Walking in Rare Air

A few weeks ago, I quietly lamented the passing of another Steamtown Marathon without being in it.

A few weeks ago, I quietly lamented the passing of another Steamtown Marathon without being in it. I really wanted to do it this year, but with my mom's surgery and recovery taking up the majority of the winter and spring when I would normally train, the runs were not there to build up any sort of serious mileage.

A few days after the race, my wife Sheryl's cousin, Beki Kosydar-Krantz, posted that she wanted to walk the first half of the Steamtown Marathon course in a genuine, imitation half-marathon. The event was totally unsanctioned, but the distance was totally legit.

On an early Sunday morning, 5 brave souls toed the start of the Steamtown Marathon course. Beki led the gang of her cousin Nicole, her neighbor Paul, myself, and Sheryl, who about a month ago walked roughly the same distance through Philadelphia to see Pope Francis.

That journey was spiritual. This one was personal.

Sheryl and Beki found out they were cousins when we looked through Beki’s daughter’s baby book and noticed that her grandfather's last name was the same as Sheryl's grandfather.

I could have told you they were related by looking at their medical records. They are both autoimmune disorder nightmares, with Beki fighting lupus, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune thyroid disease, and Sheryl having the same thyroid disease, gluten intolerance, fibromyalgia, and endometriosis that up until her surgery in March had fused the majority of her pelvic organs together.

Walking the first half of the Steamtown Marathon was a test to prove that their diseases were not ruling their lives. They wanted to control their bodies and make them do something that they really were not conditioned to do.

I knew that no matter how they felt, their stubborn Italian genes would never let them quit.

The first mile flew by, the second mile was uphill, and since the course was open to traffic, miles 3 through 5 were spent on a very uneven berm that took a toll on my wife's stride. Even with the difficulty, Sheryl saw the big picture and realized that every mile we walked was 1 less mile we had to be out there.

When we got around the 10-mile mark, we all knew that we had enough leg to get to the finish line. Confidence replaced discomfort and we marched on.

Sheryl struggled, but she just held my hand and kept plugging.

We passed mile 13, joined hands, and ran the last stretch to the finish line. Thanks to Beki's husband Frank, we finished to fireworks (confetti poppers), balloons, and the Chariots of Fire theme song taking us across the finish.

It was the farthest the 4 of them had ever walked and the first time in a while that I went further than 4 miles. All in all, it was a good day at the office.

Post-race refreshments never tasted so good. I never saw my wife drink a cider with such gusto.

Whether it’s run or walked, a half-marathon is serious business, and anyone with that distance to his or her credit is an absolute rock star.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, marches on.