I ran my second-ever marathon yesterday. It wasn’t one bit the race I’d hoped and planned for, and by far the hardest race I’ve ever run. In my neatly-planned life list, the “sub-four-hour-marathon” box is still unchecked. It may very well remain that way forever, I don’t know. All I know right now is that yesterday wasn’t to be that day, not from the get-go, and that I gave it every single ounce of my energy, and then many more, and came up with a 4:13. I am content. A bit disappointed, yes, but I know I could not possibly have tried harder.
Races are funny things. All the training in the world doesn’t prepare you for being unable to sleep the night before, having someone step on your heel as you’re about to cross the starting line and ripping your shoe half off, finding yourself boxed in by horribly crowded conditions for the first 16 miles, and so on. I’m not a pro racer, but I know that NYC isn’t a place to set personal records. It’s not very fast course, it’s meant to be a fun one. By the time I conceded at mile 16 that I couldn’t hold my speed for another step, and watched the pace team I was with gradually disappear from view in front of me, I was finished. Truly and utterly spent.
I considered walking the rest of the way, but couldn’t face the thought of taking that long. Probably pride took over then too. Running is such an intensely mental game, it really is at least half of the marathon battle. The things you tell yourself in order to make your brain tell your feet to keep moving, despite the fact that you can no longer feel them, and haven’t in miles. Realizing this torture is utterly voluntary, and wondering why on earth you’re doing it? Are you punishing yourself for something? Reaching for a dream? Just plain crazy? Stubborn? Stupid? Someone near me wondered aloud “remind me why we’re doing this?” and I couldn’t help but snicker. I’d be asking that for miles! I do know that running is good for me mentally and physically, and that I need races to keep me motivated. They don’t have to be marathons however.
I kept running as fast as I could possibly make my body move, but took more water breaks, and even stopped for the bathroom when I didn’t absolutely have to. Those last 10 miles were the most painful ones of my life, and involved a lot of whimpering and sniffling, but of course I was embarrassed by that so managed to keep it quiet enough that those around me couldn’t hear. I had my name on my shirt, and hearing it called out over and over by cheering fans kept me vaguely aware of things other than my pain, but I didn’t have the energy to lift my head up. I kept looking at my watch for motivation, knowing that if I finished slower than my last marathon, I’d truly be disappointed. I managed to finish exactly 60 seconds faster, thank God, and nearly collapsed.
What it is about pushing things with me? I know some of you can relate … I’m not the only wanna-be-supermom who has to accept reality a little more often. There is no such thing as getting it all done. No such thing as perfection, at least in the way my brain defines it. No such thing as meeting every arbitrary goal we set ourselves. There is just moving ahead each day, doing our best, and letting that be perfectly enough. Running is supposed to be helping me stay sane, not driving me to distraction. I gladly accept that yesterday was a good reality check for me: to find the joy in it again, and not just the pride of accomplishment.
My family on the other hand? They really shone yesterday … so delightful. They were waiting on the sidelines at mile 8 with smiles and mini-snickers for me, and then came to Central Park to meet me after the finish, keeping me from falling to the ground in a sobbing heap. Douglas especially kept sitting close, wrapping me up in my heat-sheet, holding my hands to keep them warm, and helping me down the stairs. Michael fetched whatever food I was craving when I finally got hungry at 11pm last night … and let me eat almost all the crab rangoon by myself :). It really was a great day, despite the physical misery, and I’m glad it turned out the way it did. Now if I could just walk down the stairs without hobbling …