Sunday, May 20, 2007

26.2: in 26 weeks, after 26 months

November 18, 2007 – 26 weeks from today - I plan to run the Philadelphia Marathon. The 26.2 mile course will take me from The Philadelphia Museum of Art, through Center City, past Philadelphia’s most treasured historic sites and icons, along the banks of the Schuylkill River, through Fairmount Park, and back to the art museum.

My path to the marathon began 26 months earlier, when I realized that if I was ever going to really get fit, to have the energy and endurance to keep up with my active son, and to establish a platform of fitness to carry me through middle age and into healthy and active older age, I needed some big goals to focus me. In the fall of 2005, I started training for a triathlon – a multi-sport event combining swim, bike, and run – the following spring. That first two-mile run hurt for days, but I stuck with it, my body surprised me by adapting, and I actually began enjoying my runs.

I completed my first sprint-distance triathlon in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, in May 2006. Then an Olympic-distance tri in Philly in June, and finally a half-ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run) at Lake Nockamixon in September. After completing the half, and realizing I can do this, I set my sites on the Florida Ironman in November 2008, in and around Panama City Beach. The Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim in the Gulf of Mexico, then a 112 mile bike ride, and then a 26.2 mile run.

The Philadelphia Marathon is a key event in my preparation for Ironman the following November. First, I have to build up to a marathon distance early enough to be able to maintain that level of fitness in training so I can complete a marathon after already going 114.4 miles in the water and on the bike. Second, completing a marathon will be a key confidence builder through my winter and spring training.

As I move through the 26 months to the Philadelphia Marathon, I’ve learned some important lessons. I’ve learned that I am capable of feats I had always thought impossible for me. I’ve learned that big goals are achievable if I am willing to work for them. I’ve learned that big goals require serious, sustained effort. I’ve learned that there is enough time in the day to work on long-term goals.

That brings me to why I’m spinning this yarn. The changes I have made from couch potato to endurance athlete, from spectator to participant, and from “I can’t” to “ I will,” are nothing compared to those required of the people I work around at Metropolitan Career Center, where I am Vice President for Community Relations. Since 1974, MCC has helped more than 16,000 adult Philadelphians make profound changes in their lives to move from unemployment or a long history of dead-end minimum wage jobs, from welfare to sustained careers, and from relying on others to taking charge of their livelihoods.

Over the next 26 weeks, I am dedicating my marathon journey to the adult students of Metropolitan Career Center, who have learned that the road to economic self-sufficiency is a life-long endurance event, requiring training, perseverance, and an unswerving focus on their goals.

And I am asking you to help me turn my marathon journey into a stepping stone for unemployed Philadelphians. How?

1. By making a charitable contribution to Metropolitan Career Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to help MCC train unemployed Philadelphians for jobs that pay decent wages so they can support themselves and their families.

2. By joining me on a training run or bike ride. Mornings, evenings, weekends – I’ll be out there at distances ranging from 3.35 miles and up, building to a peak 20-mile training run in the fall. You don't run? Not a problem: ride your bike with me while I run - I'm not that fast! Most of my runs are in the amazing Wissahickon valley section of Fairmount Park. Bike rides are generally from Mt. Airy, west into Montgomery and Chester counties. Join me for part or all of a run or ride – I’ll welcome the company!

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