Thursday, April 2, 2009

Two years ago, I was in Washington DC to run the Marine Corps Marathon. It was my second time running this particular race and my first attempt at a Boston Qualifying time. Everyone in the running world, and most people outside of it, know of the Boston Marathon and posting a qualifying time to receive entry is somewhat of a rite of passage- a point where something magical happens. At least I think...... unfortunately, I wouldn't know. You see, I was back at the Marine Corps Marathon because I had a bit of a point to prove. This had been my first marathon and it had been nothing less than a death March. What better way to prove myself as a runner than to return to the battlefield and not only conquer the beast but do well enough to qualify for the most renowned marathon?

This may be obvious, but 26.2 miles is a looooooong way. A lot of stuff happens in that distance. You experience so many emotions, see so many sights, watch people loving life and other people truly knocking on Hell's door. You see people in costume, people juggling (yes, juggling), watch mom's hug their husbands and children, see proud parents with signs. At a marathon, a LOT goes on over the course of 26.2 miles.

I had trained splendidly for this marathon. My mind was in the right place and success was a sure thing. I started out with a friend to keep each other in check on the pace and the miles were flying under our feet effortlessly. It started as a "wrinkle in my sock" about mile 9 and by mile 15 there was no putting weight on it. I started crying; I knew what was happening and it was over. I kissed Brian and pulled off at the med tent. My sock was bloodied and the sight was not pretty.

I sat there and cried while the Marine taped my poor foot. I felt like such a failure. This stupid foot! Surgery had removed the crippled joints when I was 16 and nothing had worked right since then. The frustration was pouring from me and the defeat was infecting my every thought. As I sat there, a blonde chick pulled off the course and sat next to me.
"I am so tired of running," she said.
I looked at her incredulously. "Um, what?!?!"
"I'm just tired of running. I want breakfast. I'm gonna let this bus take me back."
I should probably ask for forgiveness for the thoughts that went through my head at that moment. She was tired?!?!?!? She didn't feel like running anymore?!?!?
I looked at her and snapped, "Might think about that next time you DECIDE TO RUN 26.2 MILES!!"
I got up from the chair and started running. Not just running, like seriously running. I had lost 17 minutes sitting at that medical tent feeling sory for myself. What a waste. I stopped feeling the foot and just set my sights on the finish. I did not stop running until I crossed the line and the Marine kissed my cheek. Then, I sat and I cried.
Those last 11.2 miles are so representative of life, at least of my life. I think they are valid for anyone's life. You can make a choice. You can choose to be the chick who just gets tired and quits or you can set your sight on the prize, focus on what you can do and just do it. Everybody has bumps and setbacks. Everybody has failures and shortcomings. But I can tell you this, if you make it to the finish line knowing you did the best you could possibly do and if you did it right, that prize is so much more glorious.
My chip time for that marathon was 4:15:xx- a forgetable time. I will never forget that race, though. I think about it often, especially lately. Life is really a lot like a marathon. There are some miles that are harder than others. There are twists and turns and uphills that make every inch of you ache. Some miles fly by effortlessly and others seem to drag on to eternity. There are moments you wonder what the hell you are doing here and moments when you wouldn't ever want to be anywhere else. And inevitably, the thought crosses your mind to quit, to just stop trying. You think how easy it would be to take three steps off the course and blend in with the spectators. I can honestly say in life there are moments when I think about how easy those three steps off the course would be. How easy to just sit down and quit. But then, I remember how sweet it was to cross that finish line. When I get to the finish line in life, I want to look back and know that I lived what I believed. I want to know that I gave everything I possibly could.

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