Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Extra Interesting Detail About the Marathon

So, when running this morning (yes, I was out for the fourth day in a row including my PR marathon on day two of the four), I enjoyed very much running with 2 people with whom I’d spent a good bit of time in training for the Philadelphia marathon. I ran 4.75 miles—a combination of a half-mile warm-up, 3 one mile intervals that we did in 7:10 or better each time, ¼ mile between each, and ¾ mile to finish.  During some of the faster intervals we chatted.  During almost all the warm-up, cool down, and rest intervals we chatted.  What I found out was pretty cool.  They had seen me at the half-way point in the race—although I had not seen them.  Then, when they saw me at mile 22 they thought I still looked strong.  (I suppose even a 7:36 is pretty good for most people.)  But I was definitely hurting compared with earlier in the race.  They told me that Jackie went by two “groups” after me.  (Runners tend to cluster.)  They told her to go catch up with me.  She told them she’d been keeping an eye on me.  Then, not long after she caught up with me and the rest of the race I described yesterday.

That put the “team” effort of this marathon into a slightly more complex light.  Not only had I had the benefit of an amazing coach to develop a plan for me.  Not only had I enjoyed training with five different people consistently during the preparation.  Not only had I had the good fortune to be cheered on by people I knew during the race.  Not only had I had the good fortune to be accompanied to the finish line by a great friend.  But I had friends working together to get me to the goal I’d set. 

So, this makes me think even more of what I will remember most about Sunday.  It could be the time.  For example, today I can tell you my exact best time in the 1600 meter run in high school.  4:41 at the Delaware County Track Championships in 1987.  I ran a better race in the qualifying heat for the finals than in the finals.  Will I be able to recite the time I ran 27½  years from now when I am 72.  Probably.  That’ll be part of my glory days story when I’m getting ready to retire from working for pay.  I will probably be able to tell people that I improved by 4:36 over my previous personal best.  I will probably be able to recite my half splits: 1:33:51 and 1:35:48.  But will all those time be all I remember about Sunday?  No.  Will that even be the most important thing I remember about Sunday?  I think not.

What else won’t be the most important?  2000 miles.  Yes, Sunday was the day I went over 2000 miles.  And, yes, since January 1, that has been my goal for the year and a critical part of my virtual pilgrimage.  But at this point, it is almost a secondary after thought.  Having run the most miles ever before this year in 2013 but still being under 1900, I thought I’d be challenged to run 2000 in 2014.  In the end, it wasn’t really challenging at all—other than avoiding injury.  Yes, the symbolism of the city (Truth or Consequences) and the symbolism of the church (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) I reached are both strong.  But that was not the most important thing.

The completion of a goal was important.  I set the goal and reached it.  It might be the most important thing if I had done all the planning myself and made the goal happen myself.  However, while I set the goal, I had a coach who developed a plan and friends who helped me get through.

If not the goal setting and reaching, perhaps I could remember the effort. The major and amazing push at the end.  Important, but still not the main memory.

The friendship that was showed by Jackie that I described yesterday was important.  While I’ve crossed the finish lines with my sons before, that was because I chose to run with them.  I have not run a race with a friend where either I or they chose to stay together the whole time or to make sure to cross the finish line together.  This was unique.  But still not the single most important thing. 

The most important thing I will remember is that the help I received was a gift.  An amazing gift.  A gift I’d like to pass on.  The gift of others caring about me enough to communicate about me and to make my success their goal.  I wish everyone could feel what it means to be given a gift like that.  Why was I lucky enough to have this experience?  Because I have been lucky enough to find a fitness activity that I enjoy and through which I have built many and deep friendships.  Deep friendships are what leads to people wanting to help each other.  And I was lucky enough to have people who wanted to help me.  And that was the most important part of Sunday for me. 

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