Destination: Atlanta

This is the truth. I’m landing at the Atlanta airport on Saturday and as I’m getting off the plane, the woman behind me asks me if  I’m in town to cover the Ben Roethlisberger case.

However, I was not in Atlanta for work purposes. I went to the heart of Georgia to engage in what has become a bit of passion in recent years: running. As I blogged before, I got involved in running last year and did four half-marathons ( 13.1 miles ). It went from nervousness in my first run to excitement about my final run of 2009.

This year, I wanted to start the year off with something fun and challenging … and thanks to suggestion of my best friend, Atlanta was the spot for the Georgia Marathon this past Sunday. Joe was going not run, but to support his girlfriend Lisa who was running her first half marathon ever. Joining us for the half marathon were Lisa’s son-in-law Terry Caston and his best friend, Jay Mollahan. They both live in Atlanta. So does Lisa’s daughter Sarah Caston who ran with with her friend, Jacki Brandt. These two women decided to go the extra mile … or shoud I say extra 13.1 miles and do the full marathon.

The gang before sunrise and moments before the 2010 Georgia Marathon. Yours truly, Jay Mallohan, Terry & Sarah Caston, Jacki Brandt and her father and Lisa McEwen. ( Photo courtesy: Laura McEwen )

We started in the dark, just before 7am, in famed Centennial park in Atlanta. Runners emerged by the thousands all ready to run through the streets of the city. It low 50’s but the threat of rain was in the air …. and eventually it would start falling out of the sky. Whether it was our first marathon or our 50th, there is a sense of excitement and tension as you make your way to the starting line. While the individual goals are different for all involved, the general desire is still the same: to finish and finish strong.

Off and running: Yours truly on mile 1 ( photo courtesy Laura mcEwen )

For me, it was a run for which I had not really prepared well for. The snowstorm kept me off the roads for most of February and I had only had one long run since January. However, once I was on the road and running among equals, it as like I was home. I ran through parks and neighborhoods as well as historic sites like the Jimmy Carter and the MLK house. Best sign I saw the whole race? “I have a dream. 13.1”. Best sight? A church choir came out on the street to sign and inspire the runners as they passed by.

Mother & Daughter after the race: Lisa did 13.1 and Sarah did 26.2. ( Photo courtesy: Laura McEwen )

I finished right back in Centennial Park and sprinted the final hundred plus yards. Finished at 1:45:03. Not my best time ever. It was my second best and I was pleased. I was also a full 3 minutes behind Terry and Jay ( They are younger and in their 20’s so they are supposed to be faster than me ).  What was great to see Lisa cross the finish line. She had trained so hard for the great unknown. She was nervous but worked so hard and when she crossed, her grin was from ear-to-ear. She was sore bur proud to have done something she had never done before.

The biggest thrill for all of us came some three hours later when we came back and saw Lisa’s daughter, Sarah, and her friend Jacki cross the finish line hand and hand after 26.2 miles. Someone joked they had lost their sense of humor after mile 24, but there smiles at the finish said something else.

For all of us, whether we did 13 miles or 26, there was a sense of accomplishment having pushed our bodies to a limit that we had never seen before. There was that pride that we made the commitment and saw it through. Best of all, we had an excuse to eat really bad and fatty foods afterwards.

The medal winners after the marathon and, yes, I did grab a shower. ( Photo courtesy: Laura McEwen )

Next for yours truly? I’m going to try the full 26.2 mile experience right here in Pittsburgh. I know it can be done. I’ve seen my friends do it.

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