Sunday, February 12, 2012

What I Learned Running 26.2 Miles


I was recently reminded of this story, and thought it might be interesting to someone else.

The year I turned 50, my goal was to participate in a marathon, 26.2 miles of running/walking goodness.  I decided in April that I wanted to run in the Walt Disney World marathon the next January, so that left me plenty of time to train if I was devoted to it and didn't blow off running days.  At my brother Randy's recommendation I bought a book by Jeff Galloway (actually I think he sent me his copy!) and started following the training program he laid out.  Jeff is a proponent of a running/walking system rather than trying to run the entire time, and that worked out well for me.

I would run an hour on Tuesday through Saturday, then on Sunday was my long run.  I started with a long run of 10 miles, then increased it every week until I ran 24 miles - actually Jeff says you only need to do a 20-mile long run, but I wanted to experience as much of what the marathon was going to be like as I could.  I really loved the long runs!  Santa and I were both training, but in November he was injured and had to drop out.  I thought I was going to hate running by myself, but I didn't at all - it gave me a lot of time to think and meditate.

On one of my long runs, I was thinking about all of the training I'd put in thus far, and how there was no way I could do this if I had started a month or two later.  In fact, I realized, every single person running in that marathon had to put in a significant amount of training if they intended to finish 26.2 miles - nobody can get up from the couch and run that distance.  It doesn't matter how rich you are, how persuasive you are, how beautiful you are, how witty you are, it won't get you over that distance on race day.  Everyone involved has to do all the footwork and all the training that is required to complete that distance successfully.

This was somewhat of an epiphany for me.  Because I am smart, and talk well, and even have been cute at some times in my younger days, I've attempted to do things without following the rules that everyone else had to follow.  Sometimes I was even successful, but not very often.  But I always harbored a hope that I could get by with less than the rest of the world was having to do.

That day on that long run, when I had that major realization, it changed my world.  I didn't have a need to hold myself apart as special - although yes, I *am* special, so is everyone else, and no matter who we are, we have to follow the rules - either laws created by man, laws of nature, politeness, respect, and such.  Now I could be a member of the human race.  I had never felt so grateful, and yes, so accepted.

Race day arrived in January, and I was set to go.  The race started at 6 AM in the Epcot Center parking lot.  I was there plenty early.  I didn't know anyone else running the race, so I didn't have to worry about keeping up with anyone.  I was in one of the back corrals because my time wasn't fast, so it was a good 15 minutes before I actually went across the start line.  I had been tracking my pace with a wristband GPS, and somehow I managed to mess that up right before the race, so I had to just go along and trust that I was going at the pace I needed to go.  I stopped along the track several times to get pictures taken with characters, and had one stop with my family where they helped me change my socks to prevent blisters.  I was in heaven during the whole race, having the time of my life, almost flying because I had set this really really high goal and was accomplishing it.  As I approached the finish line, my family was there to cheer me on, and my son Eric jumped onto the course to cross the finish line with me - we did it singing "The  Final Countdown" by Europe.  That moment is etched in my mind with crystal clarity.

I had what I thought was a huge disappointment the next day though.  I went to the website to see my name posted as finishing the marathon, and it wasn't there.  I could not believe my eyes!  I checked everyplace I could imagine, and it just wasn't there.  It took me a while, but I finally figured out what had happened.  You see, there was a 7-hour course limit, after 7 hours the course would be closed.  Although I have no way to know for sure, I think I must have missed that 7-hour limit by no more than a minute or two (and there's still a tiny part of me that wants to think that I really did make it, they just made a mistake).  I was crushed.  But my family who loves me so much helped me see it differently - I had achieved my goal of participating in the marathon and finishing it.  I had enjoyed myself, had no injuries, and was so proud of my achievement.  What difference, really, was it if my name was on that list or not?  Only thing is, if some future descendant is looking to verify genealogical information about this, they won't find my name - maybe they will find this blog entry though.

So that's the story of how I learned that I have to follow the rules just like everyone else does.  And when the rules are about how to become a writer, that means showing up to the page every day, day after day, and writing.  Because that's the rules.  I can't get a book published just because I say I want to be a writer.  I have to work for it.  And even if what I do ends up being leaving wonderful memories for my children's children's children, I will have followed the rules - and succeeded in my goal.

I recently moved a bunch of pictures to my external drive, and that included all my marathon finish line pictures, but I did find this one, back at the hotel afterward and proudly sporting my medal.  This picture is incredibly precious to me - take a look:
Peace and love to everyone!

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Orlando, Florida, United States
"If you asked me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you...I came to live out loud. [Emile Zola.]
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