Chasing 1, And 50


For the last couple of years I’ve been intermittently writing my Chasing 50 column. Most of you know I’ve been trying to run a marathon in each of the 50 states. On Sunday I will complete my journey at the Vermont City Marathon, in Burlington.

For most of the marathons, I’ve run alone. But on Sunday I will have a running companion, Dr. Mary. In honor of my 50th state she has decided to run her 1st. Mary made her decision to run back in March, and just recently started telling folks. Over the past couple of months I’ve heard her second guess her decision (a least a couple of times). (Running a marathon always seems like a good idea at sign-up, but looks more like a mistake the closer one gets to race day.) However, with a week to go, Mary is locked in and laser focused.

For me, my new name is coach, or at least that’s how I’m referred to. While the title has come in handy with regard to our relationship, it feels awkward giving out running advice, especially to Mary. It requires me to really think about how I run marathons, and then teach what I know to someone else. Some of the advice I’ve given to her has to do with body mechanics, but it’s amazing how little we’ve talked about that. Most of our conversations have to do with positive thinking. For the last part of this column I’m going to illustrate this with a couple of lines from our daily conversations, starting a week before the race.

Sunday, May 17th

Dr. Mary: Honey my hips are sore from our run last night. All my muscles hurt. Do I have to run today?

Coach Mark: You gotta run through the pain, Babe. Just a few miles tonight. When you get done with the marathon, you won’t even notice the pain in your hips.

Monday, May 18th

Dr. Mary: Honey, which one of these sports bras do you like?

Coach Mark: I love them all, Babe …. I mean it.

Tuesday, May 19th

Dr. Mary: Coach, I don’t think I can run 26 miles.

Coach Mark: Honey, you just run one mile, 26 times. Don’t ever get ahead of yourself. When I inhale, I don’t even think about the exhale. And BTW, it’s 26.2 miles. There have been days when that .2 almost killed me.

Wednesday, May 20th

Dr. Mary: When we get back to Minneapolis can we stay at Radisson BLU, Mall of America? … for my reward?

Coach Mark: Okay

Thursday, May 21th

Coach Mark: Drive your arms and keep your head up, Honey. You look great. You’ve got a nice pace going.

Dr. Mary: You look great too, Babe.

Friday, May 22nd

Dr. Mary: There’s no way this is going to work.

Coach Mark: What?!

Dr. Mary: I can’t find a running skirt that works with this pink top. There’s a cute running skirt, but nothing that matches with that, either. If I buy the orange running skirt, I’ll have to get a top at the expo, unless I get this white singlet. What do you think?

Coach Mark: (Pause) No response

Saturday, May 23rd

From Dr. Mary: The conversation content is different, but I’m looking forward to spending the morning exercising with Mark on Sunday, without phones or pagers or other distractions. That is, I was looking forward to some time for just the two of us, until Mark shared that he’s bringing his phone to video me during the race. I’m glad I put a little time into training and picking out a sweet new outfit!


Mark will be running this very special marathon, hoping not to get distracted by Mary’s cute new outfit. 

Posted on by Mary Clifton, MD


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