Early in grad school I decided it would be a good idea to run a marathon at some point in my life. When I made this decision, a long run was two miles, pushing myself was two and a half miles.
A few months after moving to Portland, I stretched to 4 miles. The first time I was here for the Portland Marathon I thought, “yeah, that would be cool someday.”
I built up through training for half marathons, and after my third half marathon this past June, I decided that “2015 is going to be the year I run a marathon,” and I signed up for the Portland Marathon.
And so the training began – long, warm mornings starting at 5:30am. I went on runs beyond my wildest dreams, experienced pain more than I could imagine, and felt so much hope. Runs that made me feel like I had meaning and purpose in the world were mixed with runs that made me feel like I was completely wasting my time.
After a late July race, I returned and was experiencing some major pain in my ankle. I could not run and looked, several times, at the Marathon’s policy on cancellations. Deep inside, I knew I could not give up. So I waited, I agonized through most of August, worried that I would not measure up, that I would fail, that I had committed to a thing I could not complete.
Running does this to me sometimes, this thing where it is totally amazing and I feel like it is the one thing I can do mostly well a majority of the time. Right when I start to feel that way, it throws a curveball and I wonder if I ever should have started. Running also pushes my sense of curiosity, my knowledge of self. Every time I hit a roadblock, every time I face a challenge in my running, I hit the books. I search on the internet, I ask my few running friends for advice.
In late August I was able to run a bit, more in mid-September, but I never got past my 18+ miles in June before the Marathon. I completed 13.1 miles eight days before the race, and went back to not running. It was the hardest stretch of not running I have ever endured. It feels intuitive to hit the pavement and pull the city around me as I take step after step and to not do that pushed me to an extreme of uncertainty.
So race day came. It was a little chilly as I stepped out of my apartment. I double-checked my gear to make sure I had all the things I needed set up. I took the MAX down to the starting line and waited for an hour. I met a man named Mike who was also about to run his first Marathon. We chatted for awhile, then started running. We ran near each other for the first few miles, then he pulled way ahead. I passed him around mile seven, he was in the port-a-potty line.
I put one foot in front of another for 26.2 miles. The first 6 were really solid, the first 18 were pretty good. The back eight killed me. Most of the last eight miles was a mix of walking and jogging – though I did bring up the energy to run for a mile around 24.5, then again for the last half mile or so.
All through the race, I had friends texting me support and cheers. It meant the world to know that I had friends in a range of places cheering for me, thinking about me, and hoping I was doing well. Several friends even came out to cheer along the way.
What I did not expect is how I would feel after the race. Sure, I knew I would be in physical pain, but I did not completely expect the emotional pain. Slowly, pieces of the world I had built over the summer started falling apart. This thing I have physically and emotionally been building up to for months is now done, and I do not know what to do or how to feel. For months a majority of my schedule and life has been built around preparing for the marathon. Now that it is done, I have been a bit lost, a bit confused.
At first it was a lot of questioning my accomplishment – why did I do that? What does that mean? Does it hold any value? How does completing it effect my life? Do I ever want to run again? Could I have used my energy to do something actually useful in the world? Is it self-centered for me to assume that my running is meaningful in any way? Then I started reflecting and self-evaluation. The direction that is currently taking me leans towards focusing my running energy on doing shorter distances with greater speed.
I have spent a large part of the year working on, as I wrote in February, distance and not speed. Now I want to work to combine the two as I decrease my half time and start in on building some quick 8k and 10k times. I am probably going to back off the serious events in the next year or so (I am doing Walt Disney World half in January and Avengers Infinity Gauntlet challenge (10k and half in the same weekend) in November for sure, and a few others in there possibly).
Running a marathon was daunting, it was overwhelming. But I did it. I finished a marathon, and that is something I get to say for the rest of my life. And it feels like this thing that I was able to say I did because I had the right people in the right place in my life at the right time, and that is way cool.
Interestingly enough, I have thought of myself as a Real Adult more times in the last week than in the past few years. Could just be correlation, but I think there is some serious causation.