Mary’s Marathon

Posted May 2005

Following are excerpts taken from the training journal of Mary, wife of INFONETICS president David, as she prepared for one of the largest events of her life – The Columbus Marathon.

Many of you may remember reading in our October 2000 INFONETICS Update of David completing the Columbus Marathon. Well, in a moment of absolute stupidity, I decided that it was MY turn. I’ve never been a classic “couch potato”, having participated in both track and tennis in high school, and various outdoor activities since then, but in my mid-thirties, when gravity starts to do its dirty deeds to the human body, I became more involved in physical fitness, even to the point of becoming a Jazzercise instructor at age 38. I had volunteered for the Marathon a couple of times, but never gave much thought to ever trying it for myself. At least not until a walking division was added 3 years ago. Now THAT got me thinking – could I actually do it? I wanted to walk last year, but a pretty extensive foot surgery (detached Achilles tendon, titanium screw, physical therapy, etc.) prevented me from doing the amount of training that I needed, so I was forced to wait another year.

OK, so the summer of 2004 arrived. I was already walking several days a week with a friend – 3 miles of nonstop gossiping – but I knew that I needed to seriously up the mileage. Due to my Jazzercise schedule of teaching classes four nights a week, I knew that I had to make some changes in my every day life. I talked it over with the Big Boss, David, who most of you know also happens to be my husband, and he agreed that I could work 3 days a week in order to accommodate my training.

In June, the “official” training began with a 5K at Hidden Creek, Ohio. This one wasn’t hard at all – I had been walking this distance for years. But seeing the results on line was depressing – I finished 12th out of 13 in my age group. But David pointed out that the runners and walkers were all grouped together. At least I didn’t finish dead last!

In July, I found a Jazzercise buddy, Sharon, who was also interested in walking the Marathon, and we immediately signed up for the next training walk of the season, a 10 miler in Westerville. At the beginning, we met a woman in her early 60’s (we guessed) who told us she did her first Marathon last year with a time of 6 1/2 hours. For those of you who are math challenged, that translates to 15 minute miles. Not bad. We set a goal for ourselves to finish that 10 miles in 2 1/2 hours. Our official time was 2:20 – we were ecstatic!

It’s August, and the training continues. But problems, both mental and physical, have reared their ugly heads. In a effort to get in as much walking as possible, I have developed shin splints. For anyone who as experienced this condition, you know how painful it is. As a result, I had to back off a bit on the mileage and speed, but since a 1/2 Marathon is coming up, that probably wasn’t such a bad idea anyway. On the mental side of the equation, BOREDOM. I can’t imagine how hard running a Marathon could be instead of walking it, but at least it doesn’t take as long. I walked for 3 hours last Saturday, and I thought I was going to go out of my mind. I don’t wear a headset for music when I walk because part of my route is done on country roads without sidewalks, and it’s a good idea to be able to hear approaching cars as well as the occasional unfriendly dog. I actually find myself talking out loud every once in a while. Pretty scary! But getting a training partner helped so much. I no longer have to have conversations with trees and squirrels.

August 14 saw us doing the Rock-N-Roll Lifeline of Ohio (a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to promote and coordinate organ transplants) half Marathon. This was an especially meaningful race for Sharon, as she and her husband, Paul, lost their daughter in a car accident several years ago, and her organs were donated to this most worthy cause. Anyway, we did it, and had a great time of 3:00:31. WE are still at our pace time of 15 minutes a mile or less.

OK, this isn’t good. While sorting cans in the garage for recycling, I apparently emptied one of a very irate yellow jacket, and then stepped on him – barefoot, of course. Yep, got stung right on my instep. So it was a trip to the doctor Monday for an allergic reaction. He put me on Cortisone, and said “no impact” on it for 4-5 days. What do you mean, 4 or 5 days?! I’m training for a Marathon here! So I called Sharon to let her know that she was on her own for the week, and it turns out, she pulled a muscle in the side while doing yard work. What a couple of elite athletes we are! But, after a few days rest, we were able to get back on schedule.

The Hocking Hills Indian Run, in which we were planning on doing 20K, or 12.4 miles, was Sept. 18, but we decided that since Hurricane Ivan decided to dump massive amounts of rain on the area the day before it wouldn’t be wise to go down there and muck through the mud and take a chance on slipping and twisting an ankle or knee. We walked around Grove City instead, logging our longest walk yet, 16 miles. Just think, another 10.2, and we would have done the Marathon.

Now I’m mad. An article appeared in the October issue of Runner’s World about walking a Marathon instead of running it. Sharon and I eagerly read it, thinking it would be full of helpful hints and encouragement. Oh no, it was quite the contrary. Walkers were called “underachievers in a cop-out society” and most are “mall strollers with fanny packs stuffed full of food”. It really rubbed me the wrong way, and I quickly zapped off a letter to the editor. It may not get published, but I felt better!

October 17 has arrived – Marathon Day. Start time – 7 AM. Temperature – 38 degrees. Wind – WSW at 10-20 mph. Wind chill – a brisk 32 degrees. What, are we nuts? But we arrived at the starting line with the rest of the 300 shivering souls in the walking division and anxiously awaited the official start. It’s not even light out yet – what are we doing here! It’s Sunday – we should be sleeping in and having pancakes in our PJ’s, for heaven’s sake! But the starting siren sounded, and off we went. It was pretty darned cold those first few miles – downtown Columbus pretty much became a wind tunnel. But after about 5 miles, I began to warm up a little (poor Sharon was cold all the way through).

It was so cool to walk through all those Columbus neighborhoods – Bexley, German Village, Downtown, the OSU campus and see all the people lined up to shout encouragement to all those involved in the race. David and Paul stationed themselves at several different points to cheer and take any articles of clothing that we were ready to get rid of, and it was wonderful to spot their faces in the crowd and hear them shouting at us when we approached. I don’t think either of us could have asked for better support! The crowd was estimated at 100,000 spectators – that’s a lot of people! At about mile 20, you really start to appreciate all the smiling faces and calls of “you can do it”, and “you’re almost there”. I never hit the famed Wall, but both of us could feel fatigue starting to set in. But suddenly there was a sign in the distance – 1 mile to go! I looked at Sharon and said, “you know, I think we are actually going to finish”. Turning the corner onto Nationwide Blvd. and heading toward the balloon arch that marked the finish line was one of the biggest thrills of my life. Yes, my hips hurt, yes, I have a couple of blisters, and yes, I’m tired. Would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY!!!! In fact, there is a Marathon at the end of January in Vegas that we are giving serious consideration to.

So how did we do? We met, and beat, our original goal of 15 minute miles. We averaged 13.54 minute miles, and had an official time of 6 hours, 4 minutes. And if we hadn’t made 3 potty stops, we would have broken the 6 hour mark! In fact, we walked the second half, faster than the first!

Not bad for a couple of middle aged women, huh?


Mary L. Frea, Columbus Marathon October 2004