Why did I decide to run my first marathon at age 58? The short answer is – to complete an unfinished journey of my 23 year old self, and because Julie Moss told me to.
When I was 23, I was running with athletes of the Cambridge Sports Union in Boston who were training for the Maine Coast Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. My longest run was a bit over 20 miles, and I was running about 70 mi/week. As with the two years I ran track in college, I injured my right knee – running through pain until I couldn’t even walk. It was finally diagnosed in Boston as a leg length difference – with my left leg 2 cm shorter than my right causing a lot of stress on my right knee. While I later continued to run, I dropped the mileage, and thought I couldn’t run a marathon without getting injured. So, in my mind, that was the end of that.
With the addition of 15+ years of cycling and training for triathlon, my quadriceps muscles gained strength and offered stability to my knees. I added orthopedic and podiatry specialists to my “team” and have been able to run longer and longer distances without knee pain, with stretching, strengthening, careful increases in mileage and a lift in the shoe of my shorter leg. I dabbled with the idea of a marathon in my future.
Along came Julie Moss. In 1982 I watched Julie Moss crawl across the Ironman finish line on the ABC’s Wide World of Sports. With this iconic image, Julie defined athletic grit and perseverance and helped put triathlon on the map.
I met Julie by chance at the 2015 Oakland Triathlon Festival. She was announcing for the race and I was racing. We left the expo at the same time and stopped to talk. She was so gracious and open to my questions about her first ironman and all her racing since.
Then, she turned the conversation around, “What about you? What’s your story?” And then, “have you ever done an Ironman?” “No, I’ve never even run a marathon,” I replied.
Julie’s response was, “Well, then, you need to run a marathon!!”
The forecast was for a big storm on race weekend and I was ready. I even took the storm as inspiration – after the rain comes the rainbow…
At the expo I was able to continue meeting icons of my youth – Frank Shorter – winner of Olympic gold for the marathon in 1972. I told him how much I’d admired him and he wished me a good marathon.
One unique aspect of the Napa Valley Marathon is the opportunity for anyone to drop special drink bottles for any of the aid stations. This allowed me to have Tailwind as hydration on course. I made my bottles visible with Avenger stickers.
Ready to Race
My goals were to:
- not get injured
- run the whole marathon
- finish as strongly as I could.
In particular, I didn’t want to give up on myself at those hard points in the race, but to be bold to push myself and my limits. I had a new mantra for the race:
Be Brave, Be Calm, Be Fierce, Be Strong
By the mile 21 aid station, my bus broke down. I must have looked pretty bad as a volunteer came to me and asked me if I was ok. “NO!” I sobbed. “This is so hard.” But I found my mojo and my Avenger Tailwind bottle and started running again.
With 2 miles to go, I saw the friendly face of a fellow Ambassador. I can still smile! She offered to run me in. With her encouraging words, I kept going.
With about 15 minutes to go, the sky opened up and we were soon drenched. We were joined by two more Ambassadors in the final stretch to the finish where teammates and my family were waiting.
So I did it!
No regrets – I ran the first half at a planned pace and then in the second half I tried to run each mile the best I could in that moment. The road was winding with camber on both sides for about 15 mi so lots of changing foot and body angles. Both my hips started hurting about mi 8 and my ankles got very wobbly on the last few corners. But except for walking a few aid stations in the last 10 miles I was determined to run. And I did. I gave it everything I had and left it all out on the course. 4:36:54 26.3 mi AG 17/32
Try something new, challenge yourself and don’t give up! Thank you Julie Moss for your inspiration.
I am humbled by the support of friends, family and teammates getting me to the start line and across the finish line. Thank you for being by my side!!
Thank you to my coach, Abby Ruby, for your skill and insight to bring out my athletic best. You have coached me through almost 3 years of triathlon, XTERRA, trail racing, orienteering and now a marathon. Thank you for adapting to my whimsy!
Thank you also for my cool Rudy Project sunglasses and for the fantastic team at Forward Motion Sports in Danville, CA, who served as my source for Tailwind drink mix, Honey Stinger gels and chews, new training clothes and CEP calf sleeves. My nutrition and clothing choices worked!