Say hello to your most naked self: Lessons learned over 26.2 miles

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Last weekend I ran the 2011 Los Angeles marathon.

There’s really no better way to see what you’re truly made of than running 26.2 miles. Want to test yourself even further? Run those miles in endless driving rain, bone-chilling winds, and a t-shirt and shorts.

For a small glimpse of what we ran through, check out this video I came across on YouTube:


There is no hiding from yourself here. Every self-doubt you knew you had along with all of those you didn’t come screaming to the surface as you question your sanity and your ability to take another step. It hurts like hell, you’re barely coherent, your hands are frozen into a claw, and your legs are screaming at you.

Some might ask (as I did, repeatedly, over the entire 26.2 miles)”Why on earth put yourself through such a thing? Willingly?”

Mid-race, I couldn’t come up with a good reason. But the day after, my amazing friend Laura who’d traveled all the way from Portland to run this race with me in “sunny” California, said: “I always learn something important about myself when I cross the finish line. What did you learn?”

Good question.

I learned:

I can do anything. Even in the darkest moments of that day, I never seriously entertained the thought of quitting. I longed desperately for it to be over, I had no idea how I’d take another step, and I wanted to sit and cry at the state we were in, but deep down I knew we would somehow rally and make it to that finish line. Quitting wasn’t an option.

I can’t d o it alone. Community is where it’s at. Whether it’s a dear friend, running along side me, sprinkling me with pep talks and holding my hand (literally) through those last excruciating miles. Or whether it’s the face of a loved one who’s stood out in the rain for hours just to give me a quick strong hug as I pass and a buoyant heart to carry me the next few miles. Or whether it’s the group of incredible runners I trained and fundraised with from Team To End Aids that I knew had my back. Or all of the people who donate to my cause and who were with me in spirit that waterlogged morning. There’s no way I could have achieved this feat solo.


Attitude is everything. I struggled a lot on this point. It’s hard to keep it positive when you’re cold, soaked, and miserable. This lesson I learned from Laura, who laughed, told funny stories, and somehow thoroughly enjoyed herself through the whole saga. I soaked up little bits of her attitude by sheer osmosis. So if you find yourself struggling on this point like I did, stick yourself next to someone who’s attitude rocks and it might rub off on you.

Naked food wins again. Nothing, absolutely nothing, tastes better than a big hunk of fresh-cut orange handed to you by a volunteer. No sports gel, drink, block, or chew can replace the boost your body gets from real food. Period.

After we’d thawed and dried, and lay huddled in blankets in front of the fire and a few good movies post-marathon, I swore up and down I’d never, ever do such a foolish and painful thing again.

Now? A few days later? I’m already wondering when I’ll have the next opportunity to dip into that well again, to test my mental and physical mettle and see what new lessons await me at the finish line.

photo credit


  1. Shayla


    Great thoughts Margaret. Anyone who knows you already knows all these great things about you. It is funny how we can see others best characteristics, but it is so hard to recognize them in ourselves. On a truly miserable day, you were more than successful, you were inspiring.

    • Ah, thanks so much Shayla. It means a lot to hear that – especially from you! 🙂 xo

  2. Very good blog post, Margaret. I never seriously entertained the notion of giving up either but Joey, Bill and I joked about stopping at Alta Loma to have some hot cocoa, dry off and watch the marathon on tv in Bill’s apartment. Of course we trotted by and our respective apartments were quickly a fading memory.

    Indeed WE CAN do anything and we RARELY do it alone.

    Congratulations on finishing what will surely go down as one of the most grueling run in the 26-year history of the Los Angeles Marathon!

  3. caren



    Congratulations on going the distance! You are amazing! We all got soaked and raised lots of money for Sojourn Battered Women and their Children. Call me if you want to join the Team Sojourn marathon celebration party on Sunday! That’s where all the athletes like you get served by the volunteers like us.

  4. John Larson



    Congrats on finishing what surely will be known as your “first” marathon. Your story is one similar to many of my runner friends, and my own. In 2008, my wife finished her first marathon (Portland, OR) after being told in her early 20’s that she would never be able to run. She had experienced an illness (Guillain–Barré syndrome) that had paralyzed her entire body for 4 months. 91 days in intensive care at Duke Medical Center on a respirator had reduced her to 90 pounds. But, she is a fighter:) We have two beautiful children, and she is leaving for Boston in two weeks to compete in the Boston Marathon which she qualified for at the Portland Marathon last October (her 5th marathon).
    After seeing her finish that 1st one, I decided that the extra 30 pounds I’d gained since college needed to go. I started running with her and a running group (Club Oly) and was hooked. The companionship of runners is unequaled. We motivate, inspire, challenge, and share in our success. I’ve completed two marathons since then, and my family and I have also made the easy switch to “eating naked”. We also support local agricultural producers by shopping at our farmer’s market, and buying our eggs, dairy, and meat from neighbors (who have become our good friends).
    Thank you for sharing your marathon experience! It is an opportunity to learn a lot about yourself, and hopefully motivate others to try…cheers!

  5. Lori


    Congratulations! What a huge accomplishment in those weather conditions. That video was intense.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with such authenticity and vulnerability….you made me feel like I could run a marathon!

  6. Lorraine


    You rock!!!!! Congrats. So fabulous. And I know you are also someone who has offered that community to other marathoners too. Isn’t it so true that what comes around goes around?

    Hats off to you my friend!

    • Lorraine, I think the marathoner you’re referring to is actually the one who was holding my hand through the last 3 miles of this race! 🙂 What goes around DEFINITELY comes around! xox

  7. Pingback: 6 Strategies for New Moms Who Want to Get Fit | Eat Naked Now

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