Elaine Doll-Dunn, Psy.D.

“Goodbye Marathon, my dear old friend, I’m sorry you’re gone, I’ll miss you. We’ve had a great relationship, you changed my life. You taught me how to thrive, not just survive. Ah, the joy of our journey…you challenged, I responded. You provided, I persevered; you demanded, I delivered. This is the stuff of real friends.”

William Bridges, in his best seller Managing Transitions, reminds us that any change involves three distinct phases. The ending, losing, letting go; the neutral zone; and the new beginning. Yesterday I experienced the first phase, or rather a part of it.

For the first time in 27 years I did not run the Mt Rushmore…nee Black Hills…Marathon. In 1979, I first tested the real waters of running by experiencing the marathon. That prodigious event helped to launch me not only on a career of “fit” awareness, but the accoutrements of that; speaking, writing, coaching, modeling, and competing in a sport which, for all its lack of public acclaim, rewards its athletes with fitness, friends, and fortitude…not bad for the price of a pair of Asics.

The marathon changed hands last year, and I thought then that having done 26 in a row, now would be a good time to ‘retire’. But the lure of this particular weekend, the draw of the hills, and the reality of having been the only person to have run all of these…I succumbed to tradition and signed up for the half. (At least I had that much restraint!) Having previewed the new course, I was fairly certain it would not be the wonderful experience I’d had the last year when I cruised in at a time just 8 minutes slower than my first marathon in ’79.

It was brutal. The reality of distance compounded by a nine mile relentless uphill struggle that terminated---I use the word deliberately---in a relentless climb to an invisible finish line. I feel that I witnessed the demise of one marathon and the birth of another. I suggest we go back and rename all the previous runs on the old course, the Black Hills Marathon. It had a distinct flavor, a near perfect course (Dick Beardsley’s comment), and a history comparable to none in South Dakota. This new course is called a “Monumental Challenge” and that it is. Not only in the cleverness of the name…running from Mt. Rushmore to Crazy Horse, but in that it is challenging physically to the point of changing sports. It is now truly a race for the young, the gunners, and the seekers of new adventures. It is probably not one to be repeated, but I don’t need to climb Kilimanjaro again either. The scenery was great, as it is anywhere in the hills, the course confusing, and the finish demonic. We seemed to be almost running in place as the double whammy of fatigue and distance was crowned by a mythical finish somewhere up in the clouds.

I am still in the throes of letting go; I trust I will remain in the neutral zone for a time, and then I will endorse a new beginning. Chicago is out there, Portland, and some fabulous old races in Europe, I am now free to go. But for now, I sing the praises of the old marathon, as any requiem is designed to do, and take the time to grieve my friend. We grew together with help from each other; the goal always to get better, to learn, and to be the best that we could be. Minor changes over time helped both of us to evolve into the person meant to be and the race designed for history. You gave me much, and I am grateful for lessons learned about myself on your demanding yet forgiving slopes. You taught me that I can, you taught me that I will, and you taught me that the impossible is really only the untried. Goodbye, rest in peace, and may the memories of our 681.2 miles together assuage my grief and hasten my acceptance of the new, the next, the now.
Milli says: “Now you know how I feel about a trade-in.”

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