A baby boomer learns that the real victory is simply crossing the starting line

Creating a “bucket list” of special things to do, places to visit and new achievements seems to be a favorite subject among baby boomers when we cross that “age 50″ threshold. Kathy Logan of Lexington, Kentucky, decided to set inspiring goals.

It’s easy to say, one day I’m going to write a book or learn to play the piano or run a marathon. Brash statements often fall under the category of pipe dreams. I know that all too well.

Occasionally – like a bone spur irritating a nerve – pipe dreams fester and cause a flare up. We either have to eat our words or act on them.

My goal … postponed for years by one excuse and then another … has been to become a serious runner …  and actually run a marathon.

Kathy Logan, marathon runner.

Kathy Logan, marathon runner.

You really think a 62-year-old grandmother allergic to exercise can turn into a marathoner?! The odds are certainly against it. Yet, add a pinch of goal setting and a dash of motivation and … well … things can turn around.

Motivation … well, I did want to live long enough to see my five grandchildren grow into adulthood. With a long family history of heart disease, the odds weren’t in my favor if I continued to live a sedentary lifestyle eating all the wrong foods.

I changed my behavior and began by walking. Slowly at first. Within weeks I was walking three miles a day. I stopped eating junk food, and the pounds slipped away, along with my dress size that went from an 8 to a 2.

In September 2011, I ran my first mile.  But, that was a far cry from a marathon.

Kathy Logan (in yellow) ... never giving up.

Kathy Logan (in yellow) … never giving up.

How does running one mile translate into running 26.2 miles a year later? Goal setting.

I set a goal to run a 10K on Thanksgiving Day 2011. Even that goal seemed daunting so I had to break it down into small steps.

Step 1: Buy appropriate shoes and clothing. If you’re going to be a runner, look like a runner … feel like a runner.
Step 2: Add mileage gradually. Two-mile runs became 3 miles, 4, then 5 miles.

After the 10K, I set a new goal to run a half-marathon. I checked-off that accomplishment six months later.

Training to run a full-blown marathon took much more than motivation and goal setting. It required commitment and coming face to face with fear … and staring down any doubts, as well as aches and pains. Age extracts its price in pain.

My goal was to run the September 2012 Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio.

I stuck to my schedule of constant training runs. I ate what I needed to eat to fuel my runs. Strengthened my upper body at a gym. I may have been focused but I wasn’t a well-trained athlete. I was basically a couch-potato turned runner.

Before I knew it, my health was suffering.  I was tired, and the goal seemed unrealistic in my physical condition. I decided to focus on letting the pinched nerve in my neck heal, and … I quit training.

MedalTwo weeks later, I realized I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try. I recommitted to the goal of running. If all I could run was 5 miles or 10 miles or 18 miles, I would come out a winner because I showed up and gave the race my best effort. Was I afraid? You betcha!

The day of the 2012 Air Force Marathon came sooner than I wanted. That morning I called a friend, and we prayed together.

With everyone at the starting line, a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber did a flyover. Talk about awesome. And then … the starting gun sounded and thousands of runners rushed forward. I tried not to get caught up in the frenzy.

At the 4.5-mile mark my daughter called my iPhone to let me know she and her family were at the 5-mile hydration station. I told her I wasn’t sure I had it in me to go the distance.

“Are you going to quit?” she asked.

“Not yet,” I answered. I could walk and as long as I could, I’d stay in the race. It didn’t matter how I got to the finish line – run, walk, crawl, I’d get the same medal as those who finished hours before me.

I ran the race exactly as I had trained. I walked when I wanted to walk. I ran when I wanted to run. There was no pressure to do one more than the other.

When I reached mile-20, I’d been at it for more than 5 hours. The end was finally in sight though, and I knew for the first time, I could complete the race within the 7-hour time limit.

Kathy Logan finishing the 2012 Air Force Marathon.

Kathy Logan finishing the 2012 Air Force Marathon.

Before I knew it, there was a shock! Over the public address system, I heard the announcer say my name, “Katherine Logan, Lexington, KY,” as I crossed the finish line. I was now a marathoner! I had done it … !

I felt such a rush … The anguish, the pain, the joy from all those training runs. I realized I had celebrated each step. For this marathoner, the accomplishment was not crossing the finish line. The real accomplishment was crossing the starting line.

What did I learn?

We are the sum total of our life experiences. Early defeats build character. Early disappointments fuel passion for success. Early regrets teach us that even though we might fail, not trying is worse. Before you give up on anything, be sure you can live with the decision.

Now, I’m thinking of races to come …

Click here for Kathy’s blog.

Kathy is also author of “The Last MacKlenna.”

6 Comments

    1. Eric, thank you for your comment. We have so many challenges to face as we grow older, don’t we. I have macular degeneration and as long as it doesn’t turn into the wet kind, I should retain most of my vision. But it’s scary thinking about what’s ahead in my late 60s, 70s, and up into my 80s. We can only do it one day at a time and try to stay healthy.

  1. Too Old? Two words: Diana Nyad! A few years ago a read a story about several New York City Marathoners in their 80s and 90s, who did not start running until their 60s. One woman ran her first at age 80!!!

    1. My brothers laughed because I was starting to run at 61. I laughed at them because they have no knees left from a lifetime of playing sports. So there are some advantages to starting late in life! I’ve seen articles about the older NYC runners. That’s just awesome and so encouraging!

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