Thursday, September 13, 2012

Who Knew that Marathons Actually Inspired People?!

And Then You Leave Home is back by popular demand!!

Actually, my sister told me that I hadn't blogged in awhile.

       Luckily, I actually have something to say.  A few weeks ago, my husband ran an marathon.  Now that wouldn't sound like a huge big deal - lots of people run marathons.  There was even a woman last year who ran a marathon and then had a baby in the same day.  But the thing is, my husband and I aren't exactly jocks.  We ride around our European city on our bikes, and we walk, but we're both really short and clumsy.  We're really short - like really really short.  I can buy my shoes in the kids' shoe department.  My husband was a non-jock even within the rarefied nature of the performing arts magnet high school he attended.  I went to a college that won about 5 football games in the four years I was there, and I think I went to about half a game once.  For me, exercise was a yoga class with middle aged women where we all just talk about Johnny Depp and then leave five minutes early. 
       Nevertheless, my husband decided about half a year ago that he was going to run a marathon.  I tried to talk him out if it, saying maybe he could start with a half marathon or do something more fun - like getting a weekly colonoscopy for a year.  I told him that over 30 is a bit old to start long distance running.  He told me that I wasn't being very nice or supportive.  He was completely correct about me.  Nevertheless, he started running.  I told him to give up, but he kept going.
       First we got him the fancy running shoes, then a few weeks later we got him the belt of mini water bottles.  Not long after that, I started biking alongside him for his 2+ hour long runs.  After he started running more than 13 miles, we got him those carbohydrate gel packs to keep going.  I started being supportive, the way I should have been all along.
       Then marathon time came.  He had chosen a marathon that takes place in a small city in the former East Germany, and we packed our bags and headed out the day before.  He registered and got his number, and got up at 5:50 the next morning to catch the subway to the bus to the starting line.  I saw him off and then went back to sleep.  I spent the rest of the morning getting lost and going to the art museum before I headed toward the finish line. 
       It was amazing.  There were tons of people cheering.  There were actual cheerleaders.  A DJ from a local radio station announced everybody by name as they came across the finish line, "Coming in at 238th place is Johann from Berlin!  Looking good, Johann!  Now in 239th place is Ilka from Dresden, good job, Ilka!"  It was like everybody was a celeb.  Some people had their small children join them for the last few feet across the finish line.  Married couples ran across the finish line holding hands.  Children waved homemade says that said things like "Mom, we are proud of you!"  As soon as one man ran across the finish line, his wife doused him with a shower of fizzy champagne. 
       What amazed me most were the people I saw running past the loud speakers and into the arms of their companions.  They weren't all six feet tall and thin, as I had expected.  There were people as short as I am.  There were middle-aged moms and teenagers still going through that tricky awkward phase.  There were also plenty of people who carry around a few extra pounds.  But they were all fit - they ran over 26 miles.  There were people who ran the marathon barefoot.  There was a young man with no legs who wheeled himself in his wheelchair the whole way.  One finisher was a 77 year old man.  Not all the marathoners looked picture perfect - and that was ok.  Running a marathon is a more amazing thing to do with your body than just looking like a swimsuit model. 
       But the best moment of all was when my husband crossed the finish line.   I screamed his name, and he came over for a victory hug, and I took a gazillion pictures.  We got him a juice and a place to sit, and he said, "That is the hardest thing I have ever done."  I had never seen him so sweaty or exhausted, but I was so proud.
       It was only after he had changed and showered and we were on the way home on the train that I realized how amazed I was.  My husband isn't really the marathon type, at least I never thought he was.  But he put his mind to it, trained from months, and then he did it.  He really did it.  And if he could do it, maybe there are things that I could do too.  Maybe I could learn German one day after all.