Ten years ago today, I did my first race: On Oct. 30, 2005, I walked a full marathon (26.2 miles), the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
My life has since changed in numerous, wonderful ways. To be honest, it changed even before that date, as I embarked on months of training for the race. Committing to such a goal and working toward it provides motivation and reward at many steps along the way. And I shared so much of that with co-workers who also were training for the event.
The goal was daunting, to be sure, but with each longer-distance training walk, I felt stronger, more prepared and more sure that I could do it.
The race day itself remains one of the most emotional and fantastic days of my life, and the memory will never (I hope!) fade.
The Marine Corps Marathon certainly is a great experience for a first-timer — and a walker, at that — because 1) it attracts a huge participant field and you’re never alone on the course, 2) the spectators are plentiful and nearly everywhere, 3) the scenery is pretty impressive (U.S. Capitol … Washington Monument … Smithsonian buildings), and 4) a Marine puts your medal around your neck. How great is that?
Doing this race was life-changing for the obvious reasons — achieving a big fitness goal, learning about what I could accomplish physically, feeling oh-so-proud for doing it.
But that’s not all.
As someone who hated gym class, was never among the first chosen for a team, and finished pretty much last in every meet when I spent one season on the high school track team (javelin, discus and shot-put), I finally found a physical outlet that felt great and at which I could feel a sense of achievement.
I caught the race bug, to be sure. I did a full marathon each of the next two years and then tried my hand (foot?) at half marathons. Before each race, I still felt a few butterflies, but I also felt confident in my abilities. As each finish line came into view and I crossed it, I still felt the same sense of elation and pride. I returned to the Marine Corps Marathon in 2011 to do my fourth full marathon, and on Sunday I’ll be doing my 15th half marathon.
Doing races is a great way to visit new places and really see them. There’s nothing like a race course that winds around a city to help you get an overview of somewhere new. Races have taken me to (among other places) Oregon, the Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach, new parts of Pennsylvania, Las Vegas, Florida and Dallas. In some cases, I was participating and in some cases I was there as a team coordinator, but in either case the travel was a great bonus.
Becoming a marathoner has altered my career path as well. It led me to seek certification as a group fitness instructor so I could work with others who were inspired and motivated by the idea of training to walk a race. I can’t get enough of the great feelings gained from doing a race; I love to see others experience it too!
But probably the best part of my race “career” is the friendships I’ve formed with fellow walkers. Preparing for and participating in a race is quite the bonding experience — and it’s so much fun to share it with good friends.
So, I want to send thanks and love to Katie, MaryPat, Beth, Pat, Pam, Rebecca, Jane, George, Kim, Annie, MaryAnn, Lee, Mary, Megan, Lana, Robynn, Bim, Jes, Marianne and others with whom I’ve shared this journey. (Katie, MaryPat and Beth get top billing because they, too, were on that course 10 years ago today, even though I didn’t know MaryPat and Beth very well at that point. Pat and Pam were seemingly everywhere along the course to cheer for us, even though we barely knew each other.) I’ll always have a fond place in my heart, too, for Karen, Polly and Craig, the most organized spectator crew ever on that day in 2005.
Thanks and love go, too, to the guy I call my “personal cheerleader-slash-photographer,” Chris. He’s the most patient and willing spectator I know.
And special thanks and love to Michele, whose idea to create a walk-a-marathon training plan and program started it all. Look at how much pride and joy you’ve brought to so many, Michele! THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart (and feet).
Joelle, Loved that story! You were an instant inspiration to me every since I met you many moons ago. You always told me that I was one of the first to sign up for Columbus Marathon of was it Long beach, and you wondered who “jane and George’ were! lol. Love you and hope we can meet up for a race in 2016……
It was Long Beach — I saw these names, Jane Krupica and George Krupica, for weeks and weeks on the registration (you were the first to register, I think) and it was my mission to meet you! Couldn’t be more happy that I did meet you and become friends with you. Doing races with you two is the best! Definitely want to meet up for a race in 2016. For starters I’m eyeing one in Tampa in February with Robynn…
You are welcome! And thank you for being my right hand in helping to grow the program! Looking forward to sharing your 15th half with you this weekend!
I meant it when I said I wouldn’t repeat a race not once but twice for just anyone! 😉 And here’s to many more…
Joelle, you and Michele were the inspirations to change my life in so many ways. It is a privilege to have you as mentors and friends that gave me the courage to take that first step in my journey 7 years ago. It will be great to join you both this weekend in my 14th Half. Walk on Ladies and explore all the new possibilities!
Can’t wait to share another race with you, MaryAnn! Thanks for your lovely words — but believe me, the inspiration and privilege goes both ways.
Love you too, Joelle!! This came at a good time for me as I’m trying to decide which race will be my first (and only, believe that!) full marathon and maybe I’ll just have to check out the Marine Corp race!
Hi Megan! The Marine Corps race is great, but there IS a time limit that can be tough for walkers. You have to maintain a pace of less than 15-minute miles so you can cross a certain bridge by a certain time late in the race. (Unless they’ve changed the course, but it was the case both times I did the race.) I keep saying I want to do one of the marathons in Hawaii — they have really generous time limits. And it’s Hawaii! 🙂
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Very true! I was going to do the Honolulu marathon with TnT. I still have it at the top of my list because yeah, it’s Hawaii! What a great place to recover on the beach for a couple of days afterwards, eh? Guess I should save up so I won’t have to fundraise haha
And great scenery along the course to boot! I’ll always vote for a race course with a view of the beach. 🙂
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