I prefer my torture be self imposed

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Blurry photo of a photo of me running my first marathon

When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon commemorating my 40th birthday I burst into tears. My then husband and a couple of friends greeted me at the finish line, hugged me and high-fived me.

“That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” I cried. My husband’s eyes teared up at the sight of me, cramped legs, spent body.

“You never have to do that again,” my friend, Andrea, said to me.

I’ve run thirteen marathons since, the last in New York, 2011. I never planned on running them, thought I’d be in the “one and done” club but the culture became part of me. Two years after that first marathon I went through a divorce. I had run a second by then and was training for a third. I met other runners in my neighborhood and started meeting them in the morning before work. I ran through the pain and loss of my marriage, through feelings of failure, disappointment, self-doubt. I ran and ran, racking up miles week after week, logging every hill repeat, speed work out, LSD (long slow distance). I traveled south to DC and Miami, flew west to Chicago and Colorado, drove to Boston, Philly, NY, Hartford. I took it seriously, beat myself up over slow runs; my friends and I could replay a marathon mile by mile the way a gambler can recount the amount of their winnings from each pull on their favorite slot machine. I wasn’t fast but I was a runner.

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Some of my bling

I ran steadily for ten years, always training for a marathon. I ran on vacation, Las Vegas, Ogunquit, San Francisco, and wrapped vacations around marathons. I ran with my group, we supported each other through divorce, illness, death of loved ones.

Slowly over the last two years I’ve replaced running days with biking and hiking days. I still run but not with the same intensity. I’ve gained some weight, have lost some speed but still get out there a couple of days a week and log miles. My ego wasn’t happy with the changes at first but, over time, it’s realized I haven’t been willing to put in the time and effort it takes to run a marathon the way I wanted to run it, and it’s okay with that.

All this to say I agreed to run the NJ marathon in April with two friends who used to live in CT – John, who lives in NJ and Mindy, who lives in FL. I don’t see either as often as I would like and didn’t want to miss a chance to catch up with them over a 26.2 mile stretch that will take us over four hours to finish. It took convincing, there’s a half marathon too and I can decide to switch at the last-minute, but I’m going to start increasing my running days and miles and see if I can’t pull off marathon #15. It won’t be my best, could even be my worst, but I no longer beat myself up. Instead, I thank the universe that I can train for a marathon on legs that have logged thousands of miles; I thank the universe that I finally understand the person who finishes the race, no matter how slowly, is the same person who started the race, and nothing less.

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Another blurry shot. Hope to add another NJ medal to my collection


20 replies

  1. I am so impressed, Geralyn…thirteen marathons, that’s amazing! As someone who only started running six months ago, after years of five mile fast walks on the treadmill, I’m in awe of your accomplishments. I run five miles a day and can’t imagine running twenty-six miles. I can relate when you speak of running through your pain. My worries about my mother seem to ease during my runs. I’m excited for you taking on another marathon in April. Knowing what I know about you now, you’ll be crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles in April. 🙂 xo

    • Thanks Jill. I’ll tell you what others told me when I was running 3 1/2 miles a day. “It you can run 5 miles you can run a marathon!” I’ve found that to be true…if a marathon is something you’d ever want to tackle. Right now my running is so limited and I envy your 5 miles/day. Doesn’t it feel good when you’re done? 🙂 I hope your mom is well. Thanks for your support!

  2. You are amazing Geralyn because you have come to realize that it’s okay. It’s okay to bike, it’s okay to hike, it’s okay not to have the same intensity you once did because what you’ve substituted it with is even more important …inner peace within

  3. You are definitely inspirational. I’ve always wondered what makes people want to run the marathons. I may not be one of those people, but it’s definitely something to possibly try one day. I really enjoyed reading your post.

    • Thanks K – I wonder what makes people want to run ultra marathons…it’s all relative, right? 🙂 Would love to hear about your experience if you ever decide to run a marathon. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great weekend!

  4. I think your mindset is healthy – not beating yourself up on being slow and sluggish. I’m a runner too, though not necessarily a spectacular one, so I kinda understand where your coming from.


  5. I remember a story about a runner who was reflecting back about the marathons he ran. He said when he compared his fastest time to his slowest time, in the end pace did not matter it was all about enjoying the experience of it. You’re absolutely right, it’s better to be in a place where we are happy with our accomplishments instead of the pressure we put on ourselves that we should have done better. That is such a hard thing to do!! I hope to get to that point like you:)

    • Thanks for commenting Meg. I want to enjoy running the marathon with good, good friends. The training will be difficult as my base is really low but will try to keep it all in perspective. I’m glad to be able to run! 🙂

  6. Geralyn,

    Congrats on allowing yourself to be fully aware of this mind and body thing we all wrestle with from time to time. Of course, you know I would love to be able to run a marathon at any pace. My race is now measured by steps without a clock. I’m sorry I was not aware of your divorce and the challenges that you faced through that transition. Please keep in touch and consider a trip to Vermont. We have a great hike right out our back door.

    Much love,


    • Thanks for reading Chris. I wish you were able to run right next to me too; you continue to inspire me. I’m just back from a weekend at Mt Ascutney. Would love to see you this winter. Will keep in touch. Love to all!

  7. Love the last sentence Ger. Not to allow the marathon to define you as a person. We tend to define ourselves by jobs, roles we play, successes and failures, etc. and the last line says, “No that is not me”, I am more than that!

  8. Wow! Good for you, signed the “One and done” club. BTW I cried last year when I finished The Kusam Climb, A horrible rainy half in Vancouver. I cry because I’m over joyed it’s over. And then I sign up for something else! I too like mixing it up with biking, kayaking etc. 🙂

    • Shelley, I do the same thing. 🙂 After telling myself “I’ll never to THAT again,” I sign up for the next race. This one is going to be painful, haven’t run a marathon in 3 1/2 years. I’ll be the one hobbling over the finish line (I hope!) swearing at myself.

  9. Holy wow. I got exhausted just from reading the first part of your post. The second part shows that you are at peace with yourself in whatever you do, and whatever the speed. Thank you for an interesting post.

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