Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mile Seven

Earlier this month, I walked in a half marathon.

It was my first attempt at such an endeavor. I drove to Des Moines, Iowa with my husband and a good friend, and we took part in the event as part of Prevention Magazine's Team Prevention.

Now, I have been a "fitness walker" for years, off and on. For the last six months or so, I've been quite committed to the sport. I average three or four miles every day, at a pretty good clip, and had even completed at least one ten mile walk as part of my training for the marathon. I felt ready to do this. I was feeling strong and fit, even though my recent experiment with getting rid of my scale had left me a few pounds heavier.

So the three of us laced up our sneakers (can we still call them sneakers?) and took off at the gun with about 5000 runners and maybe 1000 folks like ourselves -- regular people, not necessarily athletes, who were there pretty much just because we could put one foot in front of the other.

All in all, it was awesome. We took off at at decent speed, staying together initially and then each advancing at our own pace. It was a beautiful day, fall leaves tossed by a chilly wind, sky bright blue, cold and clear.

I took off on the open road, feeling great. Things progressed well, and the miles passed quickly -- more quickly than I imagined they would! Then the second toe on my left foot began to rub, just a bit, on my shoe. My hips began to burn. My knees started making a clicking sound with each step. Despite the cool temperature, I began to perspire, no -- sweat -- it was definitely a real sweat!

Around mile seven it all got a little old. I started wondering what in the world I was doing. Why had I driven half-way across the country to walk around some Midwest town in crappy "sneakers"? Why had I paid 90 bucks for a t-shirt and bragging rights that no one back home could care less about? I was tired and cranky, and I wanted to go home.

The only way to get home was to cross the finish line.

When I saw the mile eight marker I snapped out of it. I was here, walking through a beautiful park in our beautiful country, with a healthy heart and lungs and legs strong enough to carry me home. Quitting was not an option.

Every day of our lives can be a bit like mile seven. We wonder what we're doing here. We wonder if this ride is worth the ticket price. We feel tired and defeated, and we just want to go home.

Those of us who are battling our bodies, trying to find balance, seeking good health, or trying to achieve a healthy weight may feel like we hit mile seven about seven times a day. That's OK. We're not alone here. There's a whole mess of us out there running, walking, maybe crawling that marathon.

"Keep your eyes on the prize" is a cliche, but a good one. Focus, friends. Push through to mile eight, and you'll be amazed at what awaits you.

For the record, my goal was to complete the marathon in four hours 22 minutes, a rate of three miles per hour. I crossed the finish line, euphoric, at 3:31.

I could hardly walk for a week, and I'm now suffering with an infected toe. But was it worth it? Absolutely.

Walk on, my friends, walk on.

No comments: