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Denethor looks out over the plain of Pelennor and sees an overwhelming mass of enemies approaching the white city. When the attack begins, he commands his men to abandon their posts, to flee for their lives. At this point, the wizard Gandalf smacks Denethor in the head, and leads the men to defend Minas Tirith.

On the treadmill yesterday, while watching this particular movie scene, I realized the role I had been playing:

I was Denethor.

The pain in my knee, plus a million stresses from daily life, had formed battle lines outside the gates, and when under siege, I fled.

I didn’t quit running, but I did flee mentally.

Before going on vacation, I managed to do an 18 mile run. I planned to write a victorious blog about it, but that would have been pure fiction.

It was an ugly 18 miles. I had to stop, stretch, and even walk. It was not glorious. It was humbling.

However, yesterday I was smacked in the head by a Gandalf guised as a physical therapist. This wise and good person showed me ways to improve muscle strength, so that my kneecaps will track properly. That is the long-term fix.

Towards the end of the session, she looked at me and stated (though it was in question form), “You’re still going to do the marathon anyway, right?” The question had been floating around in my head, but the answer had never clearly taken shape.

I’d like to say I answered a rousing “Huah! Yes, Ma’am!”

Instead, in my own, quiet, Keri-like way, I replied, “I’d like to.”

Fortunately, this was on an army post, where even the babies are born tough.

“Okay then,” she said, digging out some tape, “You can run the marathon, but it’s probably going to be painful.”

Then she strapped my kneecaps into place with tape.

I went home and did nine miles on the treadmill with no pain.

When the armies of Mordor were defeated, I cried.

Hope is not gone after all.

Stats:

Miles: After my 18 mile run, I took six days off. However, I have run 45 miles since my last post. I ran some glorious trails while on vacation, though I walked up hills, and hobbled at the end.

Weather: it has gotten hotter here recently, which means I have to either run early in the morning, or on the treadmill. I’m SO glad the marathon begins at 7:30 in the morning. July can actually feel like July here.

Wildlife: I didn’t know it (though I hopped over much evidence) that in Austria I was running through cow pastures. I heard their bells before I saw them. If I ever own a cow, I’m putting a big leather collar with a bell around its neck.

A beautiful setting for a run.

Even the fastest marathoners have to peel off their sweaty socks after a run, just like I do. This is comforting.

I am an average woman. I have a little too much love on the handles. I like to drink a glass of wine and have ice cream, though never at the same time. I can’t do a handstand or a push-up (yet). I have tendencies towards sloppiness. I love pedicures, tan feet, and Cajun Shrimp-colored toenails. I love my husband and my kids with all my heart. I am a normal woman. I am also a marathoner.

I wasn’t born wearing team colors. Music, art, and literature are the creative outlets of choice in my family. I am not somehow predisposed to running. I am simply a woman who has set her mind on a healthy lifestyle. The marathon is a tool to help me live this.

It isn’t often your body simply gives out while on a run; but your mind can. In fact, it’s usually the mind that throws in the towel first. But if you learn to set your mind to something, and you keep realistic goals, then there is no reason you can’t run, walk, bike, swim, eat veggies, lower your cholesterol, lose weight, or whatever it is you want to do. These are things within your control; it just takes your mind to steer the body.

It’s hard work. I know there will be failure as well as success. But my goal is not to win the race; my goal is to defeat the quitter within. This mental endurance, I believe, will translate into other areas of my life. In fact, it already has.

Stats:

Terrain: I did my run to the old trail. I dog-legged quite a bit in order to get the mileage. I felt bad physically before running, but I took some ibuprofen and ended up having a great run. I kept a medium heart rate for the first three miles, and then kicked it up for the home stretch.

Overall feeling: I was REALLY pumped up after my run. I don’t know if I quite achieved the ‘runner’s high,’ but I was close. Just thinking about it makes me feel good.

Weather: 44 degrees. It was insanely windy on the way out, which was fantastic when coming back. It started raining on me, but I just thought of it as extra sweat (I’m usually soaked anyway after a run). At one point, the sun came out. I’m no Eric Liddell, but I did lift my face to the sky, thank God, and smile. Even though the sun was short-lived, it raised my spirits a lot.

Wildlife: nearly collided with a small yellow bird, who was zipping around like crazy in the high winds. A jack-rabbit sat up to admire me. There were many, many worms to jump over.

Sunday marked three weeks since I began this journey (and I’m still not to the ‘official’ training schedule yet).

Miles: Saturday 0, Sunday 7.5

Total miles for the week: 22.5

Weight: 157.5 (same as last week, to my dismay. I need to lay off the white rice).

Shoes: inaugurated the size 12 Mizunos with some good, old-fashioned Franconian farm mud (at least, I hope it was just mud). The shoes are perfect.

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