How to Run a Marathon: Day 1

Okay, if you’ve been following my saga, you know today isn’t really “Day 1.” That was actually 18 months ago. Before my sprained ankle, before his hurt knees, before my broken nose….

…And one day after “The Promise.”

That was the day I learned it was all mental. And I was nowhere ready for an ACT in the sport.

Again, I told my husband I’d run one mile for every year we’d been married, and, adding time for necessary training, a year and a few months from that day would make it 26.2 years—so 26.2 miles.

Yep, a marathon.

And that was going to take some work.

Because I hate running.

But I love him, and he’d been asking me to run a marathon with him for a while.  It was the best gift I could think of to celebrate our Silver Anniversary.

So the promise was made.

And the next day, I woke up.

Day 1!

We needed a plan.

He pulled out one he’d used before, short runs on certain days, long runs on others.

Now, my definition of a long run and his definition were not the same. He’s done half-marathons, he’s done a full one. He hits the road and just goes. He’s also gotten our kids running, at least to the point of using it in their chosen sport. For some, that meant cross country and track, for others, soccer. (Did you know a good high school midfielder runs an average of 7 miles in a soccer game?!?)


I speed walk. Granted, I speed walk fast; I can do 5.5 mph on the treadmill.

But running? Well, on Thanksgiving every year, the whole family runs the city’s Turkey Run.  There are two races, the 2-mile and the 10K (6.2 miles). I ALWAYS choose the 2-mile. And I usually run that with little preparation.

Beyond that, “pre-Promise,” I ran just enough to stay in shape for my kids’ cross-country meets. Because, to cheer at those, you have to sprint all over the course, hoping to reach good locations before your child passes. I tracked my distance at one of those events: for my daughter’s 3.1-mile race, I booked it 2.9 miles from spot to spot.

I always thought that was a lot.

Of course, that’s with stops and starts and sometimes walking and lots of yelling—but that takes a lot of lung work, too, right?

Somehow, though, I needed to run 9 TIMES that—without the yelling, of course.

But I was motivated because I made a promise. And we had a plan.

First, we needed to figure out my max distance. In other words, start hard.

5 miles.

He GPS’d it on his laptop ( and realized we could do it all on one straight road. Run till it ends, then turn around. 2.5 miles out, 2.5 back.

That was good because this wasn’t home, and we didn’t know landmarks. But to keep us apprised of our progress en route, he wore his Fitbit.

We were good to go.

I should note, when I said we’d run a marathon together, I knew we couldn’t necessarily run next to each other. He’s 6’3”, I’m 5’5”. I do two steps for every one of his. And my sprint is his jog.

It didn’t take long for him to be fifty meters ahead of me, and after three steps, I was trying to figure out HOW I ever thought I could do 26 miles, let alone 5.

But I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving. I didn’t stop. I found a rhythm. This place had hills, and I mean HILLS! I pushed up them and rolled down them.

I found myself chanting in my head all those cheering things I yell to my kids when their racing. “You’ve got this!” “On your toes.” “Use your arms.”

Sometimes I caught up to my husband who “stopped to stretch.” (Probably really to let me catch up.) I kept going.

Soon he’d pass me again, but I continued talking to myself. “Drop your shoulders. Knees high.”

All the time, I was calculating how far I’d run. Had to be a mile and a half, then mile-and-three-quarters, closing in on two miles… When we reached the end of the road, I could take a break. Or I could swing right around and keep running the whole five miles! “Breathe in, breathe out.”

He was ahead of me again, but I closed in as he worked a tight hamstring. I planned to overtake him and race up the next hill, gaining momentum like a slingshot. “Look, I’m doing it!”

The two-and-a-half-mile mark HAD to be coming up soon.

But as I came abreast of him, he looked at his Fitbit and said something.


He pointed at the counter and repeated, “Good job. That’s about one mile.”

I don’t remember my exact words. Something like, “No way!” or “You’re kidding me!”

But I remember what my feet did.

They stopped.

I couldn’t do this. EVER!

My eyes smarted. My throat hurt. My legs cramped. I forced them to walk, but they definitely weren’t speeding.

“How could that be just one mile?”

He showed me his Fitbit.

I tried to jog up the rest of the hill, but tears dripped down my cheeks, and I brushed at them angrily. Cresting the top, I glared at the next hill in front of us.

Thankfully, my husband seemed to understand. “It’s just Day 1. You have to build up to it. You can’t expect it to be easy the first day.”

I jogged silently, the words in my head not worth repeating. After fifty yards of running, I walked ten.

He ran beside me. “Let’s just get over the next hill and we’ll turn around.”


Furious that I couldn’t even manage half of the day’s goal, I barely trudged to the top and started the descent…

…only to find the end of the road at the bottom.

The Fitbit was wrong.

Well, not wrong exactly. It was measuring steps and calculating it to miles. But steps walking do not equal steps running. And my husband’s steps are a whole lot longer than most.

I had been right in my measurements all along.

We’d reached two-and-a-half miles.


So, the total trek?

Day 1 (including the return): we logged 5 miles, most of which I ran.

Not bad.

It pushed me past my comfort zone and gave me a good place to start.

But most of all, it showed me how much my mind affects my feet.

When I focused my thoughts on getting the job done, even though the hills were hard, I still ate up the miles.

BUT when my thinking was warped with frustration and anger? I was ready to give up.

Told you it was all mental. (And I almost failed the pop quiz.)


I wonder…how often could the same be true for situations in marriage. And life in general.

What do you think?


“Finally, whatever is true…whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8, ESV)

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4 thoughts on “How to Run a Marathon: Day 1”

  1. Radka

    Great reminder about the battles in our heads! Thanks Elisabeth! Keep on writing!

    1. Thanks, Radka. Isn’t it crazy how Adam and Eve thought it would be so great to know good and evil? Most of the time we are our own worst enemy.

  2. Laura DeNooyer-Moore

    I could certainly relate to this story! Even though I don’t run, it was the perfect analogy for many life situations. Frustration, anger, and not knowing how long something is going to last will slow you down every time.

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