Going the Distance


My friends and getting ready for a 10K run
My friends and I getting ready for a 10K run

When my children were little, my friends and I would push our strollers around the Rose Bowl stadium. I’d see people jogging and think “I could never do that.” Then my mother-in-law came to visit us – she was well into her 60s and jogged the over three mile track. This made us think maybe we could do it too. We got baby jogger type strollers and slowly worked our way to making it around the track. I eventually made a tradition of doing a 10K every 4th of July.

Over the years I have switched up my exercise, but I know I look (and more importantly feel) better when I am consistent with some type of exercise. When I am not doing it regularly, I don’t want to; and when I am, I can’t wait to go. You just need to get started…

Setting your sites on a goal is what’s important – whether it’s just power walking around the block or a lofty goal, like a marathon (wow!). My friend, and Plank editor, Mandy Denaux is my guest blogger this week with her journey to the L.A. Marathon.

My road to the finish line

by Mandy Denaux

This past Sunday, I finished the L.A. Marathon, something I never imagined I would even attempt. As I write this, I’m sore, sunburned and blistered from the race, but I’ve never felt better – the feeling of accomplishment that comes from setting, training for and achieving this kind of goal really is indescribable.
I should start by saying I am not a runner. I can spin, do cardio barre and hike all day long, but running has never come naturally to me. Maybe that’s why I decided a few years back to push myself and give it a try. At the time, I couldn’t run a mile, but I started slow and worked my way up to a 5K. The first one was hard, and even after training, I didn’t run the whole thing. I kept at it though, and with a few 5Ks under my belt, I tried a 10K. I wasn’t fast, but with each race, I felt a little more comfortable.

When I moved to L.A., I kept up by running the loop at the Rose Bowl regularly. I never thought about doing anymore than that, but when some friends at work decided to sign up for a half marathon, I thought “what the heck?” I liked the idea of training for something bigger with friends. I trained hard and ran a really good race … for me. I still wasn’t fast by any stretch of the imagination, but I ran consistently for 13.1 miles and finished in just over 2.5 hours. People asked, “What’s next?” Would I try a full marathon? “No way,” I remember telling them. Well, like they say, “Never say never!”

Late last year, another friend signed up for the L.A. Marathon, and I said, “If he can do it, so can I.” So I signed up and immediately thought, “What the heck have I done?” I know myself, so I told everyone I was going to run the marathon — when the going got hard, I might be willing to forfeit the registration fee, but I couldn’t go back on my word. I’d told people I was doing it, and that was that.
I started training in November, running four times per week, slowly increasing my total miles each week. It was strenuous, but I just kept running — I ran on vacation, I ran in the rain and I ran when friends were in town. Toward the end of my 15-week training, I fell off my schedule a bit — I was tired, a little bored and frankly, the long runs took up soooo much time. But with the race looming, I knew there was no turning back. I’d just have to buck up and do it … ready or not.
The cheerleaders and helpers along the route.
The cheerleaders and helpers along the route.
The finish line in the distance.
The finish line in the distance.

My commitment to myself from the start was that I’d run the first 13.1, then walk/run the second half. And I did it, though the last half was far more walk than run. The first eight miles were great — there were cheerleaders and drummers and kids with homemade signs. The next five weren’t bad — there were bands, kind people handing out fruit and firemen cooling us off with hoses. I started to feel the blisters during miles 13-18, but smiling faces in the crowd, runners dressed up like Elvis and people offering high fives made it better. The next seven miles were hell – there were unexpected hills, legs cramps and my blisters were on fire. Just when I wasn’t sure if I could go on, a sweet friend surprised me by running out of the crowd and joining me for the next mile. “You’ve got this,” she said as she left me near the 23 mile mark. I wasn’t so sure, but I limped on, whined a bit and asked myself for the 100th time why I ever decided to do this. Then I turned a corner and saw the ocean … and the finish line. I started to run .. and cry, from relief, as much as pride.

If they can do it, so can you. A police woman and fireman in full uniform, an 80-year-old woman, a super-hero and Legacy Jim, a 75-year-old man who has run every L.A. marathon.
If they can do it, so can you. A police woman and fireman in full uniform, an 80-year-old woman and Legacy Jim, a 75-year-old man who has run every L.A. marathon.

Running a marathon isn’t for everyone (now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure it’s not for me), but there is something about pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone – setting a goal that seems unattainable, making a plan and seeing it through to the end – that is invigorating. That’s really all it is – deciding what you want and going after it. The fact is we can all do more (and be more) than we ever thought we could. And I believe we are absolutely the architects of our own future. Whether your future holds a first 5K, hiking a mountain or learning to paddleboard, just get up right now and take the first step. Whatever it is, just do it. Because life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

medalAfter my run, as I was hobbling to my car, an older man who was visiting from Italy stopped me to say, “Congratulations.” He asked about the race –  where it started, did I finish and how much was my entry fee. When I told him, “$190,” he asked what I got for that. I mumbled something about the medal, because honestly, at that point I just wanted to be home. But later, after a warm bath and some time to reflect, I’d like to change my answer to this: I got funky tan lines, blisters on every toe on my right foot, a really cool medal and a new title — Marathoner. And it was so worth it!



  1. I had not read this blog until today. Super Inspiring. Im currently trying something new and Im super sore and find there are some weeks I just want to do nothing. Your words are like a power boost. This is a blog I may have to re-visit for a weekly boost. Thanks

    • Mandy Denaux

      Cindy, thanks so much for your kind words! I have found there’s a fine line between listening to your body and pushing yourself past the negative talk in your head. I have to stop and say is this my head saying no/i don’t want to, or is this my body saying I need a break. My friend has a great philosophy/saying about setting the table. Set the table for yourself at the beginning of each day about what you’re going to do (eating wise, exercise wise, work wise … whatever) — you’ll know then if you’re body needs a rest. Once the table is set, if you’re waffling on whether to go to the gym or go for that run … that’s your head talking. Good luck and keep us posted — we have to cheer on and motivate each other!!

  2. Danielle

    Your testimony to running a marathon was/is exactly what I need to hear! I am currently training for my first half-marathon. The struggle is definitely real! Trying to whip this body into “half-marathon” shape is no easy task, but with each new day I am up for the challenge.

  3. Stephanie

    Thanks for sharing your story. You are truly motivating because you aren’t afraid to share the truth about the whole experience. It must have been incredible to see the ocean at the end of the marathon!

    • Mandy Denaux

      It was indeed – not sure that I’ve ever been so happy to see water. And yes, it wasn’t all pretty for sure. Thanks, Stephanie, for reading and commenting!

  4. Mandy:

    Congrats on finishing your marathon and sharing the experience with us! It is enjoyable reading, although I must say it makes me tired just reading about you accomplishing this!!! Congratulations and here’s to more marathons in your future!

    • Mandy Denaux

      I think it’s a one and done for me on the marathons, but there may be a mini triathlon someone where in future. We’ll see. Thanks, Jayne!

  5. CONGRATULATIONS MANDY! I knew you could do it.

  6. Mandy,
    Thank you for sharing this post. Like others I love the phrase “you are the architect of your own future”. Now my kids are older I am often at a loose end-not as busy. Setting a new mini goal every two years used to be a mantra of mine but lately I feel just too tired and can’t be bothered. These mini goals were for me alone to stretch and grow and like you when I achieved them I felt so empowered.
    I really think I will try and get back on track now-my mini goals will not start with running a marathon-but maybe they will be stepping stones to a healthier future. Thank you.

    • Mandy Denaux

      Jane, I can’t wait to hear about your next mini goal! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! That architect of the your own future stuff is true. Seriously, I know it’s cheesy, but there’s almost nothing we can’t make a reality if we set our minds to it.

  7. Cindy maras

    hi mary, how are you?

  8. If there were ever a statement that defines you, my wonderful friend, it’s that you are the architect of your own future, and you absolutely and truly are. You are inspiring every day, and that you completed this thing that makes me run in the other direction (well, not run, cuz I more sit than run), makes my jaw just drop. I’ve watched you prepare for this, and I’m so proud of you. What a great guest blog and so appropriate! Pushing past your comfort zone, indeed! Congrats, Mander. Enjoy your one-and-done, cuz it’s a huge accomplishment!

    • Mandy Denaux

      Thank you, my friend! You had to listen to a bunch of running talk and wait for hours while I ran during your visit. Thanks so much for your support and friendship. It means the world to me!

  9. Mary Beth & Mandy, this is such an inspiration! I too prefer spinning and cardio. But I have always wanted to run the Disney Marathon. (I love Walt Disney World) Every year I talk about it but don’t do anything. You have really inspired me Mandy. I have a friend who’s 13 yr. old daughter is training for next years Disney half marathon. If she can do it surely I can train for the marathon. Thank you for this blog! Congratulations on your success in completing your marathon!

    • Mandy Denaux

      Andrea, you can do it! I’ve heard that run is great — with stops to see the characters, etc. I fully expect pictures of your and your friend’s daughter running that marathon!! Keep us posted on your progress and training!

  10. Renate Eberhart

    Congratulations on finishing your marathon Mandy! I had no doubt that you would be able to make it! You are a person that has always set your goals, knowing that you were going to go head first into them knowing you were going to succeed! You make me smile!

    • Mandy Denaux

      Aww, Renate, thank you my birthday twin! Having someone like you in my corner and as a friend certainly makes it easier! Miss you!

  11. Mandy, that is so cool. You are an inspiration. I’ve only done a couple of 5Ks, but I think I will do more. You have inspired me.

    • Mandy Denaux

      Thank you, Anita! I certainly didn’t feel like an inspiration on that day, but in the aftermath, I’m pretty proud! Go you — let us know when you run. Come back and share your pictures and experiences!

  12. Mandy: Your experience sounds so much like my marathon experience, minus the firefighters. Still can’t believe I woke up regularly at 4 am to train. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. Congratulations!

    • Mandy Denaux

      It really is amazing, isn’t it. I thankfully didn’t do the 4 a.m. training. Congratulations to you too! Thanks for reading.

  13. Just wanted to thank you Mary Beth & Mandy for sharing your experiences…fantastic blog this week! You both inspire me to try new things and to reach for new goals. thank you both! 🙂

    • Mandy Denaux

      Thank you so much, Susan! Keep us posted on the new things you try! We can all inspire each other.

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