I celebrated my 40th birthday by running four marathons in a month. Why? I have always been into hero worship, particularly those who have survived great feats of endurance – Magellan, Shackleton and Dean Karnazes. Although I wish to follow Karnazes’ footsteps, I was not prepared to run 50 marathons in 50 days. However, the number four has been lucky for me and running four marathons in one month seemed like a worthy challenge. I even had a name for this endeavor – Four for Forty. The four marathons would be: the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, the Toronto Marathon, the Detroit Marathon and the Niagara Marathon.
Both marathons in Toronto were excellent training runs and I was able to train for upcoming marathons in conditions that could only occur during races – high traffic water and gel stations, and dealing with ‘runners’ high’ at the beginning of races.
At the Detroit Marathon race expo, I told Dick Beardsley about my Four for Forty challenge. Beardsley, along with running legend Alberto Salazar, participated in one of the greatest duels in marathon history – the 1982 Boston marathon – where they battled stride for stride for more than two hours with Salazar edging out at the end. This remarkable race was chronicled by John Brant’s book titled, Duel in the Sun. When I bought the book, Dick Beardsley personalized a message on the front cover. He called me “The Marathon Queen”. That short message brought a huge smile to my face!
The Detroit Marathon was the closest to the spirit of a 40th birthday celebration. The start was preceded by best wishes from celebrities including Haile Gebrsehassie. Gee, what a treat! Even the world record holder wanted to be partake in my birthday celebration! My finishing time in Detroit was a spiritual sign that I was meant to pursue this challenge – achieving my personal best marathon time of 4 hours and 40 minutes during my Four for Forty challenge!
The Niagara marathon had its own set of “memorable moments”. How can I forget getting a police escort to the start line and having cups of water handed to me by bikers in Halloween costumes! But I received a remarkable gift during my run from Buffalo to Niagara Falls – a consciousness that I was becoming more confident in myself to pursue ambitious challenges that I had always dreamed of.
With each step, I was starting to believe that I always had the resources – aptitude and attitude – to pursue ambitious dreams, whether they be summiting majestic peaks, paddling temperamental coastlines or cooking a home-cooked meal. What this Four for Forty challenge made me realized was that with proper planning and risk management, I could follow the footsteps of my heroes, or even create my own footsteps. I can now take this trust in myself and use it to pursue other ambitious dreams on my life’s must-do list. When I crossed the finish line in the Niagara marathon, I felt blessed as I had become one of the heroes I always wanted to emulate.
So what did I get for my 40th birthday? Not a Porsche or a surprise party, not even new athletic gear. I did get four marathon finisher’s medals, and a realization that I have become my own hero.