Am I mad for signing up to train for a marathon?

By Rob Banaszak on May 20, 2011 in Team To End AIDS

by Rob Banaszak, AIDS United Communications Officer & Team to End AIDS Participant

It is the day before our first training run for the Team to End AIDS training program.  Just three miles tomorrow.  Piece of cake, right?  I think I have what I need.  My awesome new running shoes (the most I have ever paid for athletic shoes), my gear belt, water bottle and i.d. tag.  I have had some really great short runs and cross training throughout this week.  I am about halfway to my fundraising goal.  As Jodie Foster’s character Dr. Ellie Arroway says in the movie Contact when she is in the spaceship about to be sent into the depths of space, “I’m okay to go.”

But as this Friday afternoon draws to a close, I feel my heart starting to beat a little faster when I think about the journey I am about to embark on.

Let me start by saying that I have always had the idea of running in a marathon in the back of my head.  I have run most of my adult life, but it was basically as the cardio component to my daily workout.  Two to three miles a day, 15 miles a week TOPS.  Though I did the first DC AIDS Ride back in the late 90’s, which was transformational, running an endurance event just didn’t seem like a possibility.  I was never a long-distance runner, so never really thought that running in a marathon was a REAL possibility, despite my musings about it.

Then a few years back my husband and I became acquainted with a man whom I will call Joe.  He was a man in his late 50s or early 60s.  A kind and gentle soul, who, soon after we met him, got very sick with some sort of ailment – not even sure what it was – that made him swell and caused him pain and nearly killed him.  So sad, right?

Except flash forward about a year after this happened, and Joe had fully recovered.  And not only fully recovered, but was training to run in the Marine Corps Marathon.  And then started training for Boston, and New York, and  other marathons AROUND THE WORLD.  It was one of the most inspiring life transformations I have ever witnessed.

So that really got me thinking…if JOE could do it at his age and after his nearly-fatal illness, SURELY I could run in a marathon!

Did I do anything about it at the time?  Nope.

Flash forward a few more years.  I am now in my 40s.  And now I have friends here in DC that are regular marathoners.  For them, doing the Marine Corps marathon every year – as well as other various races — is second nature. And now I’m starting to feel that nagging thought again that I should try this.

It is January 2010.  I have joined the National AIDS Fund (now AIDS United) as Communications Officer.   I have decided somehow that I really need to find a marathon to run. So I go online to check out the only marathon training program I can recall, working in HIV/AIDS and all.  The National AIDS Marathon training program.  Except that it no longer exists.

Oh well.

Then at the end of 2010, National AIDS Fund decides to launch Team to End AIDS in DC.  T2, as it is abbreviated, is a fundraising endurance training program developed by AIDS Foundation of Chicago a few years back.  And T2 DC’s training program will train you to — guess what?  Why, run in the Marine Corps Marathon, of course!

It’s  January, 2011. National AIDS Fund has become AIDS United and AIDS United’s first announcement as a new organization is the launch of T2.  I am the communications person in charge of promoting this launch.  The money raised by participants will benefit my organization.  I have been thinking about running in a marathon on and off for years and years.


Well of course I did.  In fact, I, and my colleague Suzanne (who is an endurance athlete), are the very first two people to sign up for T2 DC.

Which brings me to this place at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, and the eve of our first training run.  My heart is racing because of my anxiety for tomorrow.  Oh, and because the caffeine is kicking in from my late afternoon dirty chai (chai latte with espresso, in case you were wondering).   And all I can do to calm myself down is return to my preparedness, my longtime desire to see if I could run a marathon, and all the ways that the Universe aligned to lead me to a program that will train me to complete the event while raising money for my amazing organization.

“I’m okay to go!”


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