Two Bowdoin Peer Healthers, Greg Rosen and Maeve O’Leary took on 26.2 miles at the Maine Marathon this past Sunday. Here are their accounts of the event:
I am not a runner. I was never on a track team, I’ve never had a coach, I’ve never been relied on to perform for a group of people. So when I finally did start running coming into Bowdoin three years ago it became something sacred—something that I did just for me. I would take off down Maine Street and just keep running until I hit the ocean, and just keep going until I found some more.
I can still barely run 3 miles on a treadmill, but as I explored the outskirts of Brunswick and Freeport, I found I could keep going as long as I wanted to as long as I had ocean to look forward to and my friend Helen by my side, chatting all the while. This summer we just kept running until we realized that there was a chance we could keep going until we hit 26.2 miles, the ultimate bucket-list item for both of us.
Running a marathon was harder than I thought it was going to be. I mean, duh it was. But what surprised me during the actual race was what came around mile 22—a new kind of pain I hadn’t felt before that came from just the constant four and some hours of pounding my legs on Yarmouth pavement. It started in my aching Achilles, drifted up my shins, hit my quads, my knees, hamstrings, and finally up to my precious gluts, as Helen and I repeated aloud: we’re doing this, we’re doing this, we’re doing this, to keep us moving.
But the best part, the part they don’t tell you about in training guides, or articles you find when you google “how to run a marathon for swimmers” as I had months before, is that this pain has the power to just disappear upon crossing the finish-line. That even though today I still hobble like Bambi on newborn legs or a senior citizen without her walker, that pain subsided for just a few moments as Helen and I caught each others’ eyes: We did this.
In some sports, they say no amount of training can mimic the conditions or the experience you will have on “game day.” When it came to training for my first marathon, I thought running outside – in the heat, in the frigid cold, and even in the pouring rain – would test my abilities to adapt to the environment and help me push through extreme weather. There was one thing that training could never prepare me for, but it was the one thing that helped me cross the finish line with a huge smile: the sense of community I felt running alongside other people.
I always enjoyed running outside on my own. Running has always been my meditation – a time when I put the world aside entirely and check in with myself, giving myself the time to reflect. Running the 26.2 miles in the company of others, cheering me on as they even passed me on the racecourse, was reaffirming. It made me delighted to keep running, and it gave me the chance to remind myself about why I loved running. Perhaps the best part of this race was having random spectators give me a high five as I sped on past them, or offer me pretzels and fruit when I needed it most (I started crashing around mile 22). I never thought of running as a team sport, but these acts of kindness made the sense of individuality I felt while running disappear. It felt as though the spectators were invested in my running, even though they did not know me, and they were going to do everything in their power to make sure I crossed that finish line. I felt like these strangers were on my team – and they wanted me to win.