If my high school had bestowed an award on the student “Least Likely to Succeed in Gym,” the prize would have been mine. In college, my NordicTrack served as a coat rack. In my twenties, though, I learned to love running. Although competitive sports had never been part of my drama-geek repertoire, I had a secret wish to complete a marathon. I’d been running about 35 miles per week. A would-be novelist, I loved the narrative: “Former dud runs like the wind!” But soon I learned that my marathon victory was not to be. The spoiler: my unreliable knees. And then I discovered the elliptical machine at my gym, New York Sports Club. It strengthens the muscles around my knees; it calculates my speed and distance; and does all that with television.
It came to me: What if I ran the 26.2 miles of a marathon on the elliptical? Easy terrain, 16 channels at my disposal and a willing gym staff. At that time, I was doing seven miles a day on the machine, six days a week. But now that I was “in training” I decided, after consulting real marathon running guides, that I’d run 10 miles a day for five weeks, with weekly 15 milers and one 20.
As much as I wanted to marathon, I hated the training. My beloved elliptical, once a place of escape and aerobic high, became a source of pure anxiety. Everything hurt. Why was I doing this, again?
I was miserable, but I continued.
On marathon day, a hideous Nor’easter made me grateful I’d be performing indoors. I was slow to start: The first mile felt like the 27th. But soon I settled in to Law & Order: SVU—luckily for me, they too were doing a marathon! At the seventh mile, when the gym was empty and nobody would steal my machine, I took a two-minute bathroom break. Like a real distance runner, I drank my Gatorade and ate my bananas. My neck started to hurt at mile 13, but I knew I would finish. At mile 26, three hours and 55 minutes later, there were no silver robes or cheering crowds. Just a bunch of oblivious gym members doing their own thing. Magically, that was enough.
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