October, 31, 2010
I just had a bit of an epiphany.
I was writing a long-winded facebook message to a friend, pontificating (as one can only do in a long-winded facebook message, right?) about the need to find the extraordinary in small moments, to not expect life to look a certain way because you’ll miss some really great stuff by getting caught up in what is NOT happening. We’re both people who want to live deeper, more thoughtful, more fulfilling lives – lives that transcend the ordinary. And of course, by constantly looking for that bigger “thing,” by thinking you know what the end of the story should be…you miss the story that is actually happening.
And then I connected a few dots for my hypocritical self.
I thought running a marathon would be extraordinary. I thought it would be a way to transcend. I had visions of myself crossing the finish line in under 5 hours, jumping for joy, screaming, hugging my parents, feeling the most alive a human being could possibly feel.
I wrote the end of that story before I started those 26.2 miles.
And of course then I was disappointed with reality: I whimpered across the finish line. I was crying. I was barely running. My knee was screaming. I basically walked the second half. I was ashamed my parents had driven four hours to watch this dismal excuse for “accomplishing” a goal.
And ever since, I’ve been embarrassed to say I “ran” a marathon.
But my rambling pseudo-philosophical facebooking (whee!) has forced me to change the angle from which I’m telling the story. To myself.
I ran a fucking marathon, yo. I crossed that fucking finish line. I did it. By myself.* It may have been kind of ugly and painful, but I did it.
I DID IT.
And the truth of the story is this: it was transcendent. The first half, the first 14 miles, I felt beautiful. I felt better than I have ever felt in my life.
Since I simultaneously long for a sense of community but hate people, marathons are perfect for me. 35,000 people running in the same direction, trying to achieve the same goal, pushing each other forward, giving momentum: and I didn’t have to talk to a blessed one of them.
It was an incredibly emotional day. Running the Marine Corps Marathon, there are a lot of Marines and Marine families. Many runners wore shirts dedicated to their fallen soldiers. It broke my heart. I cried a thousand times. Every time I read the name of a dead Marine I had to thank the universe that I am ALIVE, that I have two legs, that I can RUN!!!
Ditto for the handicapped runners. There were people without legs or legs that just don’t work who pedaled themselves by hand. On a hill into Georgetown, one runner was struggling in his uphill battle. The runners around him were cheering him forward. There was no doubt he would make it to the top.
He can’t walk. And I whine because my knee hurt and I couldn’t run the full twenty-six miles. His determination is a miracle. I’m crying just remembering it.
It was a wonderful day. Could I have done better? Sure. And I will. Next time. Because there is no way I am not doing this again. It was fun to be a part of something but to only be competing against myself. I don’t care whom I beat or who beat me. The next marathon will be about training better, running more, and beating my 5:46 finish time. Manageable goals, all.
About that * above. To say “by myself” is inaccurate. I am grateful to the applauding strangers who stood in the chilly autumn sun. I can’t describe how nice it feels to be cheered for anonymously. No embarrassment over “Oh god everyone’s looking at me.” Just gratitude that they’d get out of bed to come yell at a bunch of crazy people trying to accomplish something random.
I’m even more indebted to every single person who sent me a text, email, or facebook message urging me on. I honestly don’t think I would have finished if I didn’t think people cared. I do not deserve such unqualified support, but I accept it thankfully.
Mostly, I cannot thank my parents enough for traveling to DC and running a marathon of their own to cheer for me. Their unconditional pride is unfathomable. They deserve a better daughter, but would never even think to want one. My father is a Marine, and a runner, and I’m so happy he was there. I did not want to fail him.
So okay fine, I’m still a little disappointed with my actual time. But I’m changing the way I see the story. (thanks to SF for letting me pontificate myself into a new perspective.) I haven’t met a single person who has said, “Oh. You walked?” Without exception, everyone is proud of me for even attempting it, and for actually completing it.
I’m going to do it again, and better. Beckett said: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
I am going to fail a little faster next time. I truly look forward to it.