Sunday, October 11, 2009


2 hours, 5 minutes and 41 seconds.  That is the time in which Samuel Wanjiru, of Kenya, ran the Chicago Marathon this morning.  It was a new course record, smashing the old record by a whopping one second.  It is also the fastest marathon anyone has ever run in the US.  (All facts according to the Chicago Tribune).  Never to be outdone by the men, the Russian Lilliya Shobukhova won in 2:25:56, and this was only her second marathon.

These athletes are Runners.  They are my inspiration, the catalysts propelling me out of bed and onto the street on a cloudy Wednesday morning before work.  Okay, not these two athletes specifically, but I have been reading a whole lot about marathoners and ultrarunners lately, dreaming and wondering if I could ever reach that level of achievement.  So am I a runner?  Someone posted that question after my last post (thanks!), and it has been pestering me ever since, hence the long post reply.

I definitely consider myself a runner, lower-case "r".  I started running as a junior in high school.  When I first started running on my own though, I could only run for five minutes at about a 10-minute mile before I had to take a walk lap.  But I kept at it; it got to the point where if I didn't run my 10, then 15, then 30 minutes, I would feel terrible.  Unfortunately, when I was running in high school, I was running for the wrong reasons, and I was being stupid about it.  Basically, I was running 5 plus miles and then going to the gym for another 20 or 30 minutes on a bike, as well as some basic weight training, but I was only eating maybe 1200 or 1500 calories a day.  I was obsessed with counting calories, and I am pretty sure that is the definition of an eating disorder.  So senior year, I had a revelation and stopped working out like a maniac.  I put on a bunch of weight, and my running went on hold.

For the next two years, it was the same sort of story.  I would take long breaks between running, only to have a resurgence of motivation to go back on the treadmill or run along the Charles River.  I think I was finally in a good spot, health-wise, the summer of 2006, after freshman year.  I ran 3 to 5 miles a few times a week, and I was biking maybe 50 or 60 miles a week.  And I was eating!  Maybe not as well as I could have, but it was an improvement.  After that though, life got in the way, once more.  I found out I had cancer, blah blah, and I have spent the past two years after returning to Boston struggling to gain some consistency as a runner.  It has been very hard for me though, because I was sick so frequently over the past two years.  And then last year's face tumor?  Forget it.

But now, finally, after three years of ill-health, I am starting to feel like a normal person again.  I am very gradually building miles, very slowly increasing my weekly distance.  This time, however, while still partially weight-motivated, I am doing this because I want to.  I love running, tying up my shoes and taking off, not thinking about anything besides my breathing for at least a little while.  I want to be a Runner, and I think, maybe, possibly I can do it.  Maybe not ultras, not yet anyway.  Baby steps.  S0 here is my goal, out there on the Internet.  If anyone wants to help, please, do:

In one year, I want to run in the Chicago Marathon.  That is the first part.  The second, somewhat loftier goal: I want to qualify for the 2011 Boston Marathon.  Qualifying times for the 2010 Boston Marathon are 3 hours and 40 minutes-ish.  That means running about an 8 minute, 15 second mile for 26.2 miles.  I think I can do it.  I figure, since the 2010 Chicago Marathon is in exactly 12 months, if I give myself 6 months to build up my mileage, I can use the last 6 months to work on speed.  I want to do it, to say, Screw You, Cancer.  All I wanted, the whole time I was in treatment and for the last two years, was to feel healthy, to be able to run again.  So here I go; I can run again, and that damn disease ain't got nothing on me.  I hope.


Megan/Yuping said...

You know my thoughts on this. Be careful.

Caroline said...

Don't worry. If I get injured, I'm finished. Thanks for that link though. Haha, kind of scary? It's cool though. :)

caleb d. said...

You sound like a runner to me, Caroline! I also run (and am a writer, at BU as a matter of fact) and am interested in how people use running to cope with big life issues. (I'm a former drunk). So obviously, I'm struck by your story. I'd love to chat with you about your experience. If you're amenable, you can drop me a line through my website. In any case, best of luck to you. Caleb.

Mark said...

Caroline, you ARE a runner.
I had open heart to replace a couple of valves six years ago and completed the last two Chicago Marathons. I would rather think of myself as a heart disease "Thriver" rather than a survivor. Just as you are proving to be a cancer thriver.
The definition of thrive is:
1 : to grow vigorously : flourish
2 : to gain in wealth or possessions : prosper
3 : to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.
When I see your blog, I see someone who is not defined by the tag of an illness but someone who is defining themselves through life's journey...and thriving through each new challenge.
I look forward to running Chicago next year and expect that you will be among the tens of thousands running with me.
All of God's blessings and peace to you as you move along.