On November 7, I completed the New York City Marathon, 40 years after I initially planned to do it! What an amazing feeling.
I am not a “natural” runner. I don’t “look like a runner.” I am definitely not a fast runner.
I am, above all else, a determined runner. I would argue that my being stubborn, persevering, having “grit” explains a lot about both the marathon and me. A willingness to put one foot in front of the other, day in and day out is, is the essence of running. Setting a “big, hairy, audacious goal” and mapping out the incremental steps is the essence of marathon training.
Over forty years ago, I trained to run the New York City Marathon. I traveled to New York from Chicago, where I was a graduate student. Fate intervened, and at the very last moment, I was unable to run the iconic event. The following year I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and decided that my marathon days were behind me.
My days (and nights) were spent raising three children and being a full-time business professor for nearly two decades. I didn’t run, or do any physical activity whatsoever.
Watching my oldest daughter run a 5k as part of her middle school field hockey conditioning, I got the itch to run again. Starting from scratch, many years and pounds after my initial running adventures, was difficult. But I found the same benefits of running.
I can’t say that I enjoy running. I can say that I enjoy being a runner. I enjoy the easy camaraderie of running buddies who evolve into lifelong friends. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment of going further or (rarely) faster than I went before. I enjoy setting and achieving goals. I enjoy the sense of control that is so elusive in other aspects of my life. I enjoy being outside, watching the sun come up. I enjoy the clarity a run can shed on a complex dilemma.
In the fall of 2019, The New York Road Runners Club was getting ready to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the marathon; social media coverage was extensive, and I saw it daily. I decided to (once again) put my name into the lottery to run New York. I had run the Nationwide Children’s Half Marathon and was feeling optimistic.
January of 2020, a nagging hamstring injury became a full-fledged hamstring tear, no running for me. In late February, I learned that I had “won” the lottery to run the New York City Marathon in November 2020. Woohoo! My hamstring was healing, and I would have plenty of time to train. The very next day, I had a detached retina, definitely no running for me.
And we all know what happened in March of 2020. The silver lining of the pandemic is that the 2020 New York City Marathon was canceled. While thousands of runners worldwide were disappointed, I was relieved. There was absolutely no way I could have safely or realistically gone from my no-running winter to a marathon in the fall.
Once medically cleared, I began running again. Initially, it was one minute of running and then four minutes of walking repeated; a total of two minutes of running every other day. But each week, I was able to run a little bit more. And running outdoors was one of the few activities that were not canceled due to COVID. Meeting with a friend to run a few miles was a much-needed respite from days stuck at home zooming from my daughter’s bedroom.
I told almost nobody about my NYC plan, but I marked my calendar and committed to the miles. I did my rehab and strength training. It wasn’t clear if there would be a 2021 marathon, and it wasn’t clear if I could be ready even if there were one. But I needed a goal, something positive to focus on, so I acted as if it would happen.
I got up early. I logged miles on my own. I logged miles with friends. I ran in the dark and the cold. I ran in the heat and humidity. I fretted as the delta variant surged. I bought my plane ticket.
And on a magical morning in November 2021, it actually happened. My family and friends cheered me on, both in NYC on the route and virtually from throughout the US. I can now say, “I ran the New York City Marathon!”
Unfinished business is now finished. What’s next?
To see Dr. Peck’s faculty profile, go to https://www.capital.edu/academics/faculty/sharon-peck/.