Amy, Heather, and I had taken the train to NYC a day early to pick up our packets for the ING NYC Marathon and to spend as much time as we wanted at the Expo. We wandered up and down the aisles of merchandise, taking samples, flipping through gear, buying things we’d never seen but instantly needed, like an armband with flashing lights for visibility on pre-dawn runs. The last aisle, the one against the far wall, was lined with organizers from other marathons. A few American marathons but mostly international all tried to lure us to run their event. And it was working. Although NYC was Heather’s first marathon, Amy’s second (first was 14 years earlier), and my third, we all had a bad case of marathon fever. We had trained together, helped each other with fundraising, and barely discussed anything else on our 6-hour train ride to NYC.
I was advocating for Chicago in 2012 because I love a “big hoopla” marathon. The more runners, the more spectators, the bigger celebratory air — that’s the marathon for me. I spend so many hours in solitary training that by the time I get to run the 26.2 miles, I want it to feel like a party – a party for ME – and everyone is invited. Considering I’m not that great at celebrating my achievements, I go to the other extreme when running a marathon. It’s not a race, it’s a celebration of Self. My Self.
I can’t remember when it happened at the NYC Expo but somewhere along that line of race organizers thrusting brochures into our hands, telling us we’d love their country, that we should come visit (and run), Amy, Heather, and I turned to each other and said, “We should run the majors.”
The marathon majors: NYC, Chicago, London, Berlin, and Boston.
And that was how it happened, as simple as that. We nodded in agreement, and it was on. On Wednesday, we all registered for the Chicago marathon, the second jewel in our crown.
Paul was toasting a bagel when I danced into the kitchen.
“Is anybody here running the Chicago marathon this year? Oh yeah, baby, I AM!”
I launched in my running the majors dance. It’s not a dance craze you’ll soon see on YouTube but it involves quick pumping arms and a wiggly butt that reminds me of Hobo’s tail when he’s happy to see me.
Paul pulled his bagel from the toaster and slathered on the cream cheese.
“Running the majors, running the majors!” I sang. And danced.
“Yeah, Mom, I get it, you’re running the Chicago marathon, big deal.”
“Not just Chicago. I’m running the majors!” at which I started my goofy dance again.
I rattled off the 5 marathons that make up the majors.
“You’re not running Berlin. Or London,” Paul said. Oh yes I am, and the dance went on. “You can’t afford that.” I’ll find a way, dance, dance, dance. “You’re crazy.”
Yes, I am.
Five years ago, I came home from a 6-mile run, the one I did five days a week in preparation for my first 10K. I chatted with my neighbor, an emergency room doctor, who when she heard how much I was running said, “you should run a marathon.” I told her I could never do that, it was crazy, that I could never keep running that far but she told me you could walk if you needed to (I thought you’d be pulled from the course if you stopped running). I said I didn’t think I could go that long without eating since I never drank during my 6-mile runs (before or during, no matter the weather). She told me about this thing called Gu which were little packets of gel you consumed to fuel the run. I wasn’t convinced that I should run a marathon then, but it definitely piqued my curiosity. After the 10K, I decided to give the half-marathon a try, and when that went well, I signed up for my first marathon. When I completed what I could never do, what you’d have to be crazy to attempt, the doors blew off of what was possible.
So now, running the majors, a series designed for the elite runners of the world, has become possible for runners like me. Amazing, isn’t it, and crazy that all I have to do is try.