I still remember almost every step of the first marathon I ever ran – Chicago, 2006. At some points along the course, I felt invincible. At others I felt low and was lucky to be surrounded by cheering spectators who helped me carry on. At mile 22 I felt an almost insatiable craving for steak tacos come on. When I crossed the finish line, I felt a sense of pride. I knew that from that point forward, I would always be able to call myself a marathoner.
I’ve done a lot more since then. Assuming all goes well and I don’t get injured, I’ll be completing my goal of running at least a half marathon in all 50 US states by the end of next year. Add in ten marathons and countless other races of varying distances and it surprises me to think about the number of miles I’ve put in over the last ten years.
But as state number 50 approaches, so does an interesting question that I’ve been pondering more and more lately…. What’s next? I’ve been toying around with some ideas and I’ll see what shakes out over the next 18 months. In the meantime, I’ve been finding a lot of my inspiration in books like Keep on Running by Phil Hewitt.
In Keep on Running, Phil talks about his highs and lows in a number of different marathons. He starts with his first in London, England in 1998 and ends with Mallorca, Spain in 2010. Along the way you can read about some of his trials and tribulations in cities like Rome, Paris, Berlin, and New York as he went from being a first time marathoner trying to raise money for a charity to a running addict. Music fans should also take note – as a tribute to Phil’s love for the Rolling Stones, each chapter is titled after a Stones song.
There were a few things I enjoyed about this book. First, it gave me some great ideas for races to run in Europe (and a couple to stay away from). Each chapter covers one or two different races and Phil does a great job of describing the courses in such detail that I almost felt like I was running alongside him. He also talks about the events leading up to the race, where he stayed, etc…
More importantly though, I really enjoyed Phil’s brutal honesty about his feelings during each race. He talks about highs in New York and Paris to lows in Amsterdam and Rome where he went as far as to question whether his best marathons were behind him. He also talks about having to deal with cold and rainy weather, blistering heat and a variety of other conditions that are enough to make some people want to give up. And here’s the thing – every emotion he describes is one that I’ve felt during a race myself at one point or another. I’m sure most other runners have as well. The fact that his stories are so easily to relate to, even for someone who lives in Chicago (Phil is from England) shows that the language of running truly is universal.
I had a chance to exchange a couple emails with Phil over the last few weeks. We talked about his early days as a runner, his first London Marathon at age 34 and some of his more memorable experiences over the years. He has some great stories to share both in the book and in addition to it.
I was also sad to hear that in addition to recovering from a serious bout with Pneumonia, Phil was recently the victim of a mugging in South Africa where he was stabbed multiple times as well as having his ribs kicked in. His wounds are healed but he hasn’t run a marathon since his injuries. He’s in the process of getting himself back into marathon shape now. So I’ll be rooting for Phil will be running again soon… and also hoping that he’ll consider coming to run the Chicago Marathon at some point.