If we were having coffee, I would tell you two stories about the incredible women I am lucky enough to run with.
I was in a little running slump a few weeks ago. I am training for a marathon and my motivation was low. Every runner (I think) goes through times like this. A little nagging injury appears, the heat and humidity affect us, or our running stars are not aligned, but for some reason, it is tough to lace up our shoes and get out there and run. I scheduled long runs with two of my most inspirational running friends to try to bust out of my slump, and it worked!
The first long run was with my friend Heidi. Now, Heidi is an amazing woman. She is currently training for a marathon which will be held this November in Marathon, Greece – the site of the original marathon. She was born in pre-war Germany. Yes, before World War II. Heidi is running the marathon one day after her 80th birthday.
The thing that Heidi says she remembers about living in Germany during the war is the hunger. Her family was so hungry all the time. Heidi lived in the part of Germany that became East Germany after the war. Her father, seeing the writing on the wall, got Heidi a job in Switzerland, working as a nanny for a well-to-do family. When the Iron Curtain came down, she was in the West.
She married a man named Richard, with whom she shares a birthday (November 10), however, they were born 10 years apart. Yes, Richard will be 90 when Heidi runs her marathon. He is not a runner, but he will travel to Greece too. Richard is Heidi’s running coach and has devised her running plan for the marathon.
Heidi and Richard moved to the New World after they were married, first to Canada, then to Lancaster County, PA as a requirement of Richard’s job.
Heidi is the second or third ranked runner in her age group in the US. Her favorite race is the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, held in Washington, D.C. each spring. While most of us must enter a lottery in order to run the race, Heidi is an invited athlete. This means that her entry fee is waived, and she gets to attend the VIP dinner before the race to rub shoulders with famous runners like Meb Keflezighi.
When Heidi runs, her hair and makeup are always perfect. We ran almost 13 miles together last Friday in very high heat and humidity. I was a red-faced, sweaty mess after the run; Heidi looked like she just stepped out of a beauty salon.
Heidi told me during our run that she had just run almost 12 miles on Tuesday. I told her that she is crazy, but, you know, in an inspirational way. She also played tennis (singles) in a league three days that week.
The day after our run she entered a race in the hilly Welch Mountains of eastern Lancaster County. Our running club sometimes runs the five-mile course as a fun run in the spring. It is 2 1/2 miles up, then 2 1/2 miles down. I have never been able to run the hills without walking. Heidi not only didn’t walk at all, she won the 60+ age group (at age 79)!
If you are ever in need of inspiration, find Heidi. After a run with her, you cannot help but be motivated.
My second inspirational run was with my friend Nancy this Thursday. We ran 18 miles, starting at 5:00 a.m. so that Nancy could go to work after our run.
Nancy has run over 100 marathons, including one in each of the 50 states. She is now working her way through the Six World Marathon Majors (she must do the Tokyo and London Marathons to complete this feat.)
She is a member of a club called the Marathon Maniacs. I am not sure what feat Nancy accomplished to enter the club, but I know that she is at least at the “Silver Level”. The club website says the criteria for this level is to run “Three Marathons within a 16-day time frame, or six Marathons in six consecutive calendar months, or 8 – 11 Marathons within 365 days.”
Nancy and I have been friends for over 35 years. We met through a mutual friend of our husbands. Our kids are about the same ages – we both have three. When the kids were younger, several couples, including us, used to get together for parties and excursions several times a year. We were all young, didn’t have much disposable income, and needed a social life that didn’t involve hiring a babysitter.
We kind of lost touch as the kids got older but reconnected again when I began racing and saw Nancy at many local races. Nancy is the type of person whose enthusiasm is infectious. When she talks about an upcoming race, that race suddenly becomes much more appealing. I don’t know how many times I have sworn off marathoning, only to be sucked back in when Nancy describes an upcoming race and asks if I would like to do it with her.
Last September my hubby Bill and I accompanied Nancy and her (non-running) husband to Berlin in order to do the Berlin Marathon. The race and the entire trip were a wonderful adventure. I am so glad we went.
Even though Nancy is a compassionate and generous person, she does not coddle her running friends, including me. When I told her injuries have prevented me from doing a 20-miler in preparation for our upcoming August marathon in Washington state, and the 18-miler we did together would be my longest run, her response was “You know how to run a marathon, Laurie. You will be fine.”
By the end of our long run, my pace had fallen slightly below hers. She did not slow up for me at all, she ran her pace the whole way. This was good for me, it gave me the incentive to keep up; we ran 18 miles together 10 minutes faster than it took me to run 17 miles in my previous solo long run. We talked and laughed for most of the run until I began struggling at the end, then I was uncharacteristically quiet.
For some reason, it is easy to spill your heart to a fellow runner during a long run. Maybe it is the shared exertion, maybe it is the physical closeness, maybe it is the lack of oxygen to the brain that allows us to let our guards down. I am incredibly fortunate to have many running friends whom I have opened up to and been motivated by while running. These are stories from just two of them, but there are dozens more. I am looking forward to telling them. Maybe over coffee.
I am linking with My Little Tablespoon and Laughing My Abs Off for their Fab Finds Friday, Coco from Running With Perseverance and Deborah from Confessions of a Mother Runner for their Ultimate Coffee Date, and Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for their Friday 5.