by Jodi Minton
When did I get the notion that I could fly?
That kind of flight where your head is in the clouds and your feet are planted firmly on the ground. That kind of idiotic idea where you think you can do anything, but your body isn’t 100 percent positive it can follow. And most importantly, that giddy mind trick telling you the sky’s the limit if you actually “think” you can fulfill a dream! Yes, that’s what I’m talking about.
Then came reality shock. I applied for the 2016 London Marathon at age 69 and immediately afterwards thought I was out of my mind. Oh wait! I was. On the plus side, this would give me the opportunity to meet newly acquired friends from around the world and share a unique opportunity. Being a runner of sorts, dabbling in an occasional 5K, the realization of getting myself fit had become an obsession over the last 6 months. Joining a group on the internet for the Outlander-Starz series based on books written by Diana Gabaldon, I became erudite to a unique fitness program for charity, initiated by Sam Heughan, male lead in the series. Sam is an unbelievable motivator for challenging people to heights they never imaged for themselves, physical or otherwise.
So, after applying in May 2015 for several different charity teams, it was two long months of waiting for an answer. Plenty of time to work on building up my endurance, muscles and increasing my distance from a 5K (3.1 miles) toward the eventual goal of a full 26.2 miles. Could I really complete the distance even if it took more hours than I wanted to think about? At the time the task seemed absolutely daunting and not for the first or last time in the months to follow, I hesitated. But the race was 11 ½ months away. Putting heart and mind into the goal was the only way to go. The old adage of “no pain, no gain” was certainly right out there in front of me.
And a lot of pain with no gain if not accepted on a team. Enter plan B.
Well, there was always a plan B. Doing the London Marathon was not my only goal. After all, if you want to fly, you must get closer to the clouds. A no brainer! I also wanted to conquer munros. What is a munro you ask? It’s a mountain that is over 3000 feet. It can be anywhere in the world, but having visited Scotland three times in the past and wanting to enjoy a vacation in the Highlands along with my hopeful marathon adventure I added that to the bucket list. And I could always run a half marathon or two for positive training.
BUT, HOW DID I GET HERE?
Growing up I was called a tomboy. Doing those things only boys did because I thought it was fun. Things like playing “tappy on the icebox,” which was another name for “tag-you’re it” around a 200-year-old maple tree until it was dark or being the renowned baseball “slugger” of the neighborhood. Playing outside games, pretending to be a soldier, roller-skating and making forts in the woods were an everyday occurrence when not in school. You know, all those wonderful outside things kids did before the invention of cell phones and video games which put them on the couch. And yes I also played with dolls. Then came girls “Y” softball, eleven years on a swimming team and learning to water ski.
Hands down, my favorite was camping with the Girl Scouts, hiking and singing around the campfire. Becoming a camp counselor, a Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader followed. Remember that munro? Climbed 11,000 ft Mt Buldy in Cimmeron, NM with my Explorer Scouts doing an 85 mile backpacking adventure trip. I also earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and eventually an Associate Degree in Nursing. But I still loved being outside.
Here I must note that I had “never” been a runner. The thought of running was quite foreign to my nature. But I was introduced to the sport when all three of my sons were on the track team in high school. I was a somewhat typical mom of that time period. I raised my first three kids staying at home, held garage sales every year, read romance novels and was chief cook, chauffeur and bottle washer. But I had always wanted to be a soldier. So at the age of 44 years old I joined the U. S. Army. Since I had a bachelor’s degree I started out as a Lieutenant. Now you must understand that the recruiter told gullible me that nurses didn’t do physical training. I’m sure if he had told me he had swamp land in Florida I might have bought it.
First and foremost I was a soldier and then a Registered nurse. And ALL soldiers take the physical fitness test two times every year. And that test has a timed running test. Suddenly I was forced to become a runner. I didn’t know squat about running. While my two older sons were now in the military, my youngest son was still in high school and what I called “my track star.” He said, “Mom, just start running around the block. Run as long as you can and then walk. You will run farther every time you do it.” He was correct. Six months later when I took the PT test, I had no problem passing it with flying colors. My running career had its first bloom as I spent the next fifteen years as a soldier running sparingly to past a 2 mile PT test twice a year.
But being a soldier does not make you a marathon runner. How true that is! In 2000, the Indianapolis Mini Marathon fell on my drill weekend. Anyone wanting to run the marathon could do so without coming to drill. Awesome. Run and get paid. Running a mini marathon is a lot different from a 2 mile PT test. But along with several others, I gave it a go. Unfortunately that year the temperature climbed to over 110 degrees very early in the race and runners started dropping like flies. After the seeded runners finished the race, timing was cancelled. Of course you were miles away from the finish line so you had to keep walking to the end. It was still a thrilling experience.
YOU’RE ARE STILL ASKING: HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
October 1st 2015 word came down. I was not accepted into the ballot for the marathon. At first I was very disappointed and truth be told, a bit relieved at the same time. Disappointed because I had been training hard, increasing my running distance to 10 miles and working on strength training. Then I realized the marathon wasn’t my only goal. Traveling to London to support three friends from my “encouragement group” running for the same charities would be awesome in itself. And that munro in Scotland was waiting. Other smaller races I had registered for ( Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon, Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon, 4.5 mi Drumstick Dash, 10K Jingle Bell Run, and yes…even the Donut 5K) were looming ahead of me.
Still I had not given up totally on the idea of getting a spot in the ultimate race on my bucket list. I was on the waiting list for Luekaemia Lymphoma Research, World Child Cancer, and Action for Children. All “Outlander” based charities. So…just in case, I continued with my training program. Miraculously in October of 2015 I was accepted onto Caitriona Balfe’s charity team, World Child Cancer. Therein began an intense roller coaster ride of preparing for a 26.2 mile run that still seemed pretty scary. I had a mountain of support from my running partners and others supporting us, whether to cheer us in person in London or giving us encouragement from online.
Training wasn’t easy and some days I still thought I was crazy. Believing in the end results, a monumental achievement, kept me on track most days. And yes, I didn’t want to disappoint myself or others that believed in me. The winter months were a challenge. I hate running on a treadmill and in hot weather O-dark-thirty comes very early. Pain, exhaustion at times, and wanting to quit were involved. Yet wanting to do something badly enough has it virtues. You keep plugging away because 80% of running is mental and something in your head says…”I know I can do this.”
I turned 70 years young one month before the race. I had recovered from extensive back surgery in the 80’s to eventually join the US Army as a nurse in 1990 and had recovered exponentially from a debilitating case of Rheumatoid Arthritis to become a “marathon runner.” Crossing that finish line with lifelong friends, Bonnie Terbush and Barbara Kidwell, and sharing the experience with a dozen others in London is something I will value as one of the best and most memorable events in my lifetime. Then came a whirlwind vacation in Scotland visiting ancient castles, learning about history, meeting actors and mentors of the Outlander series, and building memories with friends I will treasure forever. You can’t argue with that!
WHAT TRAINING TIPS WERE MOST ADVANTAGEOUS?
NEVER SAY NEVER: Don’t give up on that dream you have. The sky is the limit if you believe in yourself, whether your goal is physical or mental.
THE RULE OF 2: I received a tip from a trainer that coaches people to run until they are 100. Never go more than 2 days without running and never run more than 2 days in a row. This may not go for everyone, but it was good advice for me. I made the mistake of going 3 or more a couple of times without running. Big, big mistake. Ouch. Hard to get back in the groove.
HYDRATE: Unfortunately, this took me a bit too long to learn. You must drink, drink, drink to keep your body in shape for running. Especially water.
CROSSTRAIN: Anything physical. I did strength training, a little swimming, a bit of bicycling.
PICK YOUR POISON: Experiment with what to eat before, during and after a race for nutrition, endurance, hydration, and recovery. Lots of products out there. Gels, smoothies, protein powders. My favorite before a training run was a banana with peanut butter. After was chocolate milk.
A GOOD TRAINING PROGRAM: I used Hal Higdon’s book for a novice full marathoner. His only goal is TO FINISH. We all met that goal in London.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A MARATHON RUNNER TO BE A RUNNER: Anyone who gets out there off the couch and runs IS a true runner. It can be for fun or serious. Just run with it.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ME? Plan B, of course! That munro in Scotland. Throw a few half marathons in there for good measure and “maybe” a full marathon once again. NEVER SAY NEVER!