All week, I’ve been riding on a post-marathon high, viewing my miserable Marine Corps Marathon experience through the lens
of inspiration rather than disappointment. That is, until my second post-marathon workout, a 45-minute spin on the stationary bike yesterday, when I accidentally selected my marathon playlist on my iPod. The one I’d spent hours fine-tuning, but ultimately got to listen to only in disjointed chunks thanks to both my frequent porta-potty stops and iPod malfunctions.
“Percussion Gun” by the White Rabbits was supposed to remind me of race-day victory. Yesterday, though I still felt my life was changed for the better by this race, it kind of fell flat. “Run this Town” by Jay-Z was supposed to make me feel like I owned this town on race day. Instead, it reminded me that I actually crept through town, with my most embarrassing moment coming right on the National Mall.
Just as I was slipping into a serious funk, “So What” by P!nk came on. I listened to this song while training for the National Half-Marathon last March, at the suggestion of my friend Sarah, a running rock star in her own right. I’d overplayed the song to the point that I had to give it a rest, but here it was, reminding me during this rough moment that I have good days as well as bad ones. P!ink reminded me that, though I had a bad running day: So what? I’m still a rock star.
Then, it occurred to me: I need to go make some new memories for my new playlist picks! The good memory of the National Half-Marathon last year fueled the fire for the National Marathon in March to be my “revenge race.” The Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach has also entered the competition. It’s the same weekend, and while it’s not right in Washington, it’s still close to home — and it’s flat! The National Marathon stays at the same price until the end of the year, so I have some time to decide.
After my easy bike ride, I relaxed in an Epsom-salt bath, reading the latest issue of Running Times. I zeroed in on a story about pain — how professionals cope with it during races, and how it can be sort of a beautiful thing. The editor’s note explaining the story hit home for me: “Serious runners don’t shy away from pain, either emotionally or physically. It’s not that we are masochists; we don’t enjoy pain for its own sake, but rather for what it reveals … there’s beauty here as well, in learning how to suffer nobly.”
Wow. Perfect timing. I’ve been seriously puzzling about how my race-day photos look so awesome when I felt so unbelievably bad. In my memory, I spent most of the race hunched over in pain, or openly weeping in humiliation and self-pity.
But I got the marathon warm fuzzies all over again when I started thinking about all the things that made me not only smile through my pain and humiliation, but sometimes laugh out loud in glee. Georgetown, the memorials, the National Mall and loads of other spots were packed with spectators — packed! Seeing so many people like my husband, who are willing to support their loved ones through this crazy distance-running thing out of sheer love, overwhelmed me.
The Marines like to say that pain is weakness leaving the body (though I would note that pain could also indicate a stress fracture, which means you should maybe stop). The following posters I spotted sported slogans that did a better job of pumping me up:
“That’s not sweat; it’s just your fat cells crying.”
“If it were easy, we’d do it!”
“If it were easy, they’d call it your mom.”
No wonder I was grinning like an idiot in every picture! Even in the last one, in which I seem to be half-smiling, half-weeping. Now, I know it’s not that I was having a great race day. I was just teaching myself on the fly how to suffer nobly.