I'd like to say that it was my marathon training that did it. Truthfully it actually was. (With a slight modification to have that many miles.) You see, there is something about the rigid training one has to go through to prepare for a race that long. I've read many articles on line and in my running magazines that say training for a marathon is more than strapping on shoes and hitting the pavement. This is true. Training for a marathon is a mind/body sort of thing. It is more than the flippant mind over matter thought process we've all had drilled in our heads. It is so hard to explain, it is digging in and finding yourself. It is searching for that last ounce of strength when you know you have none left. It is simply not giving up to the voice in your head that profoundly declares you are spent.
In the beginning I remember feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment when I could complete 3 miles. I made it a goal to get faster and faster. Then on those days when the speed wouldn't come I was hugely disappointed in myself. Training for this marathon has begun to show me that even though speed workouts are important, its finding that place where nothing else but the next step is what matters. For instance, a couple of Saturdays ago I was actually able to run outside. (A big deal for my neck of the woods...since it is snowing, yet again, today.) I did my 3 mile warm up then set out on my run. I only had to complete 11 miles for my training. I timed my pace at 9:20 and set out. By mile 8 I looked at my Garmin and realized I was running an 8:00 pace. I have no idea how long I had been at that clip. The point is, that I'm finding that zone. That place in my mind that just lets my body go.
However, so I didn't die a slow painful death on the return loop home, I did back off my pace. At the end of the 15 miles that day I had averaged 9:04. It isn't bragging rights I'm going for here. There are many, many more runners that can stomp me to the ground. I am proud of what they can do. It is, however, what I have learned to do. This sorely out of shape body, this bruised and battered mind, has worked together to find that place where they come to a point of peace. A place where they no longer fight each other for what may happen, but have shown what can happen.
I beg you to train for a marathon and not have it change your life. I don't mean just physically, but also mentally. While I have a ways to go to get to 26.2 miles of running bliss, I find that what used to be a hurdle is now a joyful run. I find that those parts of my body that used to look horrible are those that I am proud of. Mostly I'm thankful that God gave me a passion and has given me the ability to use it. Run, people, run. Don't worry how fast you go just focus on the going. After all, sometimes the best things in life come after the pain of going through them is over.
And, because inspiration is often found in words, not just actions, here are a few quotes that bring tears to my eyes:
- "The marathon never ceases to be a race of joy, a race of wonder." -Hal Higdon, running writer and coach
- "So many people crossing the finish line of a marathon look as happy as when I won. They have tears in their eyes. The sport is full of winners." -Gary Muhrcke, winner of the first NYC marathon
- "The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race." -Marathon spectator sign
- "Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too." -Richard O'Brien
- "The marathon. How an average runner becomes more than average." -New Balance
- "I love the fact that not many people can say 'Oh, I went out and ran 20 miles today.' I love how much dedication it takes and how much you learn a lot about yourself, your physical and mental limits. There's just something about it." -Shalane Flanagan, 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathoner
- "I dare you to train for a marathon, and not have it change your life." -Susan Sidoriak