Why I’m Running my First Marathon at Age 59
I’m 58 years old (59 this summer), and in the past few years, have fallen in love with running. Because it doesn’t take the coordination skills of other sports, for me, it’s “easy.” I gave up on softball after trying to field ground balls with bifocals. I used to play a lot of golf, but appreciate not having to search for lost balls.
Running is also convenient. You can do it almost any time, any place, with others or alone, and you can make it as competitive or casual as you wish.
There’s also the celebrity factor: I can watch Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins play baseball but during the Olympics this summer I can tell people I ran in the same race as Jared Ward and Amy Cragg last year.
Sometimes I say I’m in a desperate battle against old age. But when I’m walking gingerly on sore feet, I remind myself, “How much worse would I feel if I didn’t run?”
That’s a question I’m going to have to answer a few times this year as I tackle my first marathon.
Let Me Tell You How I Got Here
In the spring of 2010, when we returned from a vacation, I was 199 pounds, felt awful, and hated bending down to tie my shoes. Before then, I ran sporadically (a half-mile here and there), but never serious.
This time, I was able to settle into a habit of regularly running (actually jogging) a 1.5-mile loop outside our rural home in Mayer Minnesota, as well as eating moderate meals with no snacking in between.
Within a few months, I lost 30 pounds and felt tremendously better, increasing to two laps (3 miles) later that year. My daughter, Chelsea, is a dedicated runner and encouraged me to try a race. “I don’t want to pay to run in public,” was the excuse I always gave her.
The following year, she found a free 5k nearby. So, on her 25th birthday, without having to pay, I gave it a try.
I was Hooked!
That fall, I read in our local newspaper, results of local people who ran in the Twin Cities 10-Mile and Marathon. I knew a few of them personally. I was intrigued with the idea of running from the Metrodome/Vikings Stadium to the Capitol. Thinking that if I could run 3 miles, I could surely do 10, I proposed (to my daughter) taking that on next. “If I’m going to pay to run in public, it might as well be with 10,000 people, not just a few dozen.”
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the Twin Cities 10-Mile in 2012, but we trained all year and reached our 10-mile race goal at White Bear Lake’s Bear Water Run.
Along the way, I paid to run in several other races and became a fan following elite runners, both nationally and Team USA Minnesota.
In 2013, we did our first half marathon, and also got into the TC 10 Mile that fall. Shortly after, I noticed the results of the Loony Challenge, which started that year. In my age group, there were only two runners, and I was pretty sure I could have beaten both of them.
Now I was Definitely Hooked
Of course, by the next year, the Loony field grew and I ended up 4th of 11. That fall, I learned to run in the dark with a small flashlight, so I was able to keep running all winter and it made a world of difference.
At the Loony in 2015, I PR’ed all three events and cut my total time by almost 9 minutes, finishing 2nd of 12, but still 8 minutes behind the winner (congrats, Mark Goodman!).
That left me with a big question about what to do in 2016. I still dreamed of being the fastest “Loon” in my age group, but for the sake of variety and figuring there’s a better chance if I wait until I join the 60+ group, that left only one other obvious choice –
Running my First Marathon at Age 59!
I know I don’t have that many laps around the calendar remaining, and it does get more difficult each year, so I paid to run in public again.
As of this writing, there are about 7 months to go until the 2016 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. I figure there is about 1,000 or so miles worth of training. But I’ve already realized that the joy is not at the moment of crossing the finish line Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, or even the few hours of the marathon itself.
Like a school graduation, the event itself is an acknowledgment of everything you did to get there.
Each day is a piece of the journey. Here we go!
A Few Tips
Whether you’re 19, 59, or 79, here are a few helpful tips I’ve learned along the way, that apply to runners of all ages and abilities.
- It’s easier to run every day than to decide every day.
- Don’t fight it when going against the wind - relax as much as possible and let the wind go around you. It’s a mental thing.
- Long runs are a great time to pray.
- No matter how good you think you are, there’s usually a 12-year-old who out-kicks you to the finish line.