What Would Most Surprise People About You?

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A dedicated athlete, I placed tenth in the 1997 Boston Marathon. Surprisingly enough, my participation was actually something of a whim. Prior to the race, I regularly ran four miles per day, but was not competitive with those who competed internationally. Yet I was intrigued by the allure of the Boston Marathon and couldn't resist the urge to participate. As I investigated different training regimes, the enormity of the challenge sank in. The regimes required an aggressive eighteen-week period and a minimum of four days a week: a high commitment. The duration of these runs also increased throughout the program, requiring a gradual increase in time, peaking at sixteen hours per week.

The physical training was tough (due to an old athletic injury), but managing my time was tougher. I was the spokesperson for Loreal Cosmetics, a role that required travel to both France and London. My professional commitments were as intense as my running schedule, stretching my organizational skills to the limit.

Yet I embraced the training with gusto, gradually building my strength and increasing my distances. With just four weeks to go, I could run twenty miles. To juggle my dual commitments of work and running, I became a master of efficiency, developing organizational skills I continue to practice today. Unfortunately, my left knee was also beginning to trouble me at these longer distances.

On the race day, I covered my knee in pain-relieving gel and progressed to the starting point. For the first twelve miles I felt confident, but I found it difficult to increase pace due to the mass of runners in front of me. Forced to slow down, I contained the pain in my knee and continued to run at a comfortable pace. With about three miles to go, the pain became excruciating, yet I knew that I had a chance to place well. Many of my fellow runners had fallen back or dropped out of the race, sidelined by injuries, dehydration or exhaustion. I concentrated only on crossing the finish line. The crowd cheered me on with loud, good-natured support, erasing any concerns about my injury or knee pain. As I crossed the finish line in a time of five hours and thirty five minutes, someone even encouraged me to spurt. I honestly did not know whether to laugh or cry.

At the time, I did not appreciate the enormity of my success. My knee injury took months to heal and I was physically exhausted for weeks. My tenth place finish impressed close friends, but it didn't lead to product endorsements or national television interviews. Yet the Boston Marathon literally changed my life. My confidence was bolstered by placing tenth in the most famous marathon on earth, ahead of many well-known athletes and runners. I also learned the benefits of planning, training and pursuing a seemingly unattainable challenge. Although I rarely discuss the race with new friends and colleagues, its lasting effects are always visible. My peers see me as an accomplsihed woman who approaches all tasks with enthusiasm, confidence and dedication. I developed all of those qualities while training for the 1997 Boston Marathon.