It seems fitting that a blog titled “Funatical Runner” should start on National Running Day – when runners everywhere are suppose to celebrate their passion for running. I can’t say that I actually observe National Running Day but I will count the launch of my blog as my observance this year. (You can check out ways to observe it at the web site http://www.runningday.org.)
Two news stories this week grabbed my attention because they were about runners on opposite ends of the age spectrum (a convenient lead in to National Running Day too). First, there was an article in the Washington Post about a 10-year old boy, Rheinhardt Harrison, who recently set the world record for 10 year olds in the 10-mile distance. He is also waiting for confirmation from the Association of Road Racing Statisticians that he set the world record in the half marathon for 10-year olds with a time of 1 hour 35 minutes and 2 seconds. I would love to have a half marathon time like that! Rheinhardt loves to run – mostly cross country because he thinks running around a track is boring to him (and I have to agree with him on that). But he also enjoys all the other fun stuff that kids do, like video games. Kudos to his parents for being supportive but also knowing that Rheinhardt needs balance in his life and, importantly, rest. I would guess that last part is difficult – how do you keep a 10 year old from doing what comes naturally, running?
The second news item was about a 91-year old woman, Harriette Thompson, who completed her 15th Rock ’n Roll San Diego Marathon and set the US record for the fastest marathon in the women’s 90-94 age group with a time of 7 hours 7 minutes and 42 seconds. Harriette had not been able to train much for the race – she’d been undergoing radiation treatment for a skin cancer on her leg. I don’t think anyone would call her a slacker. If they did, I would be the first one to jump in and defend her.
In reading about Rheinhardt and Harriette, I could see similarities to my own life as a runner. Like Harriette, I started my running career, not in grade school, but later in life, at 49. Harriette started running when she was 76 years old. Compared to her, I was a youngster when I laced up my first pair of running shoes. She has completed 15 marathons in 16 years (in 7 years I have completed 8 full marathons and 18 half marathons – I have some catching up to do). Like Harriette, I started running to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) to support a friend who was diagnosed with an incurable form of lymphoma. Harriette lost her brother to lymphoma and has raised over $90,000 for LLS. Harriette and I are two birds of a feather.
But I also see a similarity with Rheinhardt. Reading about him I could see the light in his eyes when he talks about running and his goals for the future (going to the University of Oregon, THE training ground for distance runners). Likewise, I get excited when I talk to people about my races and my goal of running a marathon on all 7 continents. I started this blog because a lot of people want to follow my running adventures.
I often think about why I enjoy running marathons. I realized at the Detroit Half Marathon last fall that I am addicted to the feeling of excitement when I get in my corral and wait for the start of the race, the energy of the crowd as I run through the streets of some unfamiliar city, and the joy of crossing the finish line to get a medal.
Harriette proves that none of us can say we are too old to get out there and give it a go. When people tell me that they could never run 26.2 miles or even 1 mile, I tell them that if you want it enough, you can do it. Heck, you don’t even need to run – walking works too. Since I started running, more than one of my friends has walked a half marathon. And the sense of accomplishment when they completed their races was priceless. They got it. They understood what Rheinhardt, Harriette, and I feel – the anticipation and excitement at the start, the energy during the race, and the joy of crossing the finish line.
Update: Reinhardt didn’t get the world record for a half-marathon run by a 10 year old. The original race course was altered after its length was certified. The new course was not certified. But don’t despair. I think we will hear more about Reinhardt in the future.