I used to think I was in great shape. I run or work out almost every day (P90X anyone?) and I still play soccer once a week.
Then I ran into my brother’s best friend at the ING New York City Marathon Expo last Saturday. I was there to check out some work I just did for New York Road Runners (NYRR), organizers of the famous footrace. Steve and his wife Sara were there to pick up their numbers. To race. The next day. In the marathon. Alongside 47,000 other superhumans.
In case your math is fuzzy from too much time spent horizontal on a couch, we’re talking 26.2 miles. In a row.
Kenyans and Ethiopians aside, this distance takes most runners between 3 and 7 hours to complete. I don’t even want to do anything that feels good for that long. And I’m someone who loves to run.
On race day, as I watched all the marathoners run up First Avenue, tackling Mile 17, I couldn't help but wonder: how on earth do these amazing Forrest Gump types do it?
Steve and Sara Enis are a likeable, down-to-earth couple who live in suburban Monroe, New Jersey with their two young sons. He’s 41, she’s 38. Steve’s a lawyer. Sara teaches Special Ed. That’s where any similarities between their lives and mine end.
Last Sunday, Sara ran her fifth New York Marathon. It was Steve’s first. Usually, he does Ironman triathlons instead. Those white-padded crazy competitions consist of a 2.4-mile swim, 112 miles on bike, then 26.2 miles of running as the cherry on top. So for Steve, the NYC Marathon was really just a walk in the park.
Sort of like me working out for a half hour instead of an hour. Though, really, nothing like that at all. God, I am so pathetic and weak.
For Steve, it’s all about seeing how far he can push his body. “It’s about finding out what you’re made of. If you can do this, nothing in life can ever can stop you,” he tells me. “This sense of accomplishment is something all marathoners feel, whether they cross the finish line in three hours, or seven.”
Incidentally, Steve finished in three hours and 34 minutes. Hot damn. Sara also broke four hours. As if this doesn’t make me feel inferior enough, Steve adds that an 80 year-old man from Japan ran the marathon in less than four hours too.
One of my assignments for NYRR was writing a manifesto that inspires people with reasons to run. But now it is my turn to be inspired. And then some.
Sara used to live in NYC near the race route and watched three of them go by, blown away by the sight of so many people of different abilities, from so many walks of life, all doing something so incredible. “Finally,” she says, “I couldn’t watch another one go by and not be part of the excitement.”
She recounts her first marathon, when she was struggling going up the 59th Street Bridge: “I looked over and saw people in wheelchairs and on hand cycles, just pumping as hard as they could to get up that hill. I said to myself, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”
Hmm, maybe I can do it too? I ask Sara if she has any galpals to train with. Unfortunately, she says she hasn’t found any other females who run at her pace. She runs at least seven miles most days. I’m lucky if I finish four. Plus Sara also swims and bikes, since she's preparing to do her first Ironman next November alongside her husband.
Then there’s the little matter of timing. Sara and Steve get up at 4 a.m. every day to train for two or three hours before their kids get out of bed.
I’m still sleeping then too. So sorry, Sara. You’re on your own.
For now. Because the Enis’ kids are already getting in on the regime. Their son Jaden, 6, did two triathlons this year, and Jaxon finished his first swim/bike/run trifecta in September. He’s 4.
I have officially run out of excuses.
Steve loves the way these competitions build confidence in his kids. He constantly reminds them, “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something.”
Fine Steve, I can do it too. The hubby and I plan on running the Spring Lake Five Mile Run in May. Sure, it’s 21.2 miles shy of a marathon, but I prefer speed over distance. And the point is, at least I'm stepping up my game, so thank you marathoners for getting me to go the proverbial extra mile.
Anybody want to come run it with us? I double dog dare you.