By Sue-Ellen Sanders
Our plane flights to Minnesota and hotel room in Duluth are booked and non-refundable. So there's no question, now, that we are going to Duluth, Minnesota for this weekend's Grandma's Marathon, a 26.2-mile race that isn't just for grandmas.
I've put in the homework miles and all that's left to do is run the marathon. It's not like I haven't run a marathon before. I know how to do it; it's like a test; if you study for it correctly, then you will get a good grade.
I've steadily increased my long runs over the last three months, putting in 18 and 20-milers to get ready for the big one, on marathon morning. I've gotten up early to try to beat the South Florida heat and plodded up and down running enough path variations on the roads near my home that I know the back roads like the palm of my hand.
My race day outfit is ready to go, too.clothes that won't chafe me, socks thin enough to keep my toes from blistering, Brooks running shoes worn enough to be broken in but not with the soles worn down.
Of course, there are many other options that come into play during any outdoor activity. It could be very hot or very cold. It could rain. Or the weather could be just right, clear and cool in Minnesota on Saturday, June 17, the reason why many people travel to Duluth for the race.
This is the year I turn 50 and it seemed like a good idea to run another marathon. I haven't run one in about 16 years, but my memories of marathon-training and race day running are clear: I felt better about myself and more confident in my abilities than at any other stage in my life.
Back in 1985, when I was 29, I ran my first marathon, hoping to prove to myself and to the world that I was a woman in control of my own destiny. I was sick of the dating scene. I didn't need a man; I had my trusty running shoes.
Already a lifelong runner, I became addicted to long-distance running, after that first marathon-distance race. Ironically, I also met my husband-to-be while training for my second marathon. Together we traveled to 5K and 10K races throughout Florida, combining party weekends with semi-serious running. Then, we got married and had kids.
Instead of running marathons, I had labor, which was surprisingly like a running a marathon. With a marathon, you train for about nine months, with long runs that get progressively harder and longer and then spend anywhere from three to five hours or so on marathon day pushing yourself to the limit.
With a pregnancy, you carry a baby in your belly through nine months that also become progressively more challenging, culminating in hard, active labor that, if you're lucky, doesn't last much longer than the marathon would.
There are a few major differences, of course. After a marathon all you get is a mighty magnificent medal, to display however you see fit. After pregnancy and labor, you get a bouncing baby boy or girl, a tiny, little human being that you can cherish and care for all the rest of your life.
Also, after a marathon, you can rest for hours or days and sleep the sleep of the righteously exhausted. After a baby, you don't get a full night's sleep for, what, another 18 years?
So, onward and upward, to the marathon and beyond. I've had a wonderful time training for this marathon, supported both by a running partner and by a husband who biked the extra miles alongside my huffing, puffing body, by children who rollerbladed by my side in the neighborhood and a chiropractor who tended to the extra aches and pains I found developing in my almost-half-century-old body.
I consider it an irony that while training for a marathon to show that my body is as strong as it was at 30, that I've discovered that (whisper it quietly) perhaps it's not. But, my mind is stronger.
On marathon morning, I will run the best I can on that given day, surrounded by other people of all ages who are running, each with their own reason to run and their own goals and dreams for the day.
I will run to finish. I will run for the medal. And I will be very happy that all I'm doing is running a marathon this time, not birthing another baby!
Wish me luck.
Sue-Ellen Sanders writes about family issues every week in the Hometown News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.