“The marathon is not really about the marathon, it’s about the shared struggle. And it’s not only the marathon, but the training.” ~Bill Buffum
Between the ages of 43 and 48 I got talked into running marathons. Now, before you brand me as an easy mark and gullible for any type of self-inflicted torture, I must tell you that I had always been a runner up to that time. My routine for years was to run about 3 miles every other day as a way of keeping fit and mentally balanced (mostly) during the times I was growing my business and travelling extensively. But the idea of running 42.195 kilometres (26 miles and 385 yards) was not even an impulse in my brain.
Then my older brother, Don, started running marathons and, as brothers will, my ego got the better of me as he bet he could beat me. So, the organised executive in me kicked in, I read everything I could about marathons and training, talked to the experienced runners at my local running store and subsequently developed a plan of attack. Our first marathon would be The Big Sur Marathon from Big Sur to Carmel (a gorgeous but challenging course).
Well, to make a long story short, we ran the Big Sur Marathon together (I beat him by several minutes) and I got hooked. In a period of five years I ran about 20 marathons all over the US.
“If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal. If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal.” ~Rob de Castella
At the Twin Cities Marathon one October in Minneapolis I had a profound experience and learned a great life lesson. At that particular race, they pinned the age group, in five-year increments, on back of the runner’s jersey. Not certain why (some medical or insurance reason I suspect) but it was fun to run in a group and see the ages.
Anyway, at mile 21, for me and many others the most gruelling part of the race when legs are nearly dead and brain is numb, I spotted a solitary runner about 100 years ahead. One of my strategies for running a marathon is to pick out and try to overtake other runners. This strategy kept me focused on a short-term goal so I wouldn’t be thinking about how long the race really was. When I got a little closer I saw his age group on his back. 70-75!
This guy was somewhere between 70 and 75 years old and he had been ahead of me for 21 miles! I was determined to catch up and talk to him. Slowly I closed the distance and finally we were side by side. I was definitely impressed with this fellow.
Not knowing what to say, exactly, I opened the conversation with: “You are my new hero. I hope I am still walking at your age, let alone running marathons!”
He slowly looked up, smiled, and said, “One foot in front of the other, young man. One foot in front of the other!” He put his head back down and the conversation was over. I moved on, focusing on another runner ahead. I never saw him again as the crowd at the end was swollen with friends and family milling around.
But I can still see him shuffling along and I hear his words in my mind every day:
One foot in front of the other, young man. One foot in front of the other!
Not a bad motto for living a full life!
Tight Lines . . .