Making My Enemy, My Friend

Years ago, I made an enemy.  I was beaten by a foe that got the best of me in the worst possible way- by preying on my ego.  It’s been 15 years and it STILL bothers me.  Which is why I am finally calling for a rematch.  This October.  Portland.  9am.  Yes, you guessed it- my nemesis is 26.2 miles long and goes by the name Marathon.

Now I know the truth in this

Now I know.

In conversation with someone, I will often say that I have run precisely one marathon, just the one.  About 90% of the time, I’ll follow that declaration by admitting that I did not complete that race, but stopped at mile 21- not because I was injured or hit by a bus or something sufficiently noble or tragic.  No, it was because I realized I was not on track to complete the race in my goal time.  I completed 80% of the race with a sub 2-hour split and then after realizing that I was slowing down dramatically and would not finish the race in my (entirely arbitrary) goal of four hours, I just quit.

I hopped in the waiting car that Tony (still just a boyfriend, it was that long ago) had been faithfully driving around cheering me on in, and moaned about being so tired, and hurting, and blah, blah, blah.  Basically just some whiny bullshit and I knew within minutes that I had completely copped out, but there was no turning back.  I suddenly knew I was a coward.  The marathon had won or more correctly, it was an impervious stone wall that I had smashed all my effort and training against because I didn’t want to be a “slow” runner.  I had gotten the notion in my head that it was better to not finish than have a time of more than four hours.  What the hell was I thinking?!

All the while, my dear friend and training partner, Lisa, finished the race (far more slowly than I would have- even at my reduced pace) in agony and with her husband helping her across the finish line.  But you know what matters? SHE. FINISHED.  She has never had to choke out the words that she has “run” but not “completed” a marathon.  That painful and humiliating disappointment has been mine to carry and revisit over and over again.  But, 23 year olds are entitled, if not required, to make mistakes based on ego and pride, right?  Someday, if we are sitting around a campfire, I’ll trot out a treasure trove of gaudy mistakes I made in my early twenties- but for today, I will stick to this malevolent gem.

Many readers may think, what’s the big deal- 21 miles is awesome!  What a lot of wasted energy spent of regret, which is undoubtedly true.  But I think some “get it” and know that moving past it isn’t the right thing (not to mention- it’s not working!).  I have to go back to it.  I have to face this long-ago defeat, the fear of a second failure, and finally shed the disappointment I feel.

That time has come.  I have chosen the Portland Marathon in October for a rematch, and because I have grown a little wiser in the intervening years, I am not going to approach the race or the training as a battle of wills or an opponent to be bested, but rather as a muse to learn from.  The next four months will be spent on a pilgrimage, a journey towards a long yearned for goal.  I am going in humble, hopeful, and with a steady mien.

I have been kicking the idea around seriously for the last month (not working gives you more time for introspection and shit), and had been surreptitiously investigating training plans and methods, dropping the idea in conversations, and contemplating it as I logged miles on recently re-strengthened legs.  I have decided to use the FIRST (aka Run Less, Run Faster) method and will be adhering closely to prescribed regimen.  Training “officially” starts this Sunday with my first key long run.

Life is nothing if not a journey and we must keep striding and striving or risk being run over by regret.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress and hope you’ll wish me strong legs and a courageous heart.

If you like this post, please comment or share!  I love the encouragement and appreciate your support.

About jenlocati

JENNIE LOCATI started her blog, WYS Words as a way to share her experiences as a professional woman, wife, mother, and irrepressible “do-gooder”. Her diverse life experiences have taken her to Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer, the trading floors of Wall Street, to PATH, and most recently back to Microsoft, where she works in product development. Jennie shares her many misadventures, occasional insights, and unique perspectives in a voice that is self-deprecating, honest, and authentic. Read more at

Posted on May 29, 2013, in Big Ideas and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I’m a runner, too, but have never started a marathon. During a half-marathon I was running 2 yrs ago, my hip started hurting, and got worse and worse. I stopped at the medical tent and cried. It was mile 11, I had 2 miles left. I was going to wait for my husband to get me (he was already done) but somehow got back up and ran/walked the last 2 miles to the finish. I don’t look at that finisher’s medal with pride in my performance but more a reminder that when it gets tough, we have a choice. You have that same lesson in your life, too, and next time you’re faced with this kind of choice I’ll bet you’ll remember how you felt!
    I just tackled an icky muck run last weekend…another thing that was really hard for me that I’m glad I did. (the recap is on my blog The hardest part was jumping off a high platform into freezing water. I could only think “oh muuuuuck”


  2. I love your approach: marathon as muse is a fantastic perspective.


  3. Jennie – I admire your fortitude and I know that this time you will conquer your foe. In fact, it sounds like, by changing your mind (what else can we control?) you already have!

    I took a 7-month “sabbatical” in 2012, and training for my own big event was a glorious and liberating experience. Some may consider it self-centered, but it’s what you make of it. If you come out knowing and trusting yourself, then the next project will be even better.

    I’m looking forward to hearing how this story unfolds, mainly because I now know the back-story. Go Jennie!


  4. Larry Sindall

    Wow, you were so close. I can see how this has bothered you. I applaud your desire and determination to beat that enemy with in you. I’m a firm believer in setting goals and not giving in. My son played little league. When he first began he was pretty good and played all the time. In his last year he struggled and spent a lot of time on the bench. One month into the season he came to me and said I’m done with this I’m quitting cause I’m not playing. I said no way….Know one quits you finish out the season you are part of the team. I told him that I would come home every night and work with him to improve his game which we did, and he improved. In the last week of the season he was starting games again. He was pretty pissed at me for not letting him give up for a while, but I think it helped him. Fast forward 10 years. He is now in the Marine Corp at Bootcamp. About week 9 (they are there for 12 weeks) I get a letter from him. In it he shared how tough and hard the training has been and that he was going to make it. Then he thanked me for teaching him that quitting was not an option. That by giving 100% effort he would be rewarded. He knew at that point he would make it through to become a Marine. I knew that day that my son had changed to become the young man I hoped he would be.

    “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand”

    Best of luck in knocking down your enemy!


  1. Pingback: Mission accomplished and a note on Impostor Syndrome | WYS Words

  2. Pingback: Mission accomplished and a Note on Imposter Syndrome | WYS Words

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