Rebecca Amitai
Rebecca Amitai

From Couch Potato to Ultra-Marathoner to Kilimanjaro Climber
Sunday, February 05
I’m 59.  In the last 10 years, I’ve completed five marathons and three ultramarathons.  I’ve also completed numerous 50- to 100-mile bikes rides here and in Israel. Add at least 15 sprint and Olympic triathlons to the list, and probably about 100 short races, meaning three miles to 13.1 or half-marathon distance.
 
This is not so unusual, until you factor in that I first “exercised” in 2005, when I was about 47. I did plenty of other things – raising three kids, attempting to make my house a home, working full-time on Wall Street, trying to be a valued member of my community. Certainly, I didn’t sleep much and almost never broke a sweat!
 
It all changed when I was offered an early retirement package by my firm. At first, I viewed it as a sabbatical and worried a little about what would now fill my time. I started compiling a list of things that I didn’t have time for when I was working but could have time for during a sabbatical. Learning about gardening and horticulture was first on the list, and getting involved in some non-profits was next on the list. Getting in shape was next, and being out of shape, believe me when I say I didn’t know where to begin. I certainly didn’t know where I wanted to end up.
 
A good friend was turning 50 and wanted to complete her first triathlon. She asked me to join her. It was just a sprint distance race, considered quite short, but still pretty daunting for someone that couldn’t swim across the pool, didn’t own a bike, and hadn’t run a 5K since I was 20. I figured this sounded like it would help me tackle “getting in shape.” I signed up in February of 2005 and started training. Pretty much every day I did two of the three activities. Once a week, I included some weight training and some yoga.  The work was hard, and to any onlookers, it wasn’t pretty.  But I got my first finisher medal for that event in June, and what a sense of accomplishment that gave me. I got the bug, and decided I wanted to train more and get a little better. Late that year, I lucked into a bib for the NYC Marathon and managed to train to run 26.2 miles. I was far from fast, but I finished.
 
At that point, I was hooked. Hooked on the endorphins? Maybe. Hooked on the sense of accomplishment when you commit to doing the impossible and figure out how to train for it and get it done. Hooked on the sense of community in my tri team and other “racing” friends.  All this fun made me decide that the sabbatical should morph into retirement, and I was beyond happy recreating myself post Wall Street.
 
When I heard the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation was climbing Kilimanjaro, I decided I really wanted to be a part of it.  A good friend was battling multiple myeloma. Kilimanjaro was scary and a big assignment, but so was my friend’s battle. And, hopefully, nothing that I can’t physically train for, mentally prepare for and conquer.
 
And yes, I did pursue horticulture training and non-profit work. I’ve designed and planted and collaborated on quite a few vegetable gardens in my suburban community!!
 
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