I devoted 12 years of my life to long-distance running, which feels like another life ago. Sometimes I ran marathons, which surprises new friends because I am not now in my best physical condition, shape, nor weight. I do not miss running. I always had a love-hate relationship with it anyhow. As with many past relationships, I stayed in this one too long.
Despite the time invested and my efforts, I never was the level of athlete who stood a chance of winning the race. I trained hard, yes, but I also made a point to have fun with my training and the marathons. While training on the weekends of long runs -- 16, 18, 20 mile runs -- it took me close to double the time of the fastest runners. Now that I think about it, that makes me more of an endurance athlete than those winning the purse. Don't you agree? Elite athletes today finish a marathon in just a little over two hours, whereas I finish in about five hours. Think of how much time I spent on all those long runs. Do you see my logic? I trained double the time the elite athletes do. They might be elite athletes, but I am the endurance athlete. Okay. Somehow I think I have not convinced you.
The sky today was crystal clear and bright blue in Florence, Italy; the temperature barely 60 degrees Fahrenheit, at its warmest, and dry -- an ideal day for a marathon race. I raced to the start line of the Firenze Marathon to watch approximately 11,000 marathoners take off on an all-new, completely flat course.
The new courseI watched every runner cross the start line.
At the start
The very last person to cross the start was one sole racewalker.
Lone racewalkerI could have been the second racewalker. I considered it a few months back, researched to see if they even had a racewalking category. Nope. When I quit running many years ago, I took up the Olympic sport racewalking, which I love. I even completed one half marathon as a racewalker, which was satisfying for me because after the halfway point and all the way to the finish, I passed many joggers who were envious that I walked faster than they could run. I would love to get back into this sport and prefer to train with friends. Please contact me, if racewalking interests any of you local readers. A heads-up, though: racewalking is a funny-looking sport and does draw a bit of attention.
Throughout the day, I raced around to various points on the course ... and eventually ended up at the finish line.
I love seeing the elite athletes and am proud to see the woman in the lead on the course (known in Italy as the "prima donna").
But the athletes who most excite my interest are the ones like you and me, average, and the athletes with physical challenges, who, just by running the race, remind me that anything is possible if we choose to believe.
A man and his posse
I saw miracle after miracle cross that finish line today. And I choked up with tears many times. I know from personal experience the many emotions runners experience during the hours of running a marathon. Seeing the runners as they turn that final corner and can see the finish line just 100 or 200 hundred meters ahead provides a surge of adrenalin that gives the power to sprint home with all you have got -- all you have left -- head held high, across that finish-line tape. Some runners in sheer pain and anguish; some overwhelmed with triumph and victory; some crossing arm in arm with someone who gave them strength to keep going not only today but during their training; some with their child or spouse who supported their run; one hopping on crutches.
They spent all their energy
My hero. Very young man ran his first marathon in 4:20Perhaps next year I will volunteer for the Florence Marathon 2012, or perhaps I will be racewalker No. 2 to compete and go the distance 42 kilometers and 195 meters (26.2 miles). Wanna do it with me?