Well, the long awaited for and worried about (by me, at least) Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon has been completed. Julie and I arrived at our corral at about 6:30am and waited around for the gun. I think we finally started at 7:20-ish. And, naturally, we had two completely different experiences of the same day.
I asked Julie to write a blurb about her experience. Here’s what she said: ” I did it! My third marathon was accomplished with a few verbal whimpers and many whimpering thoughts. I finished in good time for me, but it was tough. This running thing gives you time to ponder many a thing. Today I was feeling surprised by the shapes, sizes and ages of the runners. I was passed by many people older and larger – people I thought I should beat. I’m also amazed at the different styles of running. It is amazing to me that we, as a people, are made up of the same number of chromosomes, and that they go together in such different ways.
“One of my running slogans is, ‘Pain is temporary; pride is forever!’ That thought is a valid one, but sometimes I still doubt my ability to do a marathon. Crazy, huh? Three done (I am proud of this), but it is sort of hard even now to believe I really do run marathons.”I know two things: If I can run a marathon, anyone can (if they choose to), and I really am proud of my physical, mental and emotional toughness. I did it!”
It might be helpful to know that Julie used to carry a lot of extra weight and running has helped her lose it. She’s still in awe of her ability to pull off the marathon distance. She’s also a labor and delivery nurse, so she holds little bundles of chromosomes in her arms every day, wondering who they will turn out to be – and what their running stride will look like someday.
Today, for me, was not so full of wonderment about the uniqueness of every human being – not so philosophical, you might say. Here’s how it went down for me: The first six miles were strong, but stressful. Julie and I ran hard because we had deadlines to meet in order to be allowed to continue in the race. Since I’ve been primarily water running and riding the stationary bike at Gold’s Gym (instead of training on the cold, hard ground), my (very insufficient) “training,” didn’t really prepare me for today. By mile nine, my quads hurt like heck, my foot was aching and I was CRABBY.
Poor Julie, who is extremely cheerful and positive, as a rule, got the brunt of my poor attitude. At about mile 15, I had to asked her to stop saying, “We can do it. Only (fill in the blank) miles to go!” She swears I didn’t hurt her feelings with my request, but we did mutually decide to finish separately within another mile.
I ran alone with my bad self for four more miles – fighting for every single step and feeling guilty for being bad company, not even enjoying the running Elvises and frowning at the sweet Jr. High Cheerleaders who yelled, “Keep on truckin’ all the way,” at me every few miles. All this distance, I vacillated between crying and silently reciting the Buddhist Lovingkindness Meditation to calm myself down (panicked as I was that I would have to hitch a ride to the finish line).
At mile 20, a fellow who had been tracking right beside me, dared to speak to me. George turned out to be exactly what I needed. Just my age, George is a high school English teacher in Las Vegas whose main goal was to beat his last marathon time (6:20). He asked me how I was doing and I confessed I wasn’t doing well. George very authoritatively said, “Well, let’s not talk about that. Let’s just talk.” And so I set my Gym Boss to one minute of walking and two minutes of running and we talked: about my running on the continents, about the kids in his classes, about my experience as an English teacher years ago, about his two children. And the time passed – not quickly, not easily and not without pain. But it passed.
And I finished. I think my time was 5:39 – the longest it has ever taken me to run a marathon.
I think the moral of the story is that I need to take some time to heal my foot and then to get (gently) back onto the trails and remember my love of breathing without a finish line to reach for.
But until then: Thanks to Julie for being so gracious with my crabby mood and to George for being the right companion at the right time. And thanks, once again, to the marathon for teaching me what I need to know about myself – even if it’s that we need to take a break from one another for a little while.
Oh, and thanks to Bill and all of my friends for your encouragement and continued interest in my running pursuits.