Amongst the accomplishments of a lifetime, count “completed running a marathon” amongst those for my friend Yvonne.
Just a skosh over five feet tall, with two children and a full-time job, she woke up one morning staring at the new running challenge the same way some people stare at mountains and go, “well, I’ll climb that because it’s there,” but she saw it with three facets: she could get in shape, she could challenge herself, and she could say she ran a marathon.
“It’s also a cool thing to do,” she added.
To cover the 26 miles and 385 yards needed to finish, she enlisted the help of a friend who motivated her to first walk long distances every day. “We had a goal and we wanted to finish. We knew the whole process would benefit us. Not everybody can do a marathon. It’s a recognizable achievement.”
Shorter distances grew longer. Lunch hours turned into agonizing training sessions. Her feet hurt. Eventually, however, the first wave of training paid off: she walked the Maratona di Roma in 2010. She did it again the next year, earning the medals and taping the times on the front door of her office.
Still, she knew she had to run a marathon to really tamp down the anxious thing beating inside her. So, in May 2011, she started running, working toward finishing the Dublin Marathon on Halloween.
Yvonne said the Maginot Line in this process was her own mind. “About halfway through the training, my inner voices kept telling me to stop. But I wasn’t going to let myself down. I knew that if I gave in, I wouldn’t finish.”
With every Facebook update, the training distances increased: five miles, 10 miles, 15 miles, 20 miles. Rinse and repeat, with more aching feet, sore muscles and weakness fleeing for the doors.
Halloween arrived (also a public holiday in Ireland) and so did the rain. “It was pouring. It was ridiculous.” Still, when the starting gun went off, so did she. About three-quarters of the way through, rain beating down, those pesky inner voices returned telling her to stop. “I just turned the music up louder and shut them up.”
Throughout the training, she felt that four hours, 30 minutes was a realistic goal to finish. Five hours, tops. Unfortunately, the rain and the hills conspired against her. “When the guys carrying the five-hour balloons passed us, I cried and THAT really hit hard. (My husband) mentioned they had started a little late so I knew there was some wiggle room in there. When I saw the finish line, I broke off and ran as fast as I could, because I wanted that five hours BAD.”
Save 63 seconds, it worked. With 13,000 others in front, beside and behind her, Yvonne finished the 2011 Dublin Marathon in five hours, one minute and three seconds.
She hasn’t run much since, mostly due to work and family obligations. With a move this summer, however, she’ll be back into it with her husband. She has no desire to stop tallying lifetime achievements or trying new things.
“I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it. And I did it,” she concluded. “How many people can say they ran a marathon?”
Jason Tudor is an American writer and illustrator who lives in Europe. His short story, “The Lives Magda Made,” will appear in the anthology “No Rest for the Wicked” in June 2012. He is also the co-host and creator of “The Science Fiction Show,” a weekly podcast about all things science fiction in pop culture, film, television and elsewhere. For more, go to www.jasontudor.com.