Dan Zielske, crossing the finish line of the Med-City Marathon, May 2003.
I remember when Dan announced one wintry day back in 2002 that he was going to run a marathon. I remember thinking, "Oh, okay. That's nice honey." It didn't exactly shock me. Dan had been a runner since we met and well before that. Two or three times a week for years, he'd lace up and head out for a few laps around the lake by our house, returning shirtless (in the spring and summer months) and drenched in sweat.
He ran for a number of reasons, but primarily it was therapy. You know, clear out the head and just sweat for sanity's sake. Weird. I know.
He never outfitted himself in trendy running gear, emblazoned with logos and inspirational sayings. Sure, he'd lay out some cash for a good pair of running shoes, but that was it as far as high tech running acoutrements went.
Enter the Med City Marathon. On a gorgeous day in May down in Rochester, Minn., he ran his perfect race. He never really changed his pace from the outset. He never hit a wall. Like Forrest Gump, he just ran.
Of course, I didn't know this at the time, because I never really asked for details. Yes, I was very proud of my husband for his accomplishment, but I just took it in stride. Of course he can run a marathon. He can do anything.
Fast forward to now, and here I am, the 44-year-old version of me who, for the first time in her life, is running.
Yep. Lacing up shoes. Heading out the front door. Huffing, puffing, and plodding along at my 11:30 per mile pace, and all of sudden it hits me: Dan ran a freaking marathon. Oh. My. God. By the time I hit mile 2 on any given run, I'm wondering who will identify my body when I collapse.
A marathon. 26.2 miles. By himself. Outside. In the sun. Using his legs.
And not only that, he ran it in 3:33, just 18 minutes over the time needed to qualify to enter the Boston Marathon. He averaged just over 8-minute miles the whole lovin' way.
I just finished reading an excellent book, Run Like a Mother, (because when I'm into something new, I have to dive in headlong) that I would strongly recommend to any runners or any wanna-be runners out there. The two authors and friends write candidly about running, all aspects of it, from aches and pains to peeing in the bushes on long runs. These women are serious runners who love the sport. Both have numerous marathons under their belts. I'm not dreaming of 26.2 miles just yet. My present goal is simply to hit the 5-mile mark. But this book really sparked an interest to learn more about Dan's experience in the marathon, and as a runner in general.
I remember when he'd head out for some of his longer training runs that spring. He trained with his brother, Jonathan (who also ran a very respectable 3:42) and they'd log 12-milers, 15-milers, leading up to a final 20-miler a few weeks before the actual race.
I never remember him complaining once. Not about aches, or pains, or doubts in his ability to do this.
Now me? When I return from a run, I rattle off a laundry list of what doesn't feel right.
When I mentioned this to him, that I never remember him complaining or being injured, he replied, "Talking about pain is boring."
Revisiting this part of our lives, and uncovering some of the details has been a pretty cool thing. It's highly unlikely that I will run an 8-minute mile in my lifetime and really, a 5K seems like the biggest challenge I'll be able to tackle (okay, maybe a 10K someday), but it really does make me retroactively appreciate Dan and see his efforts in a whole new light.
Not hard to appreciate in hindsight. At all.
For those of you who are interested in learning more about the book mentioned above, check out the Run Like a Mother blog.