We Ran A Marathon! Going Far, Going TogetherBy Cordialis Msora-Kasago
Published: November 28, 2016
It was January. I had just turned 40, and in the spirit of the new year felt an intense desire to run a marathon before the year was over — the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in California, to be precise. I had completed the same race nine years earlier and, perhaps in a midlife need to prove “I still got it,” wanted a repeat of the event.
This time, I decided not to go it alone. I posted a message on Facebook to recruit training partners, and before I knew it, I had three friends ready (well, sort of) and willing to participate with me. Zoey and Christina, two very dear sisters from my other mothers, would complete the half marathon (13.1 miles/21 km) while Catherine, my ride-or-die roommate from college, would join me in the full marathon (26.2 miles/42 km).
Over the course of five months, we were four women encouraging each other to meet our individual physical fitness goals while building friendships and achieving things we never knew our bodies could do. This is our story.
On lost workout routines
I needed an exercise routine that I could easily execute regardless of my location. Running seemed to be the ultimate challenge. Armed with a free “Couch to Marathon” training guide from the MapMyRun app, a bevy of friends on a WhatsApp group and a Spotify subscription (because nothing makes me run faster than hearing Davido’s “Gobe”), I was ready to train. On each of my travels, I carried my running shoes and made time to go explore my surroundings on foot. Some of the scenes I saw stopped me dead in my tracks as I marveled at landscapes that I would have otherwise missed had I stayed in my hotel room or chosen to sightsee from the comfort of my air-conditioned rental car.
For five months, I trained. When at home, I work up early, sometimes driving to meet my running mates for runs exceeding 10 miles (16 km). By the end of my training period, I discovered a passion for being outdoors. Running not only helped me stay physically fit, it cleared my mind and melted the stress away. I got addicted and am now training for yet another race, this time a shorter half marathon.
On being with friends
The week before the marathon, I got sick. I was hacking and coughing everywhere. My hopes of running were getting dashed. The night before the race, I felt even worse. My months of training were being sabotaged. My friends felt my pain, but were determined to nurse me back to health. From dried Chinese fruits that I had never tasted to herbal concoctions and ginger-garlic-honey tea, each of the girls encouraged me and nursed me into lacing up my running shoes the next morning.
Still, my decision to run the full marathon as planned didn’t come until I reached mile 8.1 (13 km). All along I had been resigned to completing a half marathon, but despite breathing from my upper chest and not feeling 100 percent, I decided that I had trained too hard not to meet the goal. When I told my full-marathon partner the plan, she looked at me, smiled and gave me a high five. She was there to hold me up and keep me going. I needed her for mental toughness.
On seeing my children
It’s a feeling that I can’t fully describe, but each time I think of it, I smile broadly. I remember being focused on the finish line when I heard my 3-year-old daughter yell, “Go Mommy!” It brought everything into perspective. Running this marathon was about more than age-related vanity. It was about me being there. High blood pressure runs in my family and took my mother long before her time. Many of my accomplishments I owe to her, but sadly she is not here to experience them.
Hearing my family and friends cheer me on instantly helped me remember the real reason I run. I run because I want to be there when … I want to be there to experience my children as they grow. I don’t want to leave them before my time. Perhaps high blood pressure runs in my family because no one in my family runs, so I’m breaking the cycle by being fit. I want to be there. I will be there! The legacy of high blood pressure ends with me.#itstopswithme #africangirlsrun
Here’s to your health!
I ran my first marathon — the Los Angeles Marathon — as a dare to myself in 2010. I had signed up for the Solvang Century, a 100-mile (160 km) bike race near beautiful Santa Barbara, California, for the weekend before the LA Marathon was held and wondered if I could do back-to-back endurance events. Could I ride 100 miles this week and run 26.2 miles the next? I signed up, and I did it! It hurt, but still I did it. And when I finally crossed the finish line, I told myself “Never again!”
Five and a half years later, at age 43 and with a 2-year-old, I saw a Facebook post from Cordialis, a dear friend of almost 20 years. She had set a goal to run a marathon and was looking for folks to join her. I found myself reading the post twice and contemplating it. A little voice was quick to remind me, “But you said never
Cordialis and I had been college roommates and had spent many hours chatting about nothing and everything. It wasn’t completing the marathon that intrigued me; it was the fact that I’d get to spend time with my friend. Our life circumstances had led us to rarely communicate, let alone see each other. My desire to revisit our carefree, pre-career, pre-family, pre-real-adult times drove me to reply on her marathon post, “Let’s do it!” Just like that, I too was running a marathon.
Keeping promises to myself and recruiting hubby’s help.
Since I didn’t want to completely break my “never again” vow, I promised my body that this time around I’d do it some justice and follow a marathon training program. This time around, I wouldn’t just throw myself onto the pavement for 26.2 miles. Instead, I would nurture my body and give it time to adjust.
And in the first few months of training, I did. My 2-year-old cooperated by sitting happily in his stroller as I ran along. However, after about four miles, he’d had enough and would begin the typical squirming and whining of a bored toddler. But I had a promise to keep to my body, so I scheduled my runs to coincide with times when my husband was home. It wasn’t easy — sometimes I found it hard to ignore my son’s cries for me as I was getting ready to leave. But I’d promised my body.
It’s about commitment
Motivated by a desire to spend time with an old friend, I set my eyes on the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. There were four of us running together, and we downloaded apps to help us train and stay focused. Throughout our five-month training we shared our workouts, our pain, and our setbacks. And we shared our life stories — joyful ones, silly ones, sad ones, intense ones. We were four women bound by a goal.
When we had to drive almost an hour at the crack of dawn to meet up for our monthly “long” run, we did it without hesitation because we were committed, and each meeting brought us closer to our goal.
Come race week, we all had our doubts and hurdles. Logistics. Congestion. Tight muscles. But when race day showed up, our mental toughness also showed up, and showed out. For me, there was not just one but three best moments during the marathon.
The first came at mile 8.1, where the full-marathon course split off from the half-marathon course. At this point, we stepped into a totally new mindset, without hesitation and with total determination. Cordialis had been fighting heavy lung congestion, and up until that moment was not sure she could complete the full marathon. However, at that split point she pointed in the direction of the full marathon, and that immediately set me on a high. It was a huge source of inspiration.
Then, at mile 23, I strained my Achilles tendon and felt pain in my ankle. I couldn’t run anymore. But my friend was there for me, and rather than continuing to run, she walked the rest of the race with me. We even danced to the music being played by various bands along the course.
And of course, the final best moment — the euphoria I felt when we ran across the finish line. I spent time with a friend, I kept a promise to my body, I met my goal and we did it! We even got awesome medals and finisher’s jackets to add to our bragging rights!
At the end of it all, my Achilles is healed and I’m thankful for the friend who helped me take the word “never” out of my vocabulary.
I had gestational diabetes during three of my four pregnancies. As is usually the case, my blood sugar would go back to normal after each delivery. But last year in November, I went in for a routine checkup and my doctor told me that my blood sugar was high. I was not pregnant. She said that if it did not come down within eight weeks, she would have to place me on medication to manage the symptoms of diabetes. I had to immediately make changes in my diet and lifestyle.
It’s a mission
When Cordialis mentioned the marathon, there was no doubt in my mind that it was something I needed to do to lower my blood sugar. I am not a runner; I go to the gym sporadically to do Zumba and use the treadmill. But it was clear to me that whatever I was doing in terms of exercise was not working. It was not difficult to persuade me to participate in the marathon. I was enthused knowing that it would be a small group of friends trying to have an active lifestyle, and most important of all, having fun.
I enthusiastically agreed because I was on a mission — a life-altering mission to lose weight and lower my blood sugar. The thought of checking my sugars and taking diabetes medication every day was overwhelming, and it became a driving force to keep me going in my training for the marathon. I committed to jogging at least three times a week. I jogged and brisk-walked five miles per training session for five months. Once a month, I met my fellow trainees and we supported each other on long runs.
It’s a sisterhood
We took advantage of modern technology and communicated frequently on our WhatsApp group, often giving each other tips and words of encouragement. We tracked each other’s progress on MapMyRun and sent messages of concern when someone missed a series of runs. It truly became a sisterhood which will last a lifetime.
I admit there were days I wanted to give up because I was tired of exercising and trying to eat healthy. But each time one of the other group members logged a run on MapMyRun, I would get inspired and did not want to be labeled a quitter — so I ran.
The night before the marathon, we went out for dinner and stayed together in a rented apartment. We encouraged each other and just truly had a great time. No kids, no husbands, no worries, just four women bonding before a long race.
Zoey, my partner in running the half marathon, was very supportive during the race, even when I was about to give up because my right knee and thigh were hurting badly. We jogged and brisk-walked 13.1 miles in three and a half hours. This was an exhilarating accomplishment! I felt a great sense of pride, my self-esteem was boosted, and I shed tears of joy.
I have become an inspiration to people at my church and work. Four people at church would now like to participate in a half marathon next year. We are working on the details of when we will start the training sessions.
The greatest news is that I lost about 10 pounds over the course of training for the marathon, and my blood sugar was lowered. I do not have to take any medication to manage my diabetes, but I do have to continue exercising and eating healthy to lose more weight. I am a believer that we have to challenge ourselves to accomplish great things.
I can’t recall how I was sucked into running the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I must have been going through an “I can conquer anything” moment. Running a marathon is not in sync with the fact that, in both junior high and high school, I would run the 100-meter race and come in first, then run the 400-meter race and come in last. I wasn’t a long-distance runner back then, and at almost 40 years of age, that had not changed. Thank goodness I was only half crazy and agreed to run the half marathon with Christina, while Cordialis and Catherine registered for the full marathon.
My decision was made in February, and at that time June seamed eons away, so I was not immediately stressed. Eighteen months prior to running the marathon I had upped my workout game by joining a local fitness boot camp, hence the false sense of confidence. I also found out that there would be transportation available for those coming in last and exceeding the time limit. I totally intended to make use of that service.
On feeling the pressure
In an effort to encourage one another and hold ourselves accountable for race preparations, we synced with each other on MapMyRun. A few days in, I began to feel the pressure. I watched as my friends logged their miles. By the beginning of May, I had run on a treadmill for, at most, two miles at any given time. By mid-May I was resigned to the fact that I was going to just wing it. This marathon thing was going to work out exactly the same way I’ve envisioned myself learning to swim: the day I am on a capsizing boat.
Exactly one week before the marathon I decided to push myself and see just how far I could run in one stretch. I ran six miles and thought to myself, “Well, I’m sure I can do the 13 miles.” I woke up the following morning with sore muscles, and to make matters worse, three days before the race I was catching a cold.
Playing mind games
Had I not been running with Christina on race day, I would have happily slipped into the crowd of spectators lining the course. However, I did not want to leave Christina without a running buddy, and I thought of Cordialis running the full marathon despite having a full-blown cold.
Christina and I crossed the 13.1-mile finish line in three hours, 38 minutes. We beat the four-hour limit!
The experience taught me that when I put my mind to something, I can do it. (But I’m not saying I’ll ever put my mind to running a full marathon.) I also discovered the power of other women cheering me on. For every moment I wanted to quit, I thought of Cordialis, Catherine and Christina and was reminded that we were in this together, so if not for myself, I would finish the race for them. The biggest surprise to me is that weeks after the marathon, I am still running — this time with my daughter.
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