Sunday, November 14, 2010


I have so many thoughts about last weekend that I am still processing. So many things happened last week that were so personal and so important to me, and I really want to talk about them. But I don't know where to start. I am so fearful that this post is going to go on for at least five-hundred paragraphs that I am going to break it down into a series of posts. I totally forgive and understand in advance if you want to pass on reading all of this. is okay, my feelings won't be hurt!

I don't think it has fully hit me yet that I ran a marathon last week. I know that to some people, this isn't a big deal. People run marathons all the time, and the sport is increasing in popularity exponentially. But one of the things that was discussed at our pre-race party last Saturday was the fact that almost every single person that runs a marathon has a story. Most people don't decide "I'm going to run a marathon" in the same casual manner that they would decide "I'm going to order waffles instead of pancakes for breakfast." Deciding to undertake the famed 26.2 mile distance usually is a well-thought out, carefully considered decision that in one way or another has particular significance or meaning to the runner.

For me, running a marathon has been a lifelong dream, one that for most of my life was nothing more than a pipe dream. I have battled severe asthma since I was two years old. When I was diagnosed as a baby, I spent almost as much time in the hospital for that first year than I did out. I still don't know how my mom did it; she was a single mother with a sick baby who was in the emergency room every other week due to something in my world causing my asthma to flare up. One of the (many) times that I was admitted overnight, they sent my mother home only to call her a few short hours later to tell her that things weren't looking good and she had better get back there SOON. I can't even IMAGINE what that must have felt like for her.

NEEDLESS TO SAY, my mom was EXTREMELY overprotective of me when it came to my health. Growing up as a child I found her rules unfair and didn't fully understand them, but now that I am a parent I must say I don't know how she ever had the courage to let me out of the house or out of her sight!!! All I wanted was to be just like the other kids, but because of my asthma I wasn't. When I went to Dexter Elementary school, on days when the weather was below 50 degrees, I wasn't allowed to go outside for recess. I can't explain to you what it felt like to be the ONLY KID not allowed to go outside to play. I would sit in the empty classroom (it was the seventies and I guess I didn't need to be supervised by any adults) and color pictures or practice writing exercises while everyone else went out on the swings or ran around playing games like red rover. SUCKED. It made me feel like an outsider, and the other kids didn't understand. My favorite days were the ones when it rained and EVERYONE had to stay indoors for recess, because it meant I didn't have to be all alone.

As I got to Junior and Senior High School, sports were out of the question. My asthma was somewhat better managed by medicine and an asthma inhaler that went with me everywhere I went, but it still was a burden. I would go over a friend's house and as soon as I realized that they had a dog or a cat, both of which I am highly allergic to, I would be faced with a dilemma; leave immediately, or stay and face the consequences. (An allergic reaction triggers an asthma attack for me, still to this day). Often I made the wrong decision (because I wanted to be with my friends) and by the end of the night I would find myself in the emergency room. Being asthmatic was very tough on my social life.

It was so, so frustrating.

Skip ahead to ten years ago; I decide to start trying to run. Not sure why I thought I would have success, but it became a mind-over-matter kind of thing. I started very slowly running for thirty seconds and then walking for a minute, over and over again. Gradually I would increase my running intervals and shorten my walking intervals. I still remember the first time I ran a mile without stopping; I couldn't believe I had done it. That moment in and of itself felt triumphant.

But the asthma still bothered me. I had to bring my inhaler with me on every run. I did a couple of 5K races, and then I attempted one or two 10K's. One of the first 10K's I ever ran by myself was the Tufts 10K in Boston in 2000. That course was so tough on my asthma I had a tremendously difficult time catching my breath for a good hour after the race was over. Somewhere in the back of my mind, even though I had come so far, I still felt that the asthma was getting the best of me. Even then, it seemed that the dream of running a marathon was slipping further and further away. Shortly after that 10K, I stopped running.

It would be eight years before I would give it another shot. By December of 2007, my weight had ballooned to a point that I was horrendously ashamed of. My daughter was two, and I realized it was time to stop blaming the excess weight on my pregnancy. I put a weight loss action plan in place for the start of the new year, and told myself that by March I would try running again. I wanted to give myself time to ease back into it. I had to start all over again, running a minute and walking a minute, until I could comfortably do a mile. It was tough, but I kept with it and before long I was running 5K's again. I still brought my inhaler with me on every run, but I was running again and THIS time, unlike before, I was enjoying it. I am pretty confident that I have the invention of the ipod to thank for that.

Then something happened...I started tracking my weekly mileage. And I started recording my pace. And I signed up for Nike Plus that August, which would calculate my mileage and pace FOR me. When this happened, I started to set running goals. The first goal was a big hurdle I needed to face head-on: the Tufts 10K. The race all but defeated me eight years earlier, and I had yet to do the 6.2 mile distance since. I signed up and cringed as the date approached. But race day came, I got through the challenging course, and though it was still tough it wasn't the impossible course that I had remembered it to be. This time, I had won.

When I got home from the race that night I was peering through the goody bag they gave us, and there was a postcard inside from Walt Disney World. They were advertising that they had created a brand new half-marathon for women, and that 2009 would be the inaugural running of the "Disney Princess Half-Marathon." I literally laughed out loud that I was considering it, but there I was, pinning the postcard up on the tackboard in the office. It would be there for the next couple of months, reminding me that there were more goals to reach for.

On my thirty-eighth birthday I found myself snowed in all alone at my house (Anthony and Amanda were stuck at his mother's house and couldn't get home through the blizzard). I was feeling lonely and sorry for myself that this was how I was spending my birthday, and I glanced over at the postcard on the wall. Five minutes later I had registered online for my very first half-marathon. Happy Birthday to me.

…and thus began my first step toward acheiving my dream of running a marathon.

(to be continued)