Wednesday, April 21, 2010

thoughts about exercise and the Boston Marathon

I was at work on Monday, the day of the Boston Marathon, but I was distracted, for the first time in my life, by an athletic event.

Rachel More, my trainer, and Kristie Boyer, a fellow teacher, were running in the marathon. I knew this was going to mean something to me because I admire them both, and the group they run with, so much. When I come in the door of the Pulse on frosty January mornings, they are often going out the door to run outside. They return an hour later, frost covered, to drink water, stretch, and share stories.

I don’t know what the stories are about as I have always felt outside the circle of athletes. I grew up in the 50s and 60s when the chances for women to be active were few. I belonged to the Girl’s Athletic Association that met once a month and played games like deck tennis and ping pong. There were no girl’s sports in my schools. I played outside with my brothers but I never felt like real athletic pursuits were for me.

I have exercised for very brief periods of time in my life but never long and never very strenuously. It was something I did in an attempt to lose weight. Exercise never had any value on its own.

In the past two years, starting when I was 57 years old, I started to exercise. I began with swimming every morning at 5 a.m. in a local hotel’s pool where it was dark, quiet, and warm. I didn’t do any extreme swimming but paddled back and forth across the pool for an hour. It almost killed me when I started but I kept at it until April when I started to feel like I needed something else. Something harder and faster.

I signed up for a year’s membership at the Pulse and for weekly personal training sessions with Rachel. At first my goals were things like trying to walk on the treadmill without having a death grip on the side rails. I was uncoordinated and very slow. Walking on the treadmill at 3.5 miles per hour for ten minutes was difficult. I was lifting three and five pound weights.

Gradually, I got better at things. I could walk for 30 then 45 minutes, no hands! I walked in the 5K Halloween Fun Run and even ran a little. I walked in the Jingle Bell Jam in December and felt that surge of competition; I didn’t want people passing me so I would run until I got ahead enough that they couldn’t.

In February, I ran for three miles and decided that I wanted to train and register for a 5K every month of the summer starting in May. Now, I can lift eight and ten pounds weights easily. I can walk not only three, but four or five miles without being winded. I feel fit and strong and healthy. Today, I’m wearing a t-shirt I earned for jumping rope for seven minutes after I ran for thirty minutes. I’m still not all that interested in competition but I like knowing what my body can do.

I’ve wondered how this all adds up to my emotional fascination with the Boston Marathon. I almost cried when I said good-bye and wished Rachel and Kristie luck. All morning on Monday, I watched their progress and sent my husband emails where I pasted the results for each kilometer from the Boston Athletic Association’s website. Ask my friends, but believe me: I have talked about the Boston Marathon a lot in the last few weeks.

I wish I could think of a way to thank them; for being such wonderful role models to so many young women and a few old ones like me; for being such an inspiration by their commitment to running; for pointing out the possibilities to those of us who spent too many years not taking care of ourselves. What they’ve done is amazing and I want them to know that I think so.


Unknown said...

You should edit this a bit to shorten it up and submit it as an letter to the editor. It is wonderful and I think other people would like to read it.

Jill said...

What a positive tribute, Teresa, not only to Rachel and Kristi, but also to your will power and inner strength.