I did it! On August 25, in Santa Rosa, CA, I ran my first marathon!
And, as it turns out, my “Road to Boston” is more about the road than about Boston.
I had every hope & intention of running those 26.2 miles in under 3 hours & 40 minutes that morning. If I did – no, WHEN I did – I would qualify to run the Boston Marathon.
All things considered, I had trained for this sucker for almost a year. My husband had made sacrifices to accommodate my training schedule. My kids had learned that Mommy walks funny & needs a nap after a really long run. I had consumed many, many, many protein shakes.
My marathon weekend started off with a theme of stupidity and flightiness perseverance & overcoming adversity. After setting my alarm for 4:00 PM instead of 4:00 AM, I was startled from my slumber at 5:45 AM by a buzzing phone & my friend Katie pounding on the front door in a valiant attempt to wake me. Long story short, Katie got me to the airport on time & I forgot my cell phone at home. But I remembered my coffee, so that was a plus.
Fast forward to race day.
The marathon was scheduled to start at 6 AM. The sun was scheduled to rise at 6:34 AM. So, you know, it was pretty dark. While being corralled at the starting line, I probably should’ve focused on stretching or some form of positive self-talk like a real runner. Instead, I tried to take a selfie in the dark like a teenage girl & blinded myself with the iPhone flash. Naturally. I finally gave up & just got a shot of my shoes.
At the sound of the gun, my first marathon began. For 13 miles, I did everything as I’d planned. I was checking things off my list, just the way I do. Run this pace: check. Fuel this way: check. Listen to this music: check. Everything was going according to plan, and I was ecstatic – and not at all surprised – when I hit the halfway point right when I wanted to. The plan was working!! Of course it was!
I kept cranking out the miles – but quickly noticed something. My pace was slowing. I felt like I was holding steady, but my splits said otherwise. This continued for a few miles. My pace refused to reflect my effort.
Cue my first major mental crossroads: I’ve fallen off the pace; what now?
I yelled inside my head, “GIVE YOURSELF A FIGHTING CHANCE! YOU’LL GET THROUGH THIS DIP! DON’T LET GO! YOU HAVE ROOM MAKE UP THAT TIME!”
I won that first battle as I chose to keep putting one foot in front of the other the very best I could, trusting that I’d get another wind of strength and make up the time I’d lost. I was still going to qualify for Boston. I just needed to suck it up and try harder.
I kept running, and I tried harder. But dang it if I didn’t keep slowing down. I was trying. I really believe I was doing the best I could.
And, apparently, my best wasn’t going to be good enough today.
Cue the next major crossroads: I’ve done the math. I cannot possibly make up the time now. I will not qualify for Boston. I have six miles to go. What. Now.
And these last six miles are where God and I won the most significant personal victory I could’ve won. You see, for as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with this notion that if I can’t do something RIGHT (or WELL or EXCELLENT or the BEST) then why do it at all? Some would call it Perfectionism. I call it my really annoying All-or-Nothing complex.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with doing my best, with excellence, the “right” way. But sometimes I need to check my definition of “best,” “excellent,” and “right.”
So, maybe you can understand that my natural inclination would’ve been to say “Forget this. Boston is a lost cause this time around. Let’s just walk this thing in. Better yet, excuse me, can I get a ride?“
But instead, something pretty huge happened. I kept running. As hard as I could. I finished what I’d started, and I finished well. Not perfectly. And not the way I had originally hoped and planned. But I put my whole heart out there (because if you’ve run a marathon, you know you’re putting more than your legs out there; this is a deep down to your guts kind of race) and I kept putting it out there even when it wasn’t going to measure up to the standard I’d set for myself.
I don’t care that I didn’t qualify for Boston!
That’s a lie. I care about that.
But I care more about the personal victory I did achieve.
Now, regarding lessons learned and personal growth — to be fair, I still have much ground to cover. Future posts will probably include “How NOT to Fuel For a Marathon,” “Why You Shouldn’t Pass Out in a Port-o-John,” and “Don’t Be An Idiot: Be Sure You Know What Time Zone You’re In So You Don’t Miss Your Flight Home.”
The journey continues!