Running a marathon has always been inevitable for me; in fact, it’s probably in my blood. For years and years I’ve fought it tooth and nail. I admit, I’ve participated in dozens of 5km and 10km road races and even a couple of half marathons, but whenever I saw marathon runners in-training, ‘crazy’ popped into my head.
It wasn’t as if I wasn’t exposed to long distance running – I was overexposed! My parents and older sister are Marathoners and have all completed at least one Ironman, and my little sister recently signed up for Ironman Canada 2011. For my family, Saturday mornings aren’t Saturday mornings – they’re long run days!
I was lucky enough to attend a conference a few years ago where Dave McGillvary was a key note speaker. For those of you who don’t know, Dave is the Race Director of the Boston Marathon, the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's most prestigious road racing events. Athletically, Dave first gained national prominence in 1978 when he ran across the US to raise money for the Jimmy Fund. He has run 122 marathons, completed 8 Hawaii Ironman Triathlons, run up the East Coast of the US, run for 24 hours, biked for 24 hours and swam for 24 hours...all to raise money for numerous worthwhile causes. In 2003, his Children's Fitness Foundation was established with a focus on funding nonprofit organizations that use running as a vehicle to promote physical fitness in children. Needless to say, he is not only inspirational because of his athletic accomplishments, but also because of his philanthropic endeavors.
Listening to Dave’s story made me realize that the spirit of giving can easily be incorporated into anything we do. Whether we raise funds for a charity run, donate a percentage of proceeds from a garage sale or host a Tupperware party to raise awareness of a cause we have an affinity for – giving is not just a nice thing to do, its fun too! It can actually make everyday activities seem more fulfilling and make us feel better about ourselves.
After Dave finished his speech, he asked who in the crowd had run a marathon. Probably 80% of the participants raised their hands. Then he asked who had not run a marathon and the remaining 20% of us raised our hands. His next question was who of us that had not run a marathon wanted to. This was a defining moment for me. After all of the years avoiding the subject, I had a few seconds to make a huge decision. I kept my hand up.
Dave selected two people from the crowd, myself and another person, and took us outside the meeting room and asked us to wait. He disappeared back into the room and when the doors opened, we were asked to run to the podium. While we reluctantly ran to the podium, the room erupted and we were given a standing ovation with whistles and all! At the podium, Dave presented a medal to us and told us that this is a fraction of how it feels to complete a marathon. He concluded by challenging us to complete a marathon by the end of the year and mail the medal back to him. After taking my seat, I glanced down at my medal – it said ‘Next Goal, Earn My Own Medal’.
As soon as I returned home to Edmonton, I signed up for the Las Vegas Marathon and a year later I sent the medal back to Dave. Ironically, the thrill of crossing that finish line felt as familiar to me as submitting my United Way pledge form, attending a fundraising dinner and spending time with the little sister I mentor.
Next goal, Ironman Canada 2011, I plan on receiving a medal for being very best cheerleader!