This time last year, I thought I’d failed.
I was picking up the pieces of a traumatic Marine Corps Marathon, and trying to make sense of the months of training that led to what seemed at the time to be nothing but heartache, pain and a totally undeserved finish time.
When you hang out with runners all the time, it’s easy to think that anything less than a Boston qualifier is unimpressive, and that anything less than your goal time is worthless. Watching my amazing friends battle through their own Marine Corps Marathons yesterday made me realize all over again what a crazy adventure of a race the marathon is. It also inspired me to train for another myself—but not without keeping the following lessons in mind.
1. If everything goes right on race day, training and previous race times can tell you a lot about your finishing time.
2. There’s a good chance everything will not go right on race day. In a race of any distance, it’s possible to fall victim to cramps, digestive issues, dehydration, blisters and regular aches and pains—or just have a bad running day. Over the course of 26.2 miles, these issues can become major problems.
3. When things go wrong, you can literally add an hour to your overall race time. That means that rather than trying your absolute hardest for four hours, you might be trying your absolute hardest for five hours or more. Then, even after trying your absolute hardest for an extra hour of your life, you might finish feeling conflicted, or even disappointed, about your finish since your time wasn’t what you expected.
4. The rest of the world could care less about your time, and is more impressed with the fact that you simply finished than you could imagine. I realized this for the first time last year, at a Halloween party a week after the marathon, when my non-running friends’ proud, enthusiastic expressions faded to blank stares when I started talking about my time. I saw it again this year, when I was inspired and impressed by every single runner I saw on the course. It’s normal and healthy to feel disappointed when race day doesn’t go the way you’d hoped. But in retrospect, I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to wrap my brain around the fact that crossing the finish line under less-than-perfect circumstances is a far bigger challenge than running a race quickly (it’s easy to keep going when things are going your way!). Congratulations to all Marine Corps finishers—you’re my heroes!
My 10K performance: The 10K was fabulous—well-organized, fun and maybe a little faster than I expected, despite my plan to jog it slooowly. I finished in 53:56, which isn’t bad considering a recent training hiatus for a broken toe (and considering the actual broken toe). The best part: the finish festival, where we got the same perks as marathoners.
Quote of the day: “You know you’ve been cheering at a marathon too long when …” The “when” refers to “when runners who you cheered for at mile 23 are slightly freaked out when they hear the same random strangers calling out the names on their shirts at mile 25.”