Did you hear about the annual Marine Corps Marathon that was held in D.C. and Arlington, Virginia, three weeks ago?
If you’re like me, you may not have noticed unless you, or someone you know, had entered the race which is the largest marathon in the world — known as “The People’s Marathon” — that doesn’t offer prize money.
Since some 27,000 runners participated (from every state, in addition to 50 countries), it’s obvious that money isn’t the motivation.
Oh, and incidentally, our daughter, Kelly, and her husband, Barry, entered the race and completed the 26.2 miles in the range of five hours. I just thought I’d mention that since, well, it’s an important fact that a writer needs to include when writing about an event. Not that I would ever brag about it. No, sir-ree.
As I observed Kelly’s and Barry’s months of preparation — which included daily runs of increased miles — my motherly instincts kicked in by sometimes worrying about “silly” health concerns such as hydration, joint overload, and proper diet.
Apparently, the couple had covered all their bases. Their disciplined runs, up hills and down, through hot and humid weather, after work or first thing in the morning, paid off.
Finishing that race, however, caused me to wonder. Why on earth would people subject themselves to such physical stress? I believe two key words for runners are “motivation” and “discipline.” And where does THAT come from?
I’d like to think that Kelly inherited a few good genes from our gene pool regarding those factors. The truth is, I can’t imagine doing anything I would enjoy less. I hate running. I jogged around the neighborhood park — once or twice — several years ago, and the only “runners high” I experienced was the feeling of elation when I collapsed into the driver’s seat of my car, ready to go home.
Not that I don’t exercise, mind you. I taught aerobics classes — do they still exist? — for 26 years and I’m currently a fast Fitbit walker who usually does more than the minimum 10,000 steps a day.
Paul accompanies me most of the time, being the good sport that he is. (That is, when it isn’t too windy, snowy, rainy, hot, or cold.) He’s a sports guy who plays golf and gets bored with non-competitive activities. So, you could say he has a degree of motivation and discipline when it’s centered around sports. (Still, I think he’ll be more conscientious when his broken Fitbit is replaced.)
For me, there’s something about watching those steps escalate on my tracker that’s attached to my wrist. I get motivated whenever I feel the slight tingle from my device that “nags” me if I’ve been sitting too long at the computer.
Ultimately, I think my discipline to walk results from habit. It’s part of my routine — like eating breakfast — that I rarely miss. My motivation, foremost, is to keep healthy with the added advantage of keeping my weight down.
Walking, however, pales when it comes to the exertion of running which brings me, once again, to why people do it.
“I started running a few years ago when Dad was in the hospital and it was a way to relieve stress,” said Kelly. Other things compounded that as well: Her beloved 12-year-old dog was dying and she began running “further and further.”
Barry was running, as well, and soon experienced the benefits of being in shape which increased his motivation.
“Actually, Barry wanted to run more than I,” Kelly said.
Six years later, which included several 5K races, and a tough training schedule, Kelly and Barry were ready for the big one — the marathon.
Kelly, herself, described her feelings of exhaustion as she completed the 12th mile of the race and told Barry she was ready to quit. He encouraged her by saying, “Wait until you complete the “Blue Mile” (commemorating fallen soldiers).
She doggedly continued while noticing a runner in front of her who was wearing a sign commemorating someone. He had a prosthetic limb and his other leg appeared compromised as well. Nonetheless, he carried on, pushing a disabled person. and then stopping to kneel at one of several photos—honoring soldiers--that were posted along the Blue Mile.
“At that point, how could I possibly give up?” Kelly asked.
“Once I was past the 20-mile point — with Barry encouraging me all the way — I had only six miles to go and I said to myself, ‘Let’s get this over with.’”
As Kelly and Barry crossed the finish line, among cheering strangers on the sidelines, she admitted that she had the sensation of wanting to cry. She believes it wasn’t because of her elation upon finishing the race, but rather, more about the physical and mental stress her mind and body had endured.
“There’s a certain thing about pushing yourself ahead and feeling that you can do it,” Kelly said. “I told everybody about the race so I could hold myself accountable. That way, I would be less likely to change my mind. … At times, I would say to myself, ‘I can’t,’ and then, ‘Yes, I can.’”