Editor's note: Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Forty. A number that has driven women to behave in erratic and impulsive ways ...
Some women leave their husbands. Some women get plastic surgery. Some women drive cross-country on a Harley. As for myself, I am running a marathon! (Disclaimer: I didn't say finishing a marathon!)
Here in a nutshell is the extent of my athletic prowess. I have a faint recollection of being remotely involved in sports at Elementary School No. 16 in Brussels, Belgium. During recess, boys took up the entire playground to play soccer while girls played jump rope in a little corner. Upon moving to New York, I played softball during gym at Russell Sage Junior High School. In Belgium, softball did not exist. I was not very good at softball, let alone English. All I really remember is a girl (I think her name was Tammy) running towards me and yelling "Now do you know why I hate you!" My team had lost because I stood paralyzed with the ball when (in hindsight) I should have thrown it to second base.
Last summer I found myself for some inexplicable reason (serendipity?) in the sports section of the library when a title jumped at me, "The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer." Non-Runner? Marathon? Hey, wait a minute! That's my kind of book! Enter a marathon without having to run? How does that work? I turned the book over and read the blurb: "Athlete. Runner. Marathoner. Are these words you wouldn't exactly use to describe yourself? Do you consider yourself too old or too out of shape to run a marathon?"
Yes and yes! I checked the book out.
A month later, as darkness was rapidly descending upon North Kenai, I stared my husband down and said "Let's do it! Let's run a marathon!" "Sure, whatever," he mumbled while watching Seinfeld.
I had read in my book that once I was determined to sign up for a marathon, it was critical that I tell everyone I knew. Something about believing in yourself and hearing yourself say repeatedly "I am running a marathon" and all that jazz. So the next day, I ran to the phone and announced to my Dad that "I was running a marathon!" His answer was not what I was looking for when it came to encouragement and moral support: "Aren't you too old for that kind of thing?" he asked.
Then I called my brother. His words of wisdom were: "Running is really bad for your back." A word about my brother. He's a two-pack-a-day smoker AND he is addicted to Coca-Cola (yes, the drink).
Whatever. I officially entered myself and my unsuspecting husband in the Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage (June 23). Now I had to come up with a training program and stick to it. I photocopied the training program from my book about non-running a marathon. The plan was to train for 16 weeks and increase mileage gradually so that by the last week we would be dragging ourselves through 18-mile runs. (Yes, the title was not exactly accurate. There was going to be some running involved.)
The beauty about this book, though, was that we only had to run four times a week. I remember reading somewhere that elite runners ran over 100 miles/week! Phew! That's a lot of miles! I e-mailed my husband a fake training program that involved running 200 miles/week and he was NOT amused. When I told him we only had to run 36 miles/week at the most, a great burden had been lifted from his shoulders. True to its blurb, the book was meant for people who either had been traumatized in junior high during gym (myself) or saw themselves as too ________ (fill in the blanks).
Now in our eighth week of the training program, I am happy to report that the runs are going smoothly. The runs have been successful for me thanks to consistency and playing inspiring music such as ABBA and Eurythmics. Each week consists of two short runs (3-5 miles), one medium run (4-8 miles) and one long run (6-18 miles). The one important prerequisite for beginning the training is having a base of at least 6 months of running 15 miles/week to prevent injuries.
So, why run a marathon? I am a stay-at-home mom of three very active preschoolers. I don't know about you, but in my case sanity and self-esteem were the first things to go.
Just the other day, Sammy, my 4-year-old, screamed at the top of his lungs: "Mommeeeee, I gotta tell you sumtin'!"
"Whaaat?" as I had just sat down to drink a cup of tea ...
"Danny pooped on the floor again and Eliza slipped in it."
But now that I have that visual of me throwing my hands up in triumph as I cross the finish line, life has become just a little bit easier. In the midst of the daily grind, we all could use reminders of how amazing we really are.
There is one more reason. I recently read an article about a woman who was breaking all the world records in running. She ran a 5-minute mile and kicked everyone's butt. She is 60 years old and began running at 30. Her name is Kathy Martin. The New York Times article further explains: "Life can bestow unexpected gifts, and sometime in her late 40s, Martin, a real estate agent living on Long Island, a busy working mother who had never been in a track meet, discovered a glorious secret hidden away in her body. Not only was she a good runner, she was also an outstanding one. In fact, she was one of the most remarkable female distance runners in the world."
Life has not bestowed me unexpected gifts such as running, but I am a firm believer that staying active does help defy aging and prevent disease.
So, if you are a woman pushing 40, don't leave your husband, don't get plastic surgery, and don't drive cross-country on a Harley. Sign up for a marathon! It does you good!
Nadia Anders lives in North Kenai.