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.
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.
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