Journey to The DeMar
“The support of friends, strong motivation, and a good pair of shoes have indeed given me super powers.” I said this well over a year ago as I was chronicling my “Champion journey,” part of the Healthy Monadnock 2020 program to make southwestern New Hampshire the healthiest region in the nation. It has now been over three years since I started, three years of making healthy changes and especially three years of race walking, a long-distance, hip-swiveling, foot-racing event. Three years, and NOW, I’ve race walked a marathon. How did THAT happen??
After several more races of varying lengths, I decided I wanted to set the bar really high. I wanted to celebrate this new strength and wellness I have been feeling. I wanted to see just how far I could go. At first, I tentatively said to a couple of people, “I’m going to race walk in the DeMar Marathon this year.” I’m not sure I believed myself at that point. I don’t know if others believed that I believed it either. But then, at a particular friend gathering, emboldened by their support, I declared it aloud. “I’m going race walk a marathon before the end of the year.” Specifically, I knew that I needed to do the DeMar in Keene, New Hampshire. Keene is where my wellness journey started, where so many friends have watched and supported me on my path to strive for my healthiest self. Keene is where I learned to race walk with the guidance and camaraderie of my friend, Linda. On May 10th, I officially began training.
My actual training was mostly solitary, accompanied only by my tiny iPod Shuffle and various world music club dance bands. My journey to DeMar was made possible by an intricately woven community. Whatever I needed, there was someone who would slip into play, ninja-like, with exactly what I needed. Words of encouragement? There were at least five to six different friends willing and able to give those at any given time. Recommendations on training? Two other friends were RIGHT there. Recommendations on the best non-soy protein bars? More friends! Parking for positioning my car at just the right juncture for my longer training race walks? I even had that. I had at least two different driveways I could have used! Overnight shipping replacement Nike Frees when I needed them IMMEDIATELY for a 15 mile training day? I definitely have to shout out to fellow champion, Ted McGreer and Ted’s Shoe & Sport for that one. From loaning me a Camelbak for training to mapping out training routes in Maine and California when I was on vacation, there were always friends and family right there with me.
I also felt that with each increase in mileage, with each passing week, I was more and more capable of doing this major, difficult, thing. My own fire and determination kept on burning no matter what. If I can radically change my diet and wellness and lose 102 pounds, I can surely race walk 26.2 miles! Even on the REALLY rough days, like the 14-miler when I didn’t have any food and got sick for two days or the 18-miler when I pitched forward and crashed to the road trying to race walk and fiddle with my Camelbak, and chew my snack, I STILL felt okay. I felt more than okay. In thunderstorms, coldness, darkness, 90 degrees and burning sun, on dirt, pavement, hills and flatness, I simply KNEW I could do this and I was never alone. I carried the support of my community with each step.
On the actual day of the race, of course I was absolutely not alone. My friend Linda, who decided to join me for the last eight miles, recommended I find another friend in the race to keep the miles flying by. And I did just that. For seven miles, I befriended a wonderful man from just outside of Boston. We shared race and life stories while we kept pushing each other with our respective paces. After he dropped back, I knew it was only a few more miles until Linda was jumping in to join me. Plus, there were the countless enthusiastic, supportive race fans, friends and complete strangers, cheering, singing, dressing up in amusing costumes, holding up signs, and holding all of us up as we all continued on this difficult, exhausting and exhilarating journey. And so I’ve come full circle and can say once again:
“The support of friends, strong motivation, and a good pair of shoes (even ones shipped overnight!) have indeed given me super powers.”
Jodi Clark, Marlboro College Director of Housing
Note: Race walking marathon training plans are available here: http://www.marathonwalking.com/