The brochure trembled in my hand. My heart fluttered. Maybe I’d had too much coffee? The men gracing the cover looked like Olympians. Where were the jolly, slightly overweight Hausfrauen? Where were the runners only doing the marathon for the free massage and pasta party? You know, where were the people I could beat?

I had a sinking feeling.

Is it really wise to do a half-marathon as part of marathon training? Maybe I’ll do so poorly over 21 k that I will give up all hope of accomplishing the 40 in July? These thoughts filled my head on Sunday.

Our family spent the morning at the “Blooming Baroque” gardens in Ludwigsburg. We walked around for hours, admiring the gorgeous tulips and daffodils, and breathing the hyacinth-scented air. The children ran and laughed their way through the hedge maze.

By the time we got home, it was afternoon. The number “8” was forbiddingly scrawled on my calendar. I thought about how easy it would be to erase, as I dressed in my hot-weather gear. I headed out the door, oldest child in tow.

The sun, for which I’ve been longing all fall, winter, and spring, now radiated as if I’d suddenly skipped down a few lines of latitude. Fine streams of sweat trickled directly into my eyes. What will I do if it’s this hot the last eight miles of the marathon? I thought.

I live in farm country near the terraced vineyards along the river Main. Name a type of hill: we have it here. We have long slopes so gentle you don’t know you’re running down them until it’s too late; we have wicked steep hills that taunt you like playground bullies. Then there are the seductive hills, both long and steep, which dare you to climb them.

Normally, I opt for the most comfortable path in life. Why face a challenge when you can just take a different route?

But marathon training has flipped a switch in me. I like the challenge. I enjoy the effort. My heart starts pumping when I merely think about running eight miles in the sweltering heat. And the hills: I have a love/hate relationship with them. They’re so beautiful, and yet they maddeningly push me to my limits.

William and I explored some new territory on the Sunday run. When I came to a crossroads, with one flattish road running North-South, and one long, steep hill running East-West, I went for the hill.

I must be out of my mind.

I knew going down I’d have to go back up again. I hit the four-mile mark near a stand of trees at the bottom. I fortified myself with vanilla PowerBar gel, drank some water, and turned around to face the hill.

Halfway up, William began walking his bike. Three-quarters up, he stopped completely. I paused and gave him his first PowerBar Gel pack ever. He washed it down with some water from his Camelpak, and re-energized, he got back on his bike.

My pace became increasingly slower, but I never got to the point of stealing Will’s bike. I kept on until finally, drenched and red-faced, Will and I reached the finish line together.

After my shower, I lay down for a nap, perfectly content with my effort.

The brochure is becoming less intimidating. I can now actually visualize my own face in the mass of runners. I may not be built like a Greek goddess, but giving my best every day makes me picture perfect.

Stats:

Sunday was the first day of the 13 week training schedule from Claire Kowlachick’s The Complete Book of Running for Women. I am doing her “Bronze” schedule.

Miles: Sunday 8, Monday 2 (fast ones).

Extra: On Saturday I did swim training. Swimming is H-A-R-D. I kicked tail-fins in endurance and when we used only the lower body. But the upper body drills left me with legs dragging like sea anchors, while the more buoyant class members (who most likely have skills based upon wrangling farm animals) left me in their wakes. It was a fun class though—and probably good for me.

Overall feeling: I am feeling great this week, especially after last week’s lethargy.

Weight: doesn’t matter, does it? When I pulled on the spandex capris and tank top, my husband said, “Wow! You’re looking athletic!”which I took as a compliment. I don’t think I’ve ever been called that before.

Wildlife: the deer and rabbits are abundant, and the sound of birds fills the air. Lovely backdrop for running.

Health concerns: Though I use the inhaler before exercise, after 60 minutes of running, I start wheezing and can’t get good breaths. Some of it may be due to allergies or bits of microscopic volcanic rock settling in my lungs. I’ll go back to the doc and see what kind of drugs he has planned for me.

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