Growing up, my older sister Megan and I had a relationship I imagine many sisters, two or so years apart, do: the younger idolizes the older, while the older deems herself too sophisticated to acknowledge that the younger even exists. I used to sneak into her room just to touch the clothes in her closet, as if I was combing at the racks at Barney’s, not a selection of separates from The Limited. I remember being thrilled when she would actually wave to me at a Friday night football game—which she usually didn’t if I was in my band uniform. Needless to say, she was in a social stratosphere way above me. While she went to co-ed parties, my best friend and I had Monopoly marathons. While she went to prom with a date coveted by her friends, I made a mixed tape the night of, pretending not to care I wasn’t invited. She was valedictorian, I, well, wasn’t.
Sometime in my 20’s, though, living away from home, I realized two things: that her clothes weren’t that cool and I could define my life in the outline of her shadow, or I could create my own shadow. I opted for the latter. I fell into endurance sports, among other things, and completed the 1995 New York City marathon. My family had never been runners, so my taking on the 26.2 came as a bit of a shock. I don’t think Megan understood why I ran, or more specifically, why I’d run that far with no hope of winning. But slowly, she’s come around to the running way of life, appreciating the mental clarity and physical exhaustion it gives. She trained for a half-marathon a couple years ago, only to stop when she found out she was pregnant. After having her second child, she’s been running regularly. (And, it should be said, shopping like me. We ended up wearing the same sweater from Anthropologie on Thanksgiving; neither of us knew the other had bought it.)
Megan is going to take on the 26.2 miles of the Rock and Roll Marathon on Sunday. I’m not entirely sure what prompted her to sign up: possibly sibling rivalry, which, despite us being closer to 40 years old than 4, still exists (my younger sister and I ran Nike Women’s San Francisco together in October) ; possibly needing a personal goal and some structure outside of play dates and conference calls; possibly cutting a mid-life crisis off at the pass. It doesn’t really matter why she’s going the distance. I’m just impressed that she is. She’s not a natural runner—my mom always said she’d break her ankles, which are roughly the width of a robin’s, if she ran too far—and she’s not as athletically driven (read: stubborn) as I am. Much of her training was through the Denver winter, where her bird ankles, I’m sure, were chapped by the biting wind. She dutifully followed a plan in the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, completing most of her long runs solo—a feat not easy for anybody, let alone a new marathoner.
That said, going the 26.2 certainly isn’t easy for anybody. It definitely didn’t come naturally to me either time, which leads me to believe, since we share the same genes (although I was blessed with more sturdy ankles), that Megan will have both an amazing and amazingly tough day on Sunday. She’ll hit the highs and she’ll hit some lows as she tries to reach her goal: beating Katie Holmes’ 5:30ish time from this year’s NYC Marathon. I'm sure she'll surprise herself by how capable she feels, and she'll leave Katie in the dust.
I thought I’d be more self-congratulatory, my shadow finally leading Megan’s somewhere she wanted to be, but the truth is everybody runs their own race, both in life and on the course. So rock and roll Meg--and enjoy the ride.
Good luck to everybody marathon-bound, Arizona to Disney World this weekend--