Marathon Reprise

The challenge is getting to the starting line. The reward is the race. The celebration is crossing the finish line.

Those thoughts struck me while standing at the starting line for 2010 Grandma’s Marathon. Two years earlier, I worried about completing my first 26.2-mile race, and wondered whether I could make it the entire distance, especially since headphones were banned at the time. It turns out that the sights and scenes along the course, crowd support and thrill of racing provided more than enough motivation.

Now, on the verge of a seventh trip to Grandma’s, I realize that each of the 6 previous journeys are packed with endearing memories.

As a throwback to my early marathons, last night I pulled out an old iPod — filled with playlists that helped me get through long training runs — and charged it. With the headphone ban now rescinded, I don’t claim to be a purist and usually listen to music (or audiobook) while out on the run. On Saturday, that old iPod will be tucked into my pocket, as a reminder of marathons past as I rediscover the playlists that carried me through so many grueling runs. If I hear bagpipes, though, I’ll turn off the volume and revel in one of the lasting memories from mile 5 of the 2008 race. When I crest Lemondrop Hill, and begin that descent into downtown Duluth, I may just turn it off.

For me, Grandma’s is a special course with stunning views of Lake Superior and long stretches of serenity with only the patter of runners’ footstrikes. At aid stations and certain gather spots used by spectators, the air is filled with an electricity and aura of possibility.

Marathons are about possibilities, offering challenges and opportunities to push our boundaries and leave limits behind us.

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