Sometimes you run the race and sometimes the race runs you. This race was the latter. Last Sunday I ran my fourth full marathon. Despite months of planning and preparation when the shoes hit the road it all fell apart. Running a marathon does funny things to you, out there on the road, feeling so alone surrounded by thousands of people. Everyone has the same goal, but you have to get there by yourself.
I always start a race with a couple goals in mind. First and foremost, finish feeling good. The second goal is a finish time I think I can hit without too much trouble, in this case 4:30. The third goal is a stretch a time I would love to hit, but everything will have to be smooth to get there, on Sunday that time was 4:10.
It started out great, feeling strong, comfortable, and unhurried. I stopped to get band aids for blister I was having trouble ignoring around mile 12. Somewhere around mile 15 the wheels started to fall off, my legs ached, nothing felt right, the music was wrong, I couldn’t stop my head from spinning with all the mistakes I had made in the last two and a half hours. At mile 16 the 4:30 pace group passed me, who needs them anyway. Somewhere between 17 and 18 the 4:45 group slides by. That’s where it all feel apart on the road, the tears flowed and the swear words flew. When the 5 hour overly cheerful pacer passed my at mile 20 I was ready to quit and call it a day. I’ve thought a lot of things in the midst of a marathon, but this was the first time I actually wondered how bad it would be to just bow out and go home. Instead I sent a message to one of the few people I know who would tell me what I needed to hear in that moment. She answered- Shoulders back, head up, keep moving forward. That is exactly what I did.
Running gives and it takes just as much. Everyone knows, the hardest part of running a marathon is that it all comes down to one day. I can dissect training schedules, shoe issues, sleep patterns, or work schedules but at the end of the day the times I spent between the start line and the finish line, I ran the best race I could, and that’s what matters. I was reminded by a very good friend that we focus on the finish lines, not the finish times. I didn’t get into running to have record times. I didn’t get into running to run faster than my friends or win in my age group. I run to start my day on my terms. I run to spend time with some of my closest friends in the wee hours of the morning. I run to keep my body strong and balance my love of food. I run to keep my head above the low tide of depression that is always in the shadows. None of that has anything to do with the time on the clock.
Event though the numbers aren’t on the scale, It seems I still have some work to do letting go of them.