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Start of the race means the end of her training


November is upon us, and the light at the end of the marathon tunnel shines like a beacon through the haze of 11th-hour training.

Every day someone asks, "Are you ready?" We have not yet run 26.2 miles. Conventional wisdom has runners peaking at 18 miles during training and then tapering considerably, so we can only say, "We will be." To borrow the conviction of "Ultramarathon Man" Dean Karnazes, we will run if we can, walk if we have to, crawl if we must, but along the course we will never give up.

A 2009 New York Times article by Juliet Macur ponders whether noncompetitive participants are positively promoting the sport of marathon running or lowering the bar to disgraceful depths. "Slow runners have disrespected the marathon’s distance, (purists) say, and have ruined the marathon’s mystique."

Scott and I have encountered no such attitude from any experienced runner, trainer, friend or fellow marathon-trainee. We have been met with only encouragement and support, even by those who know that as rookies we may end up closing the course on Dec. 12.

"What are you going to do next?" is another question we are asked often. For Scott, completing another marathon is probable.

After Honolulu accountant Tracy Yamamoto Pacarro’s first marathon, she aimed to run Boston someday and, eventually, to complete a triathlon. Unlike Honolulu, which names as the most walker-friendly marathon in the U.S., to be eligible to run the Boston Marathon you must have a qualifying time (for women ages 18 to 34) of 3 hours and 40 seconds. To complete a triathlon you must be a proficient and competitive cyclist and swimmer as well as a great runner.

Hearing other people’s extensions to their marathon ambitions is awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping. I will be cheering them on every step, stroke and mile of the way.

As for me, a nonrunner at the outset, despite countless runners telling me that the marathon high is addictive and that one just will not suffice, my main post-marathon goal is to maintain a regular fitness regimen that includes running and other forms of cardio exercise. I’ve been encouraged to try cycling, extreme hiking and Zumba. My fifth-grade students have suggested rock climbing, joining a teachers’ football league, learning to surf and becoming an Ultimate Frisbee player.

I don’t know whether more marathons are in my future, but I do know that among the most important things I will have taken away from all of this are an ingrained need to exercise regularly, a willingness to try new things and the desire to push myself above and beyond what I thought was possible.

The one-month-to-go mark has brought both trepidation and relief. "Just one more month" means just one more month until we can return to life as we knew it before 14-mile Sunday runs. But it also means just one more month to get ourselves as mentally fit as possible. The physical groundwork has been laid. Never before has either of us had to replace a pair of athletic shoes due to actual wear and tear. Never before have we so carefully planned meals and sleep schedules around workouts. Never before has a mere twinge in the knee struck such fear into our hearts. The time has come to put everything we’ve learned to the ultimate test.

One more month. I’ll see you on the other side!

The final installment of "Marathon Ambition" will appear Dec. 21.
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