Saturday, June 26, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

Today's headlines remind me that yesterday was the one year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death, and I'm finding it absolutely inconceivable that I nearly let such a momentous anniversary pass me by. It's not that I was a big Michael Jackson fan--I hadn't bought any of his albums since I was a kid saving her allowance to buy Thriller on cassette. But Michael Jackson happened to die on the day I ran my first road race, the JP Morgan corporate challenge in Boston Common.

When I showed up to get my number on June 25, 2009, all the iPhone people were buzzing about how Jackson was in critical condition; a few minutes later news hit he was dead; and by the time I rounded the corner of the last turn of my first 3.5 mile race, the big spiralling-strings-and-horns opening of "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" was blaring from the radio DJ covering the race. All told, it took me almost 49 minutes to cover 3.5 miles.

Exactly one year later, I ran 17 miles in 193 minutes (3hours and 13 minutes). That's almost three minutes faster per mile over a distance that's 13.5 miles longer. That's a hell of a leap in one year. Next month I'll run a marathon. And next year? I'm thinking about doing all this again. Thinking about it. Will you think about joining me? And before you tell you that you're not a runner and couldn't possibly, consider that last year at this time I was you. Or my version of you. When someone joked that the next stop was a marathon, I told them I wasn't that kind of runner, that I couldn't possibly. And then I decided that maybe I'd try to be.

I'm not gonna lie to you. Training for a marathon has been no walk in the park, and I do realize that it's helped me immensely that I work a job with a non-traditional schedule and the fact that the sturdy stock that contributed to my personal gene cocktail seems to be paying off (my knees are fine, my back's golden, and the closest thing to injury I've experienced has been some slightly sore ankles and shins today after running 17 miles yesterday). In other words, I've been lucky.

I know there are quite a few very good reasons not to run a marathon. Maybe you've got small kids at home or you work a billion hours a week and can barely find time to write as it is. Or maybe you've got a medical challenge sidelining you. I understand that marathon's aren't for everybody. But if you're biggest reason for not running is because you couldn't possibly, I have one question:

What would it mean to you if you did?

Catherine Elcik is running her first marathon to raise money for a scholarship fund for Grub Street, Inc, an independent writing center in Boston, MA. Sponsor the run at

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