By Diane Kukich
“I’ve never run a marathon, and I don’t plan to ever run one.”
I’ve said that over and over again since I started running 17 years ago. Then, all of a sudden, a few months ago, I knew I had changed my mind.
The day before Halloween (trick or treat?) I told my husband, my daughter, and my running friend Kathy Nguyen, founder of WeRunWithYou, that I was going to run a marathon. Until that moment, the marathon had never lured me in, even though temptation was everywhere.
It’s easy to get seduced by the increasingly fancy race bling offered at marathons.
It’s easy to feel like you’re not “a real runner” if you haven’t completed at least one marathon.
It’s easy to get pulled in when all your running friends are posting their marathon training plans or their efforts to qualify for Boston on social media.
But none of those enticements was behind my eventual decision to sign up for a marathon.
In the end, it was the recognition that I was running out of time to change my mind.
In that moment when I finally said “yes” to the marathon, it was because I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to leave anything on the table—I didn’t want to be 85 and have any regrets about my running career. I wanted to be able to say, “I am a marathoner.”
As I write this post for WeRunWithYou, I’m less than a month from my 67th birthday. And by the time I run the 2019 Philadelphia Marathon at the end of November, I’ll be two months shy of 68 years old. It’s now or never for my first—and possibly only—marathon.
Triathlete Meredith Atwood, who blogs as swimbikemom, talks about goals and the importance of choosing the right ones. When we fail to make progress toward our goals, she says, it may be because we’re choosing the wrong ones.
Our goals, according to Atwood, have to be backed up with “a big enough WHY.”
Cool finisher medals and race bling like tech shirts, jackets, hats, and water bottles are fun, but they’re not a big enough “why” for running a marathon. They’re the tangible evidence of an accomplishment, not a “why” for doing something.
And as Atwood points out, we “fizzle and sizzle” when we think we should do something like an Ironman because we’re not meeting someone else’s expectations or because our friends are doing it. She also says that goals are directly related to timing: A goal can be wrong just because the timing is wrong.
And in that regard, I think the timing for me to run a marathon is right—although it almost wasn’t.
When I originally decided to do a 26.2 back in October, I signed up for the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, which was an ill-thought-out impulse rather than a measured decision. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I HATE winter—and most of the training for a spring marathon is in cold, icy, snowy weather for those of us who live in the Northeast. But a minor injury stopped my running in its tracks at a crucial point in my training, making it unrealistic for me to plan on doing Shamrock, so I was able to make a timing correction. I signed up for Philly, which means I’ll be training from the end of summer through fall.
Although I lost my $100 entry fee, everything worked out for the best—in addition to better training weather, I’ll be doing the race with friends, including Kathy Nguyen, and the venue is close enough to home that my family and non-running friends can come out to cheer me on.
So the timing now seems right, and, even more importantly, my WHY is definitely big enough.
Diane is a retired science writer. She holds a senior fitness training certificate from the University of Delaware and a Level 2 Running Coach certification from Road Runners Club of America. She started running in her late 40s and has won hundreds of first and second place age-group awards in local, regional, and national races at distances from the mile to the half marathon. She swims, runs, or bikes every day and strength trains twice a week. Diane lives in Newark, Delaware, with her husband, Doug, her yellow Lab Jodie, and her orange tabby Pax.