Two weeks later, on a long-run day, we are standing outside Oprah's Chicago apartment building in a downpour. Gayle has flown in and looks at the sky incredulously. We have not a visor among the seven of us, much less any sort of real runner's rain gear. I think I hear thunder. Calmer heads prevail as we pack into our cars and drive over to the East Bank Club and its indoor running track. Okay, eight miles—48 laps—around and around. It is mental torture. From miles three to eight, my mind is screaming for me to stop; I hear other groans and know that I am not alone. I think this could very well be the hardest thing I've ever done. We end the session aching, delirious and utterly spent. I am wondering if 13 miles is possible. I keep my thoughts to myself.
Outside Oprah's building again the following Sunday: It feels as if we were just here. But today is beautiful and breezy. The Chicago lakefront is particularly dazzling. The sun sparkles on the water. We are cheerier; we are hopeful. Our eight-mile run is difficult but not impossible. That is the training roller coaster. One week, it's not as bad as you think; the next week, agony. Progress is not a straight line. There is an ebb and flow. I know that. I also know that in two weeks, when we move up to nine miles on our long runs, this bit of wisdom will be quickly forgotten. I'll be freaked.
On the up side, each one of us has forged her own unique progress, and there have been good results galore.
The power of the group keeps us going
Seven very different women have become a circle of friends. It's hard not to. We start our days together, and with just a glance, we know who was up with a sick baby the night before, who is heading down the slippery slope to a pizza binge, who had a date with a new guy, who needs a hug. We laugh like crazy. It's a new kind of back fence: We aren't hanging out laundry; we are becoming a team.
I continue to observe the subtle and not-so-subtle changes in my workout friends, and I know this is so much bigger than what it started out to be. Lose weight? Ha! How about really living your best life. I am fascinated as I watch the power of this group unfold. And my dream gets bigger all the time. If we had a vote today, I would be dead in the water, but I am determined to get the Spa Girls to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa for what is basically one of the most challenging hikes in the world. (The five-day trip to the 19,300-foot summit doesn't require rock-climbing expertise.) Talk about a big fat yes! to life.
I've come to realize there is something special about our quest. At the end of 13.1 miles, I imagine a tears-of-joy kind of triumph, with us having done what we once thought we could not do. And that feeling can carry a Spa Girl a long, long way.
Will all seven of us cross the finish line together? I honestly can't say. But, by the narrowest of margins, we have agreed to try.
Sheri Salata works as the senior supervising promotions producer at Harpo Productions.