Baby we were born to run.
Never settle for a ripple when you can make a wave.
A quick decision can change your life. You may not realize it immediately, but that decision ultimately transforms you in ways you could not imagine. Such was my decision to run the Washington Marine Corps Marathon at the age of 51 with a group of women known as Jeans Marines.
On October 30, many of us gathered (by zoom) to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of running the Washington marathon. The women and few good men who were part of Jeans Marines, a nine-month marathon training program*, had forged strong bonds and an unbreakable commitment to each other.
My decision to undertake the training in 2005 was made almost on impulse. I bumped into a colleague quite by chance who told me she had decided to run a marathon. Really? I replied somewhat skeptically, because I knew this woman was not a runner. But as she told me about the program, I recall thinking: What a completely outrageous, wild, and out of the ballpark idea. Run a marathon? Why not?
I signed up with little idea of what I was getting into. Over the next nine months I, along with many other women, faithfully attended a short tutorial and training run every Saturday morning and did two midweek runs on our own. Running through all conditions: heat, cold, sunshine, darkness, rain, sleet, and snow. A small group of us even ended up running in a thunderstorm in the early hours of a dark morning as the cars whizzed by. Long runs; short runs; interval training; cross training; hill training, at all times of the day through all parts of the city.
There was much to learn: planning routes; fueling in long runs; hydrating properly; running gear; what shoes to buy; timing runs; dealing with injuries; treating blisters; treating more blisters; knowing where all the washrooms were along the route. We mastered it all.
Running as often and as far as we did, gave us ample time to get to know one another.
The socializing we did- both formal and informal- also helped with that.
Regular social events brought the larger group together for updates and talks on various topics. These gatherings were enormously popular and fun! An opportunity to share stories, to commiserate and laugh and arrange next runs together. We were bound by our commitment to something unbelievably grand; humbled by it all and yet marvelling at what was happening in present time. It was larger than life.
It is incredibly difficult to describe the experience of training for a marathon with such a group of women. How can one express the sense of community that flourished and was re-ignited 15 years later? Our group did it through storytelling. And on October 30, amidst much laughter, everyone had a story.
The stories, the conversations, the memories- all recalled with utter clarity- were brush strokes on the broad canvas of our collective experience, one rich in texture and colour. An enduring work of art.
We were all astounded that we had run a marathon. How did we ever do that? What keeps a group of women in their 50’s many of whom are running for the first time, do the hard work of training week after week, month after month?
Training for a marathon is not easy. The experience tested each and every one of us. And through it all, life goes on. Family life, work obligations, personal matters, and the tough moments that life hands you. But even with difficult times, many of us can say, including me, that we were never alone. There was an amazing group to support and listen and cheer each other on.
Relationships were the glue that made everything work. Relationships strengthened resolve, shared compassion and kindness, modeled grit and determination, and helped reveal parts of ourselves we didn’t know were there. We became soul sisters travelling along a path together without knowing what the outcome would be.
In many ways, this running experience of gigantic proportions was a metaphor for everything in in our lives. It was all about the running and at the same time, not at all about the running.
Fifteen years after the Washington Marathon, I learned that most in the group were no longer running but it was clear that running is in our DNA. We all know there was a time when we dared to do something unimaginable. And step by step we got there.
It was a completely outrageous, wild, and out of the ballpark idea that created a giant wave and made ordinary women extraordinary.
Raise a toast to the women who run!
I wanted to let you know about a great online magazine called SideOne. One article that may be of interest is on women and concussions and how the experience and approach to treatment is different for women than it is for men. Check it out.
SideOne Magazine Volume 1, Issue 2 – October 2020:
*Jeans Marines was named after its founder, Dr. Jean Marmoreo who mobilized women and a few good men to train, with a wide range of support, for a marathon over a nine-month period. The movement was hugely successful in getting many to experience the joy of movement and forming a community of women who supported each other in all kinds of ways including running.