Last week I checked out Ultra Marathon Man from the library. It’s a documentary about a man who runs 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. I’ve run two full marathons and one half which makes running 50 consecutively even more unimaginable. But Dean Karnazes‘ story was just so inspirational.
It was at his 30th birthday party that Dean realized his life wasn’t going how he had planned. He wasn’t accomplishing anything. He was just spinning his wheels. So after taking a 15 year hiatus from running, Dean left the bar where he was celebrating with friends and started running. He decided to run 30 miles in honor of his 30th birthday. He did it and he’s been running pretty much ever since.
Now my husband has never been one to back down from a challenge. So when he said, “I feel like I could run a marathon without training,” and I replied “so why don’t you?” I should have known what was going to happen next. “Well, where would I run to?” he asked. “How about Furman,” I said, referring to Furman University, a campus that I had cycled to before. Turns out Furman was 18 miles from our house, not quite a full marathon but still a challenge. “Ok. I’m doing it. This Saturday,” he resolved.
My husband works out at least five days a week, but he’s not a regular runner. The last time he ran with me was our five mile jog through Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge back in mid-May. But Saturday came and his alarm went off at 5:40am. We both set out before the sun was up. We ran for at least a mile before we saw another person. My plan was to run about ten miles so an hour into the run I kissed him good-bye and turned around. But he kept going.
Forty-five minutes later my cell phone beeped. It was a photo of the entrance gate to Furman. He was half way done. An hour after that there was a text. He was downtown, barely moving above a walk. I decided to drive to where he was with some Gatorade and hopefully offer a little motivation. I found him less than a half mile from home, struggling up a hill. When he saw me he started to lose it. “I can’t do this,” he moaned. “My whole body is in pain.” I knew exactly what he was talking about, although every time I’ve run 18 miles it was after at least a couple of months of training. It reminded me of a story from Ultra Marathon Man. Dean said he was running a 100 mile ultra marathon and when he reached mile 99 he had nothing left. He told his dad he had to quit. His dad told him, “Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must.” I told Tim how close he was, how celebration was just a few blocks away. It was obvious how much pain he was in. A woman driving by stopped, rolled down her window and asked if we were ok. “Yes, he’s just finishing up a 18 mile run,” I told her.
Slowly Tim started moving again. I got back in my car and drove next to him, cheering out the window. Just ahead there was a group of about a half dozen women walking. I asked them to cheer for my husband, who was on the home stretch of a long run. They shouted and hollered and clapped, encouraging a complete stranger to keep pushing. About ten minutes later Tim crossed the imaginary finish line, running further than he had ever gone before, all thanks to the inspirational power of Ultra Marathon Man, Dean Karnazes. I don’t know too many people who would attempt something like that. Tim spent most of the weekend hobbling around on sore legs. Sunday night as we relaxed on the couch he asked, “I wonder if I could run 100 miles.” “I’m sure you could,” I told him. “But you might want to train first.”