So I’m registered for my first marathon—the Walt Disney World in January—and am starting to freak out about it.

I’m also very excited. Disney is supposed to be a great beginners’ marathon. The course is flat, the weather is usually mild, and it’s Disney, which means it will be well-run and entertaining. You have to finish in under 7 hours, which is very doable. My brother will run with me, and our whole family will be there for the biennial Florida sibling reunion, which will be great.

But it’s going to be hard.

It’s going to be hard physically. I did a half marathon in March and finished fine, but there’s quite a leap from 13.1 to 26.2. The half marathon was hard, but while I was doing it I never had the sense that I might not make it. By contrast, I remember seeing the course split around mile 12 and thinking, Oh heck no.

I’m also getting antsy. The training program I’m using doesn’t start until fall, so my goal for the summer is simply not to lose too much ground. But I don’t love the treadmill, and it’s hot outside. And I get headaches after I run in hot weather. (Which frankly is a potential problem on race day. It’s Florida.)

It’s going to be hard emotionally. I have many decades of self-talk to overcome about being the brainy one, not the athlete. My inner harpy tells me I’m slow and should’ve stayed with shorter distances. I remember the time I did the Turkey Trot with my mother while I was in junior high and came in last. Last.

Part of the emotional baggage is having a friend who was my age who dropped dead while on a run. I think about him often while I’m running. By all outward appearances, he was in excellent physical condition, not to mention naturally athletic (which I am not, and please don’t argue that point with me).

And there’s also Dad, who died suddenly of cardiac arrest. Unlike me, he did not exercise regularly, but still—I have half his genetics. (And yes, in terms of physical maladies, I’m much more likely to blow out a knee than to keel over. But hey, if you’re gonna catastrophize, do it RIGHT.)

2013-wdw-marathonAnd it’s going to be a logistical challenge. Honestly, carving out the time to train will be the biggest issue. Remember when I ran the half, my favorite sign along the course was “trust your training.” Well, you have to do the training in order to trust the training. By the time January 12 rolls around, if I follow the program, I will have run 500 miles.

Remember “factorial” in math class? It’s represented with an exclamation point and involves multiplying the number by all the other whole numbers less than it. So 5 “factorial” is:

5! = 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120.

Well, Marathon! = 500.

That’s some intimidating math right there.

But that’s the math of life, isn’t it? Whether it’s changing careers, sticking with your marriage, raising kids, finishing grad school, relocating to a new city, the worthwhile stuff is hard. The worthwhile stuff is a grand mashup of physical endurance, emotional labor, logistics, and dumb luck… or grace if you prefer to call it that, and I do.

And of course there’s this:


So off I go.

Would love to hear your own stories of Life, factorial!

P.S. That Turkey Trot in which I came in last? I was the only one in my age group, so I got a blue ribbon. Importance of showing up? OK, universe, I get it.

20 thoughts on “Marathon!

  1. Lee

    That looks like so much fun. I have absolutely no desire to run anything near that long, but I love that you are doing it, and I think you’ll have a great time. Your story about the Turkey Trot reminded me about the time I won a trophy in a church ping pong tournament because I beat the one other girl my age. You know, small victories.

  2. Peggy Haymes

    You have given me my new favorite quote: “Well, you have to do the training in order to trust the training.”

    I was debating about giving up on my own marathon goal. After all, I took up running after being hit by a car and being off my feet for five months – isn’t that enough? But it’s not. I’ve done several halfs but the marathon itch is still there.

    Thanks for inspiring me to set the big scary goal that I need.

  3. Marci

    Go for it! As someone who just found out she won’t run again, I say do it while you can. I have found other things to do, like bike riding and belly dancing, but I miss running. So run a few miles for me.

  4. Rev Dr Mom

    Yay you!!

    And the emotional/psychological part–yeah, huge. For me, too, as I start to train for my first half. I can talk myself OUT of almost anything, given the opportunity, but I am NOT GOING THERE.

    Good luck!!!!!!!

    1. MaryAnn McKibben Dana Post author

      Go RDM!

      I think the registration process is a great brain hack. You sign up and put down actual money and it’s so easy! Just your computer and a credit card, months befor the event even takes place! And then you’re locked in… 🙂

  5. Katherine Willis Pershey

    Oooh, so exciting, so scary. I’m feeling many of these feelings about the Half Marathon I just signed up for.

    This may well be my favorite sentence, like, ever: “But hey, if you’re gonna catastrophize, do it RIGHT.”

  6. Roy Howard


    It’s all in the training and you know you can do it. When I ran my first marathon after my first marathon 26 years earlier, inspired by CREDO, I started from scratch – 0 – and steadily kept going mile by mile, through wicked humidity and heat, and completed it. This is no joke: I cried along the way I was so lifted up by coming this far, then around mile 23 I was nearly sobbing with joy. (Really, I not kidding) Not that it wasn’t hard, it was; it was just such a great sense of accomplishment. As you know, I’ve kept on going since that first (second) one. The next one, I made a simple mental error – didn’t eat enough fuel at mile 23 – and had to walk/run just to finish. All in all, I’ve come to love it because of the challenge and sheer joy at the sense of accomplishment. It’s true the downside of training around the DC area is the heat and humidity. I also run by the river where there is always a slight breeze, still August is brutal. The first year I followed a program by Jeff Galloway, without the walking component. It helped a whole lot, especially the mantras.

    Enjoy. I’m excited for you. We’ll be training around same time – along with Sean and Christine.

    1. MaryAnn McKibben Dana Post author

      You know… that’s part of the reason I wanted to do the marathon. The half marathon was a great experience, but it did not provide that deep emotional sense of accomplishment.

      I like Jeff Galloway’s stuff too. I basically do the Higdon distances with a run/walk rhythm. For the half I did 9 minutes running, 1 walking.

  7. Mamala

    You one-upped me. I ran many a Turkey Trot and never got anything except permission to eat a big Thanksgiving meal later in the day! 🙂

  8. Bob Braxton

    No marathon (age 68) but fascinated while part of the way through reading
    Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, memoir (Virginia: 2003/2005).

  9. Linda Jordan

    Good luck MaryAnn!

    I started training for my first marathon a week after my dad died. I had signed up for the DC roadrunners marathon training program with a friend before my dad got sick, and I probably would have bagged the whole thing if my friend hadn’t kept after me.

    The first 10 mile run was on an unseasonably hot and humid day . I wore a 100% cotton shirt (rookie mistake) that was drenched, heavy and growing about an inch longer with every mile I ran. At the end of that run I was hot, chafed, tired and even sadder than when I started. By the time I got back to my car, I thought – well I’m done with that.

    But I ended up throwing myself into it, pounding out the miles that seemed insurmountable at the beginning and keeping a log and diary. I finished the race 4 months later with a handkerchief in my pocket that my sister made me. It had a picture of everyone in the family on it, including my dad.

    I am envious of you. You will do it. Every run will be different and when you are looking back they all will seem great. If I thought my knees could take I’d sign up myself.

  10. Heather

    Your description of your running life/defining yourself as an athlete is very similar to how I would describe my own foray into running. I ran my first and so far only marathon six years ago and I’m so thankful I did!
    Fitting in the runs is tricky and definitely requires a lot of cooperation from spouse and children, the sheer number of miles is grueling, the running of it is mentally very difficult, yet it continues to be an event that I look back on and I’m proud that I managed to get it done.
    I’m a very regular reader of your blog and FB updates, know that as I’m reading and being inspired by your mind and spirit, I’ll be praying for strength of body and soul for you as you continue to train!
    best wishes,

  11. Sarah Flynn Erickson

    Run a few miles for Marci, run a few for me. I’m part of your virtual/distance cheer-leading squad – prayers will abound, from training to the finish line. Think of me on 7/4 along with 55000+ others walking a good clip along Peachtree Street while your at it. Go, MAMD. GO!

  12. Pingback: Running as Liturgy | MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *