of my life.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Start spreading the news...

...I'm leaving today...for the New York City Marathon!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Attention WalMart shoppers!

Today I went clothes shopping at an unusual place for me: WalMart. I went there to get warm sweat pants and tops and jacket and hat and gloves... it's all for the almost 5 hours when I leave my hotel on Sunday morning until I actually start running. The temperature should be about 50 degrees but that 's a bit cooler than the near 90 degrees it's been here in Florida so I need to do what I can do to acclimate. I read a study that said that 50 degrees is the perfect temperature to run a marathon since at 50 degrees, the body doesn't have to expend any extra energy to cool down or warm up. If that's the case, looks like it will be perfect marathon weather!

I also had my last run today. It was wonderful - a five mile run in Wickham Park right before sunset. Everyone from the running camp was wishing me good luck in the NYC marathon. One woman had already run NYC and told me it was fantastic; one man said NYC was on his list.

So all the work is done. No more training. It's just going to be me and the streets of NYC - and 40,000 of my friends! Counting down...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Music to my ears

I love running. I love just about everything about it - the more I run, the stronger I get, just being outside for hours and feeling like a kid again, playing around, the competition at races, the camaraderie at running camp. But - it does get a bit lonely. When I am actually running, I need to be by myself, since no one else runs exactly my pace at the time I choose to run.

But Larry solved the loneliness problem for me. He bought me an I Pod, which he loaded with over 2.000 songs. I choose "shuffle" as my option, which means one minute I am running to country music, the next to Broadway show tunes, later to rock and roll or blues or African music or opera or classical or pop... The songs don't stop so why should I?

Now I look forward to my long runs, just wondering what song I will hear next. Hearing "New York, New York" right after I learned I got in to the NYC Marathon was cool. Running at sunrise on Tropical Trail while Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" plays in my ears is inspiring. And when I hear "Friends in Low Places" or the Ohio State Marching Band or Cirque de Soleil or any one of the other hundreds of songs on my I Pod, how can I not help but think of Larry who has helped me with my running in so many ways?

When I run the NYC marathon on Sunday, I won't have my I Pod. It's highly discouraged. And, there are over 130 bands on the course, so I won't be lacking for music. But I bet there will be many songs that in some way will remind me of Larry...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back on Track

When I lived in Philadelphia, one morning I took the train from Center City into the suburbs for a meeting. As I waited on the track for the train, I realized I was one of maybe a half dozen people waiting. When the train from the suburbs arrived, hundreds of people got off the train, and we few urbanites got on.
I realized I was off track. Most people take the train from the suburbs to the city in the morning, then reverse the proecess in the evening. But I was young and recently out of school, so I was living in the city. The suburbs could wait.
When I got injured, I felt like I was off track again. When I was finally allowed to start running again, it was more like a run/walk, and after a few days I was up to 18 minutes. That same day, my fellow Fred's Team runners were running 18 miles.
But I stayed the course and kept on going. Finally, by last week I caught up to Fred's Team. I ran 13.1 miles on Friday with no problems. This week I am tapering the exact amount as everyone on my team. I am back on track. New York City, I am ready for you!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cowboy up and play hurt

My leg still hurts. I was injured on August 2, and yep, it still hurts. My doctor said it should hurt until March. That's how long it will take until I am fully recovered. But I made a commitment to run this race on Nov. 1 and I will do it. I signed on as a charity runner and I will fulfill my commitment.

I am fortunate that now I can run, albeit slower. So I am not going to set any world records, or even a PR, on November 1 in NYC. But I am going to try to run the whole race if I can, and if I must walk, walk as little as possible. If I have to walk the whole race, so be it, and I'll just cross the finish line at sunset and then walk to the restaurant where everyone else is waiting for me. I just hope they save some appetizers!

I know a doctor who went to work sick, because he had dozens of patients who were waiting for him. At one point during the day he was so sick that he had to excuse himself, go upstairs to another floor of the hospital, get IV fluids pumped into him, then went back downstairs to work. He made a commitment to see his patients and he fulfilled that commitment.

I know a lawyer who had major emergency abdominal surgery. Less than 2 months later, when she still could only eat small portions of food and couldn't even sit up straight for long periods of time, she took the Professional Responsiblity portion of the Bar Exam, a one day test. She took it sitting in a slanted position, not in the best of health, but she took and and passed

Sometimes life doesn't give you optimum conditions, but you don't quit. You cowboy up and play hurt. You just do it and get it over with.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A tale of two marathons

I'm getting at least 2 emails a day now about the NYC marathon, which is in 12 days. Barb and Ed and I email almost daily; there are so many plans to finalize! And either Fred's Team or the New York Road Runners emails me almost every day about details of the weekend. I am getting more excited by the hour!
But I will need another mountain to climb so I am already wondering what my next marathon will be. It is good that I pick it now, because in the hours and days following a marathon, I am not exactly thinking about running another marathon. Right after I finished the Disney Marathon in January, all I could think of was that I needed a new and different hobby, and stamp collecting (putting stamps in books while sitting on a soft couch) sounded like a very good idea at the time.
I checked Marathonguide.com to see which marathons this year had the highest percentage of Boston qualifiers. For the last few years, besides obviously Boston, the Bay State State Marathon and the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon have been second or third. This year MHR Marathon came in second and that's the one I want to do next year. It's mostly run on bike paths in the woods, with the trees at their peak period for leaf changing, with the river in the background. It reminds me of some of the beautiful bike paths Larry and I have bicycled on in the last year around the country. And it's a slow downhill race with only 700 runners, the second week in October, when the weather should be cool but not cold. Sounds ideal!
The MHR marathon is very different from NYC's race, which is the world's largest marathon with about 45,000 runners, an urban path, 2 million spectators, 130 bands... and 10 people, family and friends, who I will share the weekend with. I know no one in that part of upstate New York, and instead of noisy good times with 10 people in Italian restaurants each night, I'll be spending the weekend by myself. But, I'm sure I will have a great, albeit very different time, at the MHR Marathon, as I hope to in NYC in 12 days. 2 NY Races in 1 year, two very different experiences, both great times I hope...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cost Analysis

Cost Analysis of my run this morning:

New Newton running shoes: $155
Temperature at start: 65 degrees
Distance run: 10.2 miles
First long run in 2 and a half months: priceless

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My celebs

So far I know of two celebrities who are running the NYC marathon - Ed Norton and Anthony Michael Hall. I wrote about Ed in a previous blog. Anthony I read about in Runner's World magazine. He's the actor who played Goose in Top Gun, Tom Cruise's sidekick who doesn't survive, aka "Dead Meat". He also plays a doctor on the TV show House. When House was a really big show (not sure if it is currently still on the air or not), Anthony ran the Chicago marathon, but had to run under an assumed name so he wasn't bothered by crazed fans. This time, Anthony said, House isn't that big a deal so he doesn't mind being identified. I bet there are other celebs running NYC with me but they are running under assumed names. Like Katie Holmes (Tom Cruise's wife) two years ago, after they finish they'll unmask themseleves to the public and their adoring fans.
You know what? I don't really care if there are any celebrities running my race. What impresses me are the athletes who are running, be they the professional world class athletes or hobbyists like me who might have an interesting story to tell about how they got to be able to run the world's largest marathon. Those are the stories that should be published in People magazines - real life adventure stories.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cool runnings

I've spent most of the last week travelling to four different universities for a graduate school tour with my son. I told just about everyone, especially my friends here in Florida where the temperature is still reaching the mid 90's by mid afternoon, that I will enjoy running on these midwestern campuses, with the trees turning brilliant colors of red, orange, and yellow, and with cooler temperatures.
But, although the trees were pretty to look at, the weather was not fun to run in. It was cold in the morning - temperatures were down in the 40's. It was also raining most of the time we were in Illinois and Indiana. My boasts of running on pretty college campuses, watching the students walk by with their backpacks and optimistic views of the future, were merely boasts. I found myself running in basements in student unions on treadmills.
But then we hit Maryland. On a cool sunny morning, temperatures in the 50's, I set out for my run. The trees with their changing leaves, the colonial brick buildings, the students with backpacks - they were all there. I was having so much fun it took me about 1/2 hour to figure out I had neglected to turn on my running watch and Ipod. I ran up hills and down into the central quad's fields. Just before I completed my run, I ran one lap on University of Maryland's outdoor running track. I felt like a college track star!
Much of life isn't exactly what you imagine. I imagined an intense 4 month training course for my NYC marathon. But I got injured Aug. 2 and spent the next 2 months unable to run. I'm only now gearing up as everyone else is tapering down. But just like everyone else, I'll line up at the starting line on the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge ready to give it my best shot. New York will be my Unviersity of Maryland.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside

I live in Florida, and enjoy running outside 12 months a year. It's rare that I have to wear anything warmer than a tank top and running skirt to run in outside, it's just almost always warm in Florida.
Not here. I'm in the midwest this week, and it is COLD. Still 90 degrees at home, but in the 40's here in the morning. I am freezing here!
On the radio this morning as we left Chicago I heard the local disc jockey say that the weather forecast for Sunday morning, Oct. 11, the day of the Chicago marathon, was temperature in the 30's - AND snow flurries.
And I was considering running the Chicago marathon this year!
Instead, I am running NYC 3 weeks later!
What was I thinking? I'm a Florida girl, I run inside when the weather dips below high 50's.
Well, the only way I can look at it is, if it is cold in NYC on Nov. 1 (cold for me, anyway) I will just have to run as fast as I can to get the marathon over as quickly as possible.
Here's to a PR in NYC!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Paula is in!

Today Paula Radcliffe, the current world's record holder in the woman's marathon (2 hours 15 minutes!) announced that she will be running the New York City marathon on November 1, 2009. So not only will I be running with the top American male marathon runner, Ryan Hall, and a bunch of other men who are tops in the marathon world, but now I'll be running with the world's best woman marathon runner!
I need to work on those intervals...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why 26.2 miles?

The first marathon was a run of 25 miles by a Greek man named Pheidippides who ran from the town of Marathon to Athens, to tell the Athenians that victory was at hand for their troops. Unfortunately for Pheidippides, as the story goes, he fell to the ground right after his announcement and died.
The first 3 modern Olympics had marathons of about 25 miles in honor of Pheidippides' run. But when the next Olympics were held in England, the Princess of Wales wanted the start to be moved to Windsor Castle so she and her children could catch the start of the race. Then, her mother-in-law, Queen Alexandra, had the bright idea of ending the Olympics right in front of the royal box in the Olympic stadium, necessitating almost an entire extra lap - 385 yards or .2 of a mile.
The last mile of so of a marathon is very difficult. At mile 25 of the Disney Marathon, I thought about the English royals and wished, for once, they had not gotten their way!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm out of runner's jail!

I got great news from my sports medicine doctor today - I can get back on the road and run!
In early August I suffered an overuse injury, a pulled groin muscle, because I was training too much and too fast.
For my first marathon, I did everything right. I followed every training schedule that Coach Doug B. set out for me, and finished my marathon just one minute ahead of my projected time.
Not this time. I felt cocky - I'd already completed a marathon, so why follow a training schedule? I ran as much as I wanted, often 10 miles or more a day, 7 days a week. So I came down with this injury and had to spend two months off the road and in the pool and on the bike.
But - I love bicycling with Larry and my friends, so that wasn't a punishment, and I grew to love aqua jogging, which for an hour in the pool, with music blaring, turned out to be a lot of fun.
To keep my head in the game, I also spent the last two months reading every nonfiction book I could find about running and running marathons. I learned a lot from these books - including not to over train! I also enjoyed two fiction books by John Parker, "Once a Runner" and "Again to Carthage". I liked these books so much I asked our Space Coast Writers Guild to invite John Parker to our annual writer's conference! I also watched the movies "Spirit of the Marathon" and "Prefontaine". If I hadn't already watched "Chariots of Fire" again last year I would have watched that also!
So my two months away from running turned out to be very helpful to me in ways I didn't expect.
But today, when I got back on the road, running on Tropical Trail, with the sun glistening on the Indian River and birds chirpping overhead, I realized what I was missing and oh how glad I was to be on the road again!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What she said

Zoe Koplowitz, Achilles Track Club member with multiple sclerosis, said:
"Have a dream, make a plan, go for it. You'll get there, I promise."

To me, running is about running, but it's also about life...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Just Do It

You know those inspirational posters with a beautiful natural setting and some quotation underneath?
Larry woke up at 4:30 AM the morning of my first long distance race, grabbed his bicycle, and follwed me to the starting line of the Space Coast Half Marathon in 2007. He spent the next 2 hours and 9 minutes snapping photos of me, running at and after sunrise along the Indian River in Cocoa, Florida. Larry surprised me for Christmas that year with a poster of me running, palm trees and river in the background, with these words from Calvin Coolidge underneath:
"Nothing in the world takes the place of persistence... Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
That poster is one of my most treasured possessions.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Did you see the accordion player?

The NYC Marathon can be looked at as the world's largest carnival. There are going to be 2 million spectators cheering us on, 100 bands playing for us (including the Bishop Loughlin High School band playing, as it has since 1979, "Gonna Fly Now" the theme from the movie "Rocky") and 26.2 miles of road, including bridges, through New York City's 5 boroughs.
There are certain people who are out every year watching the race and inspiring the runners, such as Stanley Rygor, in Long Island City, Queens, who plays the accordion. I don't want to miss anything in this race - even the accordion player!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Real Deal

US Olympians Ryan Hall and Brian Sell. 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist and 2 time World Champion Jaouad Gharib of Morocco. 1/2 Marathon Silver Medalist Patrick Makau of Kenya. 3rd fastest marathoner in history James Kwabai of Kenya.
All the men listed above will be running in the New York City Marathon - with me!
That's the coolest thing about marathons. It's the only sport I know of where amatuer athletes like me can compete on the same street, on the same day, with the best of the best runners in the world.
But the professional athlete I am most excited about running with is Joan Benoit Samuelson. She is running NYC to commemorate the 25th anniversary of her Oympic Gold medael in the first women's Olympic marathon.
I ran my first long distance race, the 2007 Space Coast Half Marathon, with her, and got a chance to speak with her the day before. She is a huge inspiration to me for what women could do if they are determined enough.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What's the first rule about NYC Marathon? Don't talk about NYC Marathon

I'm running the NYC Marathon with a member of Fight Club!
Yes, Ed Norton, the actor who played Tyler Durden's alter ego in the movie "Fight Club" is running the NYC marathon on Nov. 1st.
Ed Norton is running it with 3 Maasai warriors, and 30 runners from a Maasai village. His charity is the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, to raise money for a Kenyan based conservation organization.
That's one of the cool things about this marathon - lots of celebrities run it. The organizers are sending us a list on Oct. 6 of all celebs to date, so stay posted to this blog for updates!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why I run

When I cross the starting line on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City on November 1, 2009, I will do something unheard of at the time of my birth - run a marathon.

In 1959, women did not run marathons, at least not officially. The farthest race sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee for women was only 200 meters, about twice the length of a football field. Women were not thought to be strong enough to run any further. Men, however, were able to run distances up to and including the 26.2 mile marathon in Olympic competition. By 1960, women were allowed to run the longer distance of 800 meters. 1972 brought the addition of the 1,500 meter race, and in 1983, the 5,000 (5K or 3.1 mile) and 10,000 meter (10K or 6.2 mile) events were added. And it wasn't until 1984 that the women's marathon was finally added to the Olympics. That year Joan Benoit won the first gold medal in the women's marathon. If you told me in 1984 that 23 years laterI would meet Joan Benoit Samuelson and get my picture taken with her at my local running store and then actually run a half marathon with her the next morning, I would have thought you were crazy.

Me with the first woman to win a gold medal in the Olympic Marathon - Joan Benoit Samuelson,
the day before my first long distance race - Space Coast Half Marathon 2007

But life is crazy and has its own twists and turns. When I was growing up, sports were not encouraged for girls. Gym classes were filled with calisthenics and team sports that no one liked or played well. The light blue polyester one piece gym suits with the elastic waists did not add to the allure of physical activity, especially since the boys, taking their gym in a separate class, were allowed to wear their own T shirts and gym shorts. The passage of Title IX, forcing equal spending for boys and girls in school athletics, began a revolution in girls' sports, but by the time the money began trickling down to girls like me, I was already happily ensconced in the world of books, band, student council, drama, and the school newspaper and had no time or interest in sports.

It wasn't until I had kids of my own that I noticed the 180 degree change that had taken place in our country. Girls played sports and played them well. While I sat on the sidelines at my son Daniel's soccer and baseball games, I noticed the girls on the field. Ponytails flying behind them, these Title IX recipients ran and threw or kicked balls as well as the boys, and smiled and laughed while they did so. I looked at my younger daughter Liana, watching with me on the lawn chairs with the other moms and younger siblings, and thought things would be different for her and her friends.

I don't know if my Liana and the girls of her generation take for granted the options they have in sports, but I do know that they now enjoy sports from the preschool level up through equal opportunities in a myriad of sports in college. Health and fitness are givens in their world. I envied them until the one day I decided to join them...

When the kids were finally old enough to be left in the house alone for a while without the fear that they would kill themselves or burn the house down, I came up with the idea of an evening walk with my husband Larry. We started walking that evening, and after a few steps I realized I had to jog a bit to keep up with Larry who was a foot taller than me and a fast walker. As I began to jog, he began to run. I had no choice but to run to try to keep up with him. And so began my introduction to the world of running - for me.

I joined a gym so I could become a stronger runner for my runs with Larry. I ran two miles at the gym the next day and thought I would pass out at the end. My legs hurt for days. But I felt a freedom and a sense of accomplishment in running that I never felt in those junior high and high school gym classes. I kept running.

I found out there were local 5K races, and began entering those races. A whole new world opened up to me. Adults of all ages competed for fun and exercise almost every weekend in races throughout Brevard County, Florida. At these races I made new friends and met really interesting people of all ages who ran for the sheer joy of the sport. The more races I ran, the faster I got. I watched Larry accept awards for placing (1st, 2nd, or 3rd place) in his age group in these races and soon it was also me receiving these awards. Larry and I got our kids to run with us in Clearwater, Florida's Turkey Trot, a race on Thanksgiving morning with 15,000 of our closest friends. This 5K race is now an annual eagerly anticipated tradition for our family.

I ran a 5K race in Titusville, Florida in 2008 with my 20 year old son and my Aunt Mary and Uncle Sandy, who are both in their 80's. It was a blast running with them and hearing Aunt Mary and Uncle Sandy regale us with their race stories over the years. Like me, my aunt and uncle began running in their 40's for fitness, then enjoyed it so much they never stopped. They started running 5K races, then 10ks, then the half marathon, and then many marathons. Always up for a fun family tradition, I decided to try the marathon length race myself.

Doug B., a local running coaching legend for high school athletes, has a marathon training camp for adults in the fall. I knew nothing about training for a marathon, and Doug was the expert, so I just turned my running over to this running camp and did every workout that Doug designed for me. I ran the Space Coast Half Marathon for marathon practice in November 2008 in 2 hours, and saw my time drop by 9 minutes from where it had been at the 2007 Space Coast Half Marathon, before I began training with Doug. On the day of my first marathon, the Disney World Marathon on January 11, 2009, I followed every step Doug had outlined for me and finished those 26.2 miles in 4 hours, 31 minutes, just one minute off my projected time.

Running is now a huge part of my life. I am grumpy if I don't run every day. Vacations are happy times when Larry and I run together, whether it is by the Coliseum in Rome, under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or through Larry's parents' neighborhood in Westerville, Ohio. I now love to shop in the Running Zone as much as I do in bookstores. Of course, exercise is so much more appealing wearing the latest sleek black spandex running outfit than a light blue polyester elastic waist one piece gym suit...

I will be running the New York City Marathon on November 1, 2009 with Fred's Team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Check out my website at: https://fredsteam.mskcc.org/fundraising/Controller?action=userHome&user_id=39972&event_id=128

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

38 days to go

My journey to the New York City Marathon has been an unusual one so far. I wanted to document my road to the marathon, then report back on the marathon experience itself. So here goes...