On racing through life

Two years ago, seized with the notion that everyone should run a marathon before she turns 75 and realizing that didn’t leave me a lot of time, I bought a ridiculously expensive pair of running shoes and signed up for the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. Well, said my daughters Sandy & Pam, and Sandy’s running buddy Nan (later adding Pam-2), if you’re going to do that, we’ll come out and do it with you. Thus was born Team Gran. Sandy and Nan set about getting even fitter. Pam, who has rock-climbed all over the place but had never done this kind of flat-land business, signed on with a Team-in-Training group and set about getting seriously ready. I set about loping around the city — and promptly got breast cancer. That, plus a few other calamities in what became known as the Year of Medical Crises, interrupted my training enough for me to wimp back to a half-marathon. Even though I had paid for the whole thing. (Nike does not give rebates.) Ten months into the Year of Medical Crises, though, we assembled in the dark of a San Francisco morning, quickly caught the marathon adrenalin and Team Gran was off and running. Early on, going at our rather differing speeds, we each got boosts from my husband’s moving hug stations, from the cheers of friends and strangers alike and the general beauty of the course. Just to keep this blog honest, I admit to a few spans of walking. Still, when perfect strangers asked my age and said I was an inspiration, well, who can resist picking up speed? Nearing Mile 11 the first discouraging tiredness set it, only to be confronted by another hug, this one from my indomitable young friend Georg; the tiredness disappeared. Jogging across the finish line a good few minutes short of my goal, I had the utterly incredible feeling that I could easily have gone another 3 or 4 miles. (But not another 13!) Pam, not a lot later, charged across the full-marathon finish line just better than her own goal, with a grin that could’ve lit the Golden Gate Bridge. Accomplished runner Sandy blew a knee late in the race, struggled on with a lot of help from ice and friends, and finished somewhat tearfully. Unwilling to let that discouraging marathon be her last, she will run the More Magazine Half-Marathon in Manhattan on Sunday (not to mention the Empire State stair climb next year.) Pam went on to do her first Ride & Tie (you don’t know Ride & Tie? That’s another post entirely some day) and is currently into mountain biking around NC.
Here’s what’s behind this post: running is one of life’s great metaphors. It’s open to anyone, even without the expensive shoes. It doesn’t matter where you came from; you’re all going in the same direction. The encouragement of strangers makes the community work. Adrenalin can kick in when you’re not even watching. With a little luck, you can still do cancer and marathon in the same year. Hugs along the way are vital. You may not get do-overs, but you can always do more. Team Gran will reassemble in North Georgia this July for Lakemont’s soon-to-be-famous Rabun Ramble run.


  1. Dearest Fran, It is with honor that I am reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your vast insight on life, love and celebrations!Warmest regards,Stephenie

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