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The Philadelphia Marathon has left me feeling redefined.
2 years ago, almost to the day, I stood in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum, staring down the Ben Franklin Parkway towards City Hall, waiting for the gun to fire to signal the start of my very first marathon. It was a day I had dreamed about since I first joined the middle school cross country team a decade prior. I had always had a serious passion for running, but the when I crossed the finish line signaling the end of my first 26.2 mile journey, I immediately felt my love for the sport heighten. Passion had been replaced by, dare I say, obsession. When you’re in your twenties, every day can feel like a battle just trying to understand your identity. But in that moment, I was redefined. I was a marathon runner.
So let’s fast forward two years to November 18, 2012. Once again I found myself standing on the pavement of the Ben Franklin Parkway about to embark on the same 26.2 mile journey. This would be my fifth marathon, so where two years earlier I had faced the race with fear and nerves, I now stood with confidence and excitement. Marathons have sort of become by thing. My friends often refer to me as Marathon Meghan and I find myself casually dropping the phrase “20 mile run” in conversation. The marathon, which is something most people only ever dream of checking off their bucket list, had become something that I treated casually and cavalierly. That is until Sunday, when once again the Philadelphia Marathon left me feeling redefined. This day had nothing to do with breaking my own personal record or running my best time. It was all about the two most inspirational runners I know, and how thankful I am that they invited me to be a part of their experience. I hope you find their stories to be as touching and meaningful as I do.
My dad is one of the coolest guys I know. It’s hard to explain, but he just is. And most people who know him will probably agree with me on that statement. He is super fun to be around, has this incredible dry sense of humor, and just gets me in a way that few people do. He spent the last 35 years as a highschool math teacher as well as a cross country, track, and basketball coach before finally retiring last June. I know he doesn’t think of it this way, but it would be difficult to count the number of student-athletes who owe some part of their current success to the guidance my dad provided during their teenage years. He has always been my biggest cheerleader so when Big Chuck announced that he planned to run the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon I knew it was time to return the favor.
3 years ago he was overweight and out of shape. I’m not sure what drove the decision, but one day he decided he would start running again. He’d been coaching for years, but suddenly it was time for him to jump back in the game. He found a training plan featuring a run-walk-run style and began following it religiously until he managed to complete his first half marathon. A few half marathons later, he decided it was time for the big show! He embarked on a 20 week training plan that led him to the starting line on the Ben Franklin Parkway to begin his own 26.2 mile journey. 4 hours and 51 minutes later I was there, standing on the sidelines, cheering like crazy, watching my 58 year old father finish a marathon. A marathon!! And I could not have been more proud. He raised me teaching lessons of hard work and determination, and it was a beautiful thing to witness those same lessons unfold for him.
The marathon had redefined my dad, and his journey has redefined me.
I’ve been blessed enough in life to grow up with an incredible brother, but it wasn’t until I went to college and met my friend Pam that I discovered the sister I never had. It sounds a little cliché but I truly consider her to be more family than friend.
When Pam was in highschool she was a truly remarkable athlete, leading her volleyball team to a NJ state championship while breaking records in the 400 hurdles on the track. Things changed a bit in college as her passion for athletics began to fade, but she still competed on the track and cross country teams in order to stay in shape. After graduating, her passion for running faded a little more, and it just became something she did from time to time.
As we rang in the New Year together in 2011, Pam confessed that she was experiencing depressing and feeling unhappy with her body. So upon returning to her home in San Francisco that January, Pam decided it was time to lace up her running shoes, and slowly but surely she began to find herself again. 3 mile runs turned into 5 mile runs which turned into 10 mile runs, which turned into her first half marathon in May 2011. All it took was that finisher’s medal and Pam was hooked. She went on to run another 4 half marathons before making the decision to sign up for the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon. Pam’s come-back story has been such an inspiration to me, that I knew I had to be a part of her special day. Despite the fact that I had already committed to running the Marine Corps Marathon 3 weeks earlier, I sent in my money and claimed a bib to run Philly with Pam. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Pam said she needed me by her side to finish the race, but the truth of the matter is that I needed her. I needed to see her victorious. I needed to witness the struggle as she fought through those final miles. I needed to be by her side as she transformed from a self-doubting individual into a prepared athlete and confident woman.
The marathon redefined Pam. And her journey redefined me.
Read more about Pam on her blog Pace Of Mind and if you see her or my dad this week, be sure to offer them a HUGE congratulations!