Well. It’s over. Done. Six months of training, of anticipation, and fervent, passionate hope were put to the test yesterday at the Medtronic TC Marathon. By 1:30 p.m. I was laid out on the grass, making feeble, insincere attempts to stretch my aching legs and idly chatting with a nearby runner. This was his third marathon and he looked good. We chatted about the heat, the run — him too sore to sit down and me too tired to get up off the ground — and he asked the question;
“So. Are you going to do it again?”
Lord have mercy. That is the million dollar question, isn’t it? Because what was going through my mind, not two minutes before he wandered over, was that I definitely needed to write a post telling you all to never, ever, do something as stupid, painful and soul crushing as attempting to run a marathon.
I had finished in five hours and twenty minutes and I was devastated. DEVASTATED. I fully anticipated finishing in less than five hours and for a good part of the run, it looked as if that was a no-brainer. At the half, I was set to finish in 4:40:00. I wasn’t even tired! I felt great! And then…. it just all fell apart.
At mile twenty-four, when my emotions were equal parts relief and despair, one of the spectators stepped out from the sidewalk to stand in front of me. “26 miles!” She said. “You are awesome. I can not believe it!” and I, of course, burst into tears.
“Lady,” I was thinking, “I’m not even close to awesome. Awesome finished an hour ago. Awesome is drinking a margarita right this minute and I still have two miles to go.”
It was not my finest moment.
I was remembering that scene in Chariots of Fire (yes. I totally watched it the night before. Because I am a sap, that’s why.) when Liddel is trying to explain to his sister why he has to run. He tells her that while God made him to be a missionary, he also made him fast. And when he runs, he can feel God’s joy.
When I run, I feel like God maybe hates me a little bit. At the very least, he is definitely punishing me for my sloth, my undisciplined nature, and, most recently, for hiding in the kitchen during the twins’ birthday slumber party and eating their ranch-flavored Doritos. But I can see it in other runners — better runners. It breaks my heart, it really does. When I watch the truly excellent athletes sprint around a track or whiz past me on the parkway, they are magnificent. They seem to me like they’re flying and I would give anything to be able to do that.
It’s like this; I was an overweight and awkward kid and as a result, grew into an uncertain adult. Like I’m wearing a grown-up suit but it doesn’t fit quite right and, actually, now that I mention it, it’s kind of sweaty in here. I wanted to grow up to be like Myrna Loy in the Thin Man movies; just the right combination of glamour, good-natured humor and dry wit. I never envisioned this haphazard and perpetually late lady with raccoons living in her roof, five kids, and a cat with chronic bladder control issues. I really can’t see how one could fall farther from the mark.
Somewhere in my brain is the idea that being able to run well would make up for all that. No. It wouldn’t turn me into Myrna Loy, but it would give me just a glimmer of grace and graciousness and, yes, divine joy. That’s the dream, anyways.
Today, my partner gave me the day off work to relax. She admonished me rather severely to NOT CLEAN THE HOUSE, but since she is not the boss of me, that’s exactly what I did. Pulling the furniture away from the walls and getting at the dirt lurking in the background seemed terribly cathartic and more than a little symbolic. I scrubbed the floors, I stripped the slipcovers off the couches and washed them and when that darn cat crawled in the basket and peed on them, I washed them again. I have a turkey roasting in the oven, cinnamon sticks and orange peels simmering on the stove, fresh flowers on the table and that is absolutely as gracious I as know how to be. Somewhere in there the disappointment loosened and I stopped being quite as defeated by what is, after all, a pretty darn good achievement– I was just 12 seconds shy of cutting a full 40 minutes off my last marathon time. That should count for something, darn it!
So, yeah, fellow runner. I probably will run it again. Because I always want to do just a little better than before. And sometimes “better” means “slower than I’d like, but with less crazy.”
For the life of me, I don’t know why that has to be so difficult.