When people ask me how it felt to run my first marathon at 45, I really don’t know how to answer that. It wasn’t planned. I ran my second half marathon ONE HOUR faster than my very first half. On the ride home my running partner, Pam and I were talking about what to do next. She said we should run a marathon, 26.2 miles. Why at over 40 would I do that? Because it was something I had never done before. First, Pam and I bought every book on marathoning we could find. We then searched for the best marathon for first timers. We selected the Marine Corps marathon. We then selected an 18 week training program.
It wasn’t an easy journey. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life, especially while working on my PhD and working full time and trying to have a life. However, I learned a lot. Probably the most surprising lesson was that I could do this, but I had to want it. Why? Because running at 4am takes a lot of sacrifice. It took me going to bed by 9pm so that I could get up. During this journey I have run into trees (literally), lost a lens out of my glasses, and discovered that I did not have the correct running apparel. Certain bras work fine for a 10K, but not necessarily 20 miles or more. The same can be said for shorts and socks. I learned that rain cannot stop a long run. That is why God made treadmills. Although running 20 miles on a treadmill is not fun, sometimes it has to be done. There just isn’t time to reschedule.
It wasn’t all bad. I love my running partner like a sister now. We have talked about everything and nothing on those long stretches of road. We have shared many things. We are bonded for life.
Is there a difference between running a marathon at 20 and over 40? Of course. Training and running a marathon is hard work. It takes a toll on the body. My knees hurt. Hamstrings took longer to loosen. I learned about plantar fasciitis from experience and it is painful, but not painful enough to stop a crazed and dedicated woman from getting in her miles. And I was crazed. I learned that certain body parts when rubbed together for long periods of time will chafe and bleed. And there were times when I questioned my sanity. There were times when I cried during my runs. There were times when I just wanted to quit. I didn’t quit. I kept going and going and going until I crossed the finish line at mile 26.2.
So how do I feel about running my first marathon at 45? So amazing that I did my second at 47 and will complete my first triathlon at 49 this summer! I highly recommend physical activity after 40, but see your doctor first.
Doretha Walker is a runner and freelance writer from Charleston, SC.