2004 New York Marathon
2005 Los Angeles Marathon
2005 Scranton Marathon
2005 New York Marathon
For many years now, I have wanted to train for and run a marathon. It is one of those aspirations born of my competitive nature and goal-oriented personality. I am always looking for the next challenge; something to stretch my borders. I have great respect for athletes of any kind. And long distance runners have held a certain mystique for me. I watch the marathon competition at each Summer Olympics and cry when the runners cross the finish line. I can almost feel their sense of accomplishment, relief, and joy. What a great sacrifice to train to run 26.2 miles. I wanted to know what it felt like to actually cross that finish line for myself! So, since I now live in the New York City area, I decided to enter the 2004 New York City Marathon. Entrants are chosen lottery-style because so many people from around the globe apply. About 100,000 people apply to run. Only 30,000 are chosen. I threw my hat in the ring!
I would not learn if I had been selected to be a participant in the New York City Marathon until June. But if I was chosen, now was the time to started training. At this point in my life, my workout schedule was spotty, at best. I was running on the treadmill for--at most--30 minutes, 2 or 3 times a month. That was less than once a week! Over the years, I'd gained a lot of weight. I love to eat! The richer, fattier, and sweeter the better!! I had no discipline about my eating habits (or very little anyway) and no real fitness regimen. That was a recipe for disaster. Since 1990 (when I was Miss America), I had "grown" from a size 4 to a size 12! (to tell the truth, size 14 felt even better! ) As I approach the big 4-0 (in 2005), I know that now is the time to address these bad habits and settle this weight issue once and for all! It certainly isn't going to get any easier to lose weight as I got older. I started running 3 times a week. My earliest runs were just 2-3 miles long. I thought I was going to fall out! But slowly my body adjusted to the increased activity. And within a month, I was actually enjoying my runs. Now THAT was a miracle!
After 2 1/2 months of progressive training, I got word......I made the cut. I am a bonafide entrant into the New York City marathon. I was so excited, I went running through the halls of CBS screaming, jumping and laughing. Then it hit me, I am rejoicing because I now have to run 26 miles. Am I crazy?!! By now, my training is getting serious. I run two short (5 miles) runs during the week and a long run on the weekends. I am now running 10, 12, and 14 miles at a time on those long runs. No one is more surprised that I am doing this than I! And, guess what?.....I love it. By now I have stopped taking music out on my long runs with me. I use the time to pray, praise, sing, and think. Some of the best devotional time I've ever had, I am having out on the streets of NYC, running. Even the heat of the New York summer is not a deterrent. I run very early in the morning to beat the heat. I am getting very dark anyway, though! My summer is filled with lots of travel, both for work and pleasure. Amazingly, I stay on my training schedule no matter where I am. This is a whole new experience for me. I have never been so excited about exercise. As my mileage increases, I have to learn a few tricks of the trade. The friction created by bouncing up and down causes chaffing in certain unfortunate places. So I found out that a little Vaseline in strategic spots makes all the difference! By now my body is changing shape. I have lost 15-20 pounds and all my clothes are getting loose. What a thrill!
I feel like a "real runner" by now. 10-mile runs are easy to me. (I still can't believe I am saying that!) Even a 15 miler barely tires me out. In this month I have several very long runs. By now, I have already run 18, 20, 21, and 23 miles at one time. I have learned the benefit of taking LOTS of Advil before those really long runs! If not my knees and feet are unbearably painful. But I am still having fun. There is this stuff called "gu" that has become a lifeline for me. It's this high carbohydrate, electrolyte gel that can be eaten while running. I eat a pack (more like suck it down) every hour. It's amazing what a difference it makes. I have renewed energy and greater endurance. I also learn the value of drinking enough water while running. The first time I ran 18 miles, I hit "THE WALL"......big time. By mile 16, I could barely lift my legs, my breathing was very labored, and my feet felt like iron logs. I gutted it out and finished the run. But it was NOT fun. Soon afterward I read about the value of replacing my electrolytes and water while I run. I had heard about the "gu" before but never seriously thought about getting any. After reading this book, I realized how important nutrition is to a long distance runner. I bought some "gu" and doubled that amount of water I drank on my next run. It was a 20-miler. Wow, what a difference. The 20-mile run was incredibly easier than the 18-mile run the week before. You have to feed your body! Lesson learned!
The farthest I will run before the actual marathon is 23 miles. When I did this run, I felt good. I was VERY tired by the end. But I could tell that I still had some "juice" left in me. So I know that I can finish the race. Trust me, if I can run 23 miles, I can run 26.2!! I am getting so excited now, I can hardly wait for the big day. By now I have lost 30 pounds and NONE of my clothes fit me anymore. I have been taking things up on my sewing machine or pinning them with safety pins for many weeks now. It not pretty! Finally, on a rare free Saturday, I went shopping at this great outlet mall in New York state called Woodbury Commons and bought a whole new wardrobe. I am 4 sizes smaller now. Woo hoo!!!
October 29, 2004
Today I ran my last "long run" before the marathon. It was just a 10 mile run. It felt great. I didn't even feel tired at the end. And my pace has improved so much over time. When I started, it took about 12 minutes to run a mile. Now I can run a mile in about 10 minutes. That is a huge improvement. If I can hold this pace, I will finish the marathon in about 4 hours and 45 minutes. My main goal is to just finish the race! So the time doesn't really matter. But my competitive nature keeps edging me forward to do better, run faster. Don't tell anybody but I am already thinking about running another marathon! I know, it's crazy. But I have fallen in love with the running. And I love my new body. And I love being able to still eat some of my favorite foods and not gain weight! We'll see how long my knees hold out.
November 7, 2004
From beginning to end, running the NYC Marathon was a thrilling experience! I did get some sleep the night before but woke up at 4:30 a.m., completely amped about the day. I had to board a shuttle bus with the other runners to get to the starting line. The line for boarding was massive. Lines at Disney World ain't got nothing on this line! It took almost an hour to board the bus. And they were boarding 10 buses at a time! Then it took another 2 hours to get to the actual starting line. But I met some very nice folks and we talked (comparing training regimens) the whole way. Once there, I was most impressed by the next set of long lines.....at the Port-a-potties! It seems everyone had a case of the jitters! I too stood in this line to get that little logistical tidbit out of the way.
Finally the start time came. With 36,000 runners, it takes a while for everyone to actually get across the starting line. I started my real run about 10 minutes after the gun went off. I can't express fully how exciting this was. The views of the city were spectacular. And the spectators along the way were extraordinary. There were 2 million spectators! And they all were cheering and yelling words of encouragement. What a gas!
The first 10 miles seemed to go by in a flash. I was really cooking. I realized that my pace was a little faster than my training runs, so I slowed down a bit so I wouldn't run out of gas at the end. This was hard to do with so many people passing me. My competitive nature wanted to "race" everyone! But I held back. At mile 16, I saw the first of many friends who came out to the race to see me run. I made the mistake of stopping to hug him. I immediately got a huge cramp in my calf. Man, that hurt! I stretched it out and quickly kept moving.
I was fine for the next 3 miles. But at mile 19, slowly my legs began to cramp. I mean my WHOLE leg; my quads, my calves, my inner thighs.....EVERYTHING! It eventually got so bad that I could barely stand. I didn't know how I was going to keep going but I knew that I was NOT going to quit. I stretched a bit and kept going....at a hobble. I walked a mile (to give my legs a rest) then tried to run again. But no sooner than I started running, the cramps would return with a vengeance. This cycle of walking, trying to run, then cramping like you wouldn't believe kept up for the next 5 miles. I walked most of it. But by mile 24 1/2, I was bound and determined to RUN across the finish line. I'd worked too hard to give up now. So I started running. I cannot describe the pain! But I wouldn't stop!! I was running, crying, praying, begging God, and saying over and over, "I can do all things! I can do all things!" When the pain became just blindingly unbearable, I would walk a few feet then keep running. With a little less then a mile to go, I just gritted my teeth, started running, and gutted it out. I RAN across that finish line! It was the most exhilarating, gratifying experience of my life....and the most physically challenging!
No sooner than I crossed the finish line, the calf cramps returned. Two medics literally had to catch me before I fell. With their help, I was able to stretch them out and I walked out of Central Park under my own power. Hallelujah!!! I don't know why I had the cramps. It is truly a mystery to me. I have diligently trained for 7 months. Along the way, I've run 18, 20, 21 and 23 miles. Some of those distances more than once!! I NEVER cramped while training. Not even once. So go figure?! But I guess that is how life is sometimes. We prepare, practice, train and still life throws a curve at us. It's not the curve that is the issue. It's how we handle it! I had never experienced this before but I refused to let the cramps get the best of me. Don't let your "cramps" get the best of you either. Even if you have to walk part of the way, just keep going. The race goes not to the swift nor the strong but to he who endures to the end!! So ENDURE! I am a living witness, you can make it!! God bless you. And stay tuned. I am seriously thinking of running the L.A. marathon in March. What can I say? I'm hooked!
MARCH 6, 2005
HURRAY FOR HOLLYWOOD!
If you can conceive it, you can achieve it!! I am living proof of this. On March 6, 2005 I ran the Los Angeles Marathon. My second marathon in four months. Woo-hoo!! Let me tell you, it was a blast. I enjoyed every step, primarily because I ran a much SMARTER RACE this time. My training for this marathon was pretty similar to my previous training, except my "short runs" were slightly shorter at first. In other words, starting in December (2004) I would run 3-4 miles at a time during the week, instead 5-6 like before. Then, of course, I had the "long runs" to do on the weekends. I tried to run an extra day a week, four instead of the three days a week that I ran the first go around. But my hectic travel schedule, and 39-year-old knees just wouldn't allow it. So after about 2 weeks, I went back to my familiar Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday running schedule. Also, this time, I ate more. Yes, that's right. I ate MORE. I think one of the things I did wrong the last time was I tried to curb my eating to maximize the weight loss. Well, that just doesn't work when I am asking my body to run 10, 15, or 20 miles. So in the days leading up to long runs, and certainly before the marathon, I really "carbo-loaded." That is, I ate healthy portions of pasta, oatmeal, and wheat bread. And, I drank water like there was no tomorrow. After consulting many experts, the consensus was that the reason I got the cramps during the New York marathon was due to dehydration. I just didn't take in enough fluids. So this time I downed several bottles of water a day. Which means, I spent a considerable amount of time in the bathroom, but that's okay. Another improvement I made in my preparation was REST. I made sure that I got at least 8 hours of sleep every night the week before the marathon. (wish I could do that all the time!) So when marathon day came, and I was ready, prepared, and pumped. The day was beautiful. There were just a few clouds in the sky. BUT it's L.A. So it was warm. The high that day was in the upper 70's. And you runners out there know just how hot that is in which to run a marathon! I was a little concerned about that. So I drank more water! Thankfully, there was a nice breeze during, just about, the whole run, so it wasn't too awful. I did get a tan, though. This time, I ran with a friend which was so nice. We ended up getting separated but kept in touch by cell phone. (I finished ahead of him! hee hee hee) At the starting line, Muhammad Ali stood on a grand stand waving at all of us. That was very cool. I even ran into an old friend from my Miss America days while running the race. What a small world, even in a marathon! Unlike the New York run, I started with a very slow pace. I wanted to save my reserves for those tough miles ahead. And that seemed to work. I didn't really start to feel tired until mile 24. By this time, my pace was pretty good.....you know, for me. So I ate half of a banana, and slowed my pace a bit for a mile. Then I saw that Mile 25 marker, and suddenly "my help showed up." I was so excited to have just 1.2 miles to go that I kicked back into gear and ran with all my might. I even had a little "kick" left at the end to sprint (sort of) across the finish line. What a thrill. I screamed. I cried. I jumped up and down. This time finishing was fun. I can hardly wait to run another one, now that I know what to do and how to be prepared. So that is my lesson from this experience. It's not just necessary to run the race, we must run a SMART RACE. We must count the cost, be prepared, feed ourselves (both our bodies AND our spirits), and save a little energy to take us over the finish line. So run this race of life with endurance. (Heb. 12:1) Run it in a manner in which to win. (1 Cor. 9:24) Just keep moving forward, you will eventually see your finish line moving toward you! Be blessed in all you do. Debbye
OCTOBER 9, 2005
Every marathon has taught me a new lesson about life. My very first marathon, the NYC marathon in 2004, taught me that I could set what seemed like an impossible and goal, and achieve it through hard work and sheer determination. My second marathon, the Los Angeles marathon in March of 2005, taught me that I could learn from previous mistakes, improve, run a smarter race, and get a better result. My third marathon, the Scranton Steamtown Marathon in October of 2005, taught me that overconfidence and inexperience can lead to a result that's slightly inferior to my high expectations.
I figured that since I have already run two marathons that my finish time would only get better. I had run my second marathon 40 minutes faster than the first one. I had hoped to run the third marathon at least that much faster than the second. But that didn't happen. I underestimated the drain of running downhill for 8 straight miles. You see, the marathon in Scranton is largely a downhill run. Figuring that running downhill is a lot easy than running a flat or hilly course, surely I would have the personal best time of my life. Wrong!! Running downhill is HARD on your quads. Trust me when I tell you this. My thighs began to burn at around mile 13. And they hurt like they were on fire for the rest of the marathon. Having a searing burn shoot through your quads with every impact for 13.2 miles IS NOT fun. But I finished the run, just not in record time. In fact, my time was 12 minutes slower than the Los Angeles time. And the L.A. course is a flat course! Who knew running a flat course would be easier than running downhill?!!
NOVEMBER 6, 2005
In my fourth marathon (all within one year), the NYC marathon of 2005, taught me that more than personal goals, more than individual competitiveness, more than over-confidence, going the distance on the value of my word and loyalty to friendship conquers all.
When I started training for my first marathon in early 2004, I never dreamed that in 18 months I would run 4 marathons. That was not a part of the original deal. It was not my goal. It was not planned or intended. It just sort of happened that way. After that first marathon, I knew that I loved the experience. I love the discipline of the training process. I loved the runner's high. And loved pushing myself and my body beyond my perceived limits. So before I finished my first marathon, I already knew that I would run another one. I originally thought that I would run one marathon a year for the rest of my life. But after having the muscle cramps due to dehydration in the first run, I was anxious to better my performance, and my "record." So I quickly agreed to run the L.A. marathon, just four months later, with a friend. And, I improved my time by 40 minutes. And that was great. So you would think that it was time to settle into that "one marathon a year" game plan, right? Well, I'd forgotten about a promise.
After the first marathon, a precious friend of mine was so inspired by my weight loss that she vowed to run the NYC marathon the next year. I told her, in a show of support that, if she followed through, I would run the marathon with her. And I promised that I would stay with her the whole way. So now I was committed to run a third marathon. Soon, I learned that my friend's running pace was much slower than mine. Well my competitive nature kicked in and hatched a plan. I decided to run an additional marathon. I found out that Scranton, PA was just a two-hour drive from NYC and they held a marathon exactly four weeks before the New York marathon. So I registered and began to train. I figured I would run Scranton for me , to see if I could run a faster race and improve my "record." Then I would run the New York marathon with my friend, not worry about time, and honor my word to stay with her.
But it did not all work out as I had planned. That darned downhill marathon wreaked havoc on my thighs. My time was SLOWER than my last marathon! It turned out that even though running downhill is easier on the heart, it's murder on the quadriceps. Plus, I later learned that "real runners" use the Scranton Marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon. So these were all fast runners! There were only a handful of slow pokes like me. Well, it just happened to work out that the fast runners were way ahead of me. And the slower runners were way behind me. So, after mile 10, I essentially ran the rest of the way by myself. I could see no one in front of me. And I could see no one behind me. This makes running a marathon much harder! In the end, I finished but not in the flurry of victory that I had hoped. So what, you ask? Well now, I want to run the NYC marathon at my pace (in other words, leave my friend behind), so I could have a better time to brag about. For the next 4 weeks between the two marathons, all I could think about was asking my friend if she would mind if I ran on my own, so I could improve my time. I fretted over this. I talked to friends about it. I prayed about it!! My friend had been steadfastly training, gaining confidence and excitement. The closer we got to the race, the more excited.....and anxious...she became. I never had the courage to ask her my big question. Finally, I decided that I would broach the subject on the day before the marathon. I would simple present my case, ask her permission, and accept her answer, no matter what it would be. I never got the chance to ask my question. When I picked her up on the morning before the race, the first thing she said to me was, "Debbye, I am a little nervous. But I know I can make it with you and Kelly (another friend who was running with us) with me." Well, that settled it. I couldn't possibly get out of this. She needed me more than I needed a better time. This was a hard pill to swallow, I must admit.
On the day of the race, we were all excited. At first, it still bothered me that I couldn't run "full out." But after a few miles, I realized that this time, the marathon was not about me. So I let go of my selfish ambitions and grandiose ideas and decided to just be there for my friend. We laughed. We talked. And we ran that marathon, one mile at a time. My friend was doing pretty well. But her pace was very slow. At mile 20, her resolve began to waver. She said, "I 'm out of gas, Debbye." "You can make it!" I tried to encourage her. By mile 22 I could see she was really starting to struggle. So I told her that we here going to run this baby on in! I sang to her. I quoted scriptures. And we kept running. Finally, we made the last turn before heading to the finish line. By this time, most spectators had gone home. There were just a handful of people watching the last of us as we approached to end of the race. Just before the finish line, we grabbed hands. We'd started this journey together and we were going to finish together. And we did, hand-in-hand. There were shouts of victory, tears of relief, and exhausted muscles. But we made it......together! That day I learned that sometimes true victory is measure by with whom you finish the race, not how fast. Being supportive is more important than being impressive. I will forever cherish this marathon. Little did I know how much I would learn from my friend, who couldn't run fast but was determined to run nonetheless. Later, we found out that she had a respiratory infection during the marathon. How amazing that she not only finished the run, but so did while she was seriously ill. She is my hero! Yes, I will run more marathons (God willing). And yes, I will try to beat my last best time. And when I do, I will carry the memories of the importance of loyalty and friendship with me across the finish line.
Donate to the Gussie Turner Memorial Scholarship
"At Mile 16, I am feeling great and having fun!"
"Little did I know that in 3 short miles, I would experience the most painful cramps of my life!"
"That's me in the white shirt. I was joined by more than 36,000 other runners. What a rush."
"People of all abilities and sizes conquered the marathon. What an inspiration!"
"People of all 'styles' conquered the marathon."
"How this guy could run in all this get-up, I will never know!"
"It was a long, incredible, fabulous journey."
"I might wear this medal everywhere for a while!"
"Arriving at my celebration dinner with my medal in tow."
"Can you say, 'Happy!!!'?"
"At the celebration, we played a game. And the prize was this official marathon T-shirt. Ohhhhh. Ahhhhh."
"My second marathon in four months. Woo-hoo!! Let me tell you, it was a blast."
"Scranton, PA 2005: You can tell by the expression on my face how much pain I am really in!"
"NYC Marathon 2005: I am starting to get the hang of these marathons."
"Finishing with friends was more gratifying than finishing fast."