Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Journey of 26.2 miles

I wanted to let some time pass after the race to reflect on the experience in Paris and, so I can comment on the other marathons my friends have done this spring.

They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.. Arguably the, the journey of running a marathon means about 42,000 steps just the day of the race. And, if one factors in (at least my own) training miles its something in the neighborhood of 694,400 steps to get to race day. A daunting amount of preparation for some three odd hours of running.
But, if you have run any distance event one knows that it is not just the training nor the amount of time on your feet.. for me.. it was at mile 23 when my brain told me that this was complete madness and it was everything I could do to focus on keeping my feet moving and moving fast enough to hit my goal.

I did it, I broke the 4 hour mark while dealing with water bottles and their caps, wet pavement, cobblestone (don't get me started) and dare I mention them.. orange and banana peels! And it was while I was grumbling to myself at about mile 19 when the crowd was thick and I was absolutely prevented from running any faster that I came across a runner who had a profound effect on me.
I don't know his name, or even where he was from; but there he was, blind, navigating the same streets, the same hazards, surely the same mental and physical fatigue. He had the aide of a guide runner, joined by a small tether. That was the image that got me past my "wall" a few miles later when my brain urged me to stop, and the image that prompted me to reach out to organizations like the USABA and CDifferent when I got back home. What had he had to overcome to get to that point? How many "steps" to prepare?

It was that entire experience that made me even more excited to cheer on each of my friends as they each ran, and turned in incredible times in Boston and Eugene and Oklahoma City over the last few weeks. Everyone overcoming their own challenges, accomplishing goals; running to beat cancer, in memory or in honor of others, or to raise money for causes they believe in.
There is a passage in John L. Parker's sequel to Once a Runner, "Again To Carthadge" where the main character, Quentin Cassidy tries to explain why he runs. Cassidy explains that when he runs he is always moving up, improving.... silly me, I thought he meant getting faster.