Over the past week or so, I have moved through a number of anniversaries – birthdays of dear friends, the passing of my father, the origination of osteopathic medicine, the change of the season, racing with Team USA in Sweden in 2015, my favorite double race weekend in Muskegon with the Seaway Run and Bear Lake Triathlon on back-to-back days and, I realized with a bit of surprise, the 20th anniversary of my first ever marathon.
I admit it seems nearly impossible that I could be 20 years from this milestone moment in my life, but as I rechecked my math and reflected on that experience, it has indeed been two decades since I completed the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Run in Anchorage, Alaska as a member of Team in Training. After a bit of a false start with rowing, which would find its way back into my life a few short years and many thousands of miles later, I returned to my native sport of running though in a manner totally unfamiliar to me. My history was in eight seasons racing track and cross-country in high school with structured practices and coaching with very specific time goals. I found myself completing this training largely solo with the singular goal of finishing.
I think of the multi-colored papers I sent sharing my endeavor, in hopes of raising $3500 to donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I recall logging 550 miles leading up to the race and a longest run of 22. This was also solo excepting for the help of my sister, making sure I was home for dinner that evening. I remember the dark, cold winter mornings when I met with the group to complete the longer distances. I can still picture vividly the calendar with the pastel, sparkly ink marking my workouts, miles and pace.
I envision the bear in the Anchorage airport and the lodge where we stayed. I remember the pigtails, Vaseline in my eyebrows, and the disposable camera zipped into the pocket of my shorts that capture the moose I encountered along the trail. I remember sitting at the end awaiting my teammates and learning the hard way that sitting still for an hour after running for four isn’t the best recovery plan. I reflect on running truly for completion with no expectation of time or place – and the enjoyment that emerged as a result.
I recall sharing the experience at a distance with my best friend from high school, with her race for “The Team” a few thousand miles south in San Diego, marking each mile with a band at the Rock’N’Roll Marathon. I held the remote possibility that this would be the first in the quest of a marathon in each state, figuring starting in this distant spot of the country was a valiant beginning.
It would be nearly five years before I attempted another 26.2 as rowing and triathlon took the spotlight of my physical endeavors, but this, as with all inaugural moments, remains as an infinitely unique experience in my athletic life, deeming me ever more marathoner.
May our cherished memories remain bright in our minds, dimmed not by the decades but enhanced by the experience as milestone moments of life.