Run a Marathon...on an Elliptical

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by Karen Bergreen
eliptical image

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.

Karen Bergreen is the author of Perfect is Overrated.

Next: Shake Up Your Senses

Image courtesy of Julian Rovagnati/

First Published Mon, 2013-07-22 15:07

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