Cruising Along…..To The Marathon

For most people, a cruise ship is the perfect chance for some serious R & R. It’s a time to sip pina coladas poolside on the lido deck without a care in the world. However, the cruise ship experience is a little different for a runner. Typically there is a small loop on the top deck that has dedicated times for the walkers/runners on-board.DSCN0791  It’s easy for a runner of any ability to have a love/hate relationship with the cruise ship’s track. Sure if it wasn’t there, you would gain 10 pounds from the midnight buffet. And it can keep you on your running schedule even when you are on vacation. However let’s face it, the track is not the most ideal running facility. It can get very hot, slippery, crowded and it is often so small that the tediousness is unbearable.DSCN0790

However, those limitations did not deter NJ runner and former cruise ship director, Dawn Thompson from accomplishing some major running milestones. While she lived on the legendary Queen Elizabeth 2, Dawn trained for the 1992 NYC marathon after 3 years of running consistently. The track she trained on was a mere 1/5 of a mile, so her 20-mile training runs required Dawn to do 100 laps! Since this was a pre-GPS, pre-Nike App world, Dawn picked up pennies after each lap to keep track of her distance.

For Thompson, who currently serves as Neptune’s Recreation Director, the experience was equally unique and incredible. She started to run as a way to shed a few pounds gained from eating and drinking while aboard. Before long, her determination became relentless. She ran every other day noting, “I had no excuses because I took off yesterday and I will take off tomorrow.” She alternated between 5 and 10 miles and would complete a 20 miler every few months. Yes, the tiny loop was tedious, however Dawn possessed a runner’s determination.

When asked about the difficulties and limitations, Dawn remembered a few…finding 4-hour blocks of time to train was never easy. Challenges also arose with deck cleaning, bad weather, high winds and her asthma. When days were rough, Dawn turned to the inspiration of the sea to push her through. What also helped Dawn was the occasional opportunity to run on land when the ship was at port.

After 3 years of perseverance, marathon race day was a memorable one for Dawn. She proudly donned a “QE2” shirt enabling folks to cheer her on as she followed the course. A good friend of hers (from the ship’s print shop) made every effort to see her throughout the race. He had never been on a NYC subway before and didn’t know the city well. But he hustled his way throughout the 5 boroughs and saw Dawn 6 times providing her with some much needed inspiration during the race.

Dawn’s remarkable cruise ship training paid off as she proudly trotted across the finish line (without walking) accomplishing her goal – completing a marathon! Ohh…..and that friend of hers from the Print Shop? Fast forward 20 years and they are happily married with 2 sons.

Next time you are on a cruise, shake off that hangover and be sure to grind a few miles on the ship’s track. It won’t be easy and obstacles will be in your way, however channel your inner Dawn-ness and get after it!


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Charlie Hoffmann

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