Thursday, June 27, 2019

26.2: Marathons are Fun!!

How was my second marathon? I had a really good time … I ran. I talked to a bunch of people from all over the world. I ran. I ran some more. I ran past beautiful scenery and got cheered on by many, many, many spectators (the Edinburgh marathon crowds are the best!).

Almost there! (mile 24)
The spectators? Families, lots of them. Small bands playing music – a family with mum and kids, mum playing the saxophone, kids handing out candies. Kids blowing bubbles, and us all running through them. Lots of high fives with tiny hands. Many families in their tiny front yards – music blaring, beers being drunk, candies being offered to us runners as we went by. The best? Around mile 24, a family had sliced thousands of orange slices – I’ve never tasted an orange so good!!

I hadn’t been feeling super well that morning. It’s tough flying into a new place and adjusting to the food and then running 42 k. It was raining very hard. The start of the race cured me of any doubts. There were over 7000 people racing and the energy was uplifting. We started, and ran through the old part of the city, then down to the water.

I stopped at mile 6. Nature called, and I was in and out quickly. By mile 13 I was feeling weirdly tired; I usually don’t get super tired until around mile 20. I slowed down, and started worrying about dying or not finishing the race…. then I thought about my special people. I started feeling the gratitude that I knew would carry me through. I am so grateful for the body I have: the legs that can carry me over roads and hills; the lungs that can breathe deeply enough to energize me for hours as I run; the metabolism that is fine with a little starvation or thirst.

At mile 14 I started a game. I pretended I was running a half-marathon. I imagined myself going out the door and getting on the metro, on my way to a half marathon race in Montreal. I picked up speed and my energy returned. I was psyched, and happy, I smiled throughout almost the whole distance.

We entered a forest and when we left it, at around mile 20, the wind started. Big time. Gusts up to 24 mph, and a headwind that made it hard to breathe. Last marathon I ran, I created a headwind out of my emotional state that held me back. This time, I was doing great, and the wind was physical and intense. I ran through it, and finally I reached the finish line. My husband was there but I didn’t even see him. He said I looked like I was gliding, and I was. I finished the distance, and I did it with gratitude in my heart and a smile on my face.

But my time? How fast did I go??? That’s the question on everybody’s mind, because after all, it is a race. Well, actually, I ran it 8 minutes slower than my first one, and my first one was 5:34…and I was super disappointed last time.

So am I disappointed now? No! Sure I’d love to run faster, and I have already identified some things I have to tweak. Logistics things, and training things (thanks Perse!) But I’m not disappointed because I realized that, for me, the pleasure is in the journey. I’m not talking about being super happy with a DNF. But I’m happy and proud that I ran the whole way, and that I succeeded in my goal.

In these times of self-aggrandizement, mutual back-patting, and public vilification, everybody wants to post about how well they did: I beat my PR! My birth was just what I wanted! I am the best volunteer person in history! I lost 375 pounds in a week! And on, and on, ad nauseum.

What’s behind this nonsense though? A simple human need, that has grown pathologically because we have so much time on out hands. The need is simple: everybody wants to be loved; to be special; to matter. And so we create a persona for ourselves that our tricky minds convince us will better reach that goal. How much do you leave out when you’re posting all your stuff on the social media? More importantly, because who really cares about a reality made up of electrical impulses (oh, I forgot, that’s the human physical reality…), more importantly, how are we damaging ourselves when we create incomplete or misleading stories about ourselves?

Alcoholics Anonymous has helped millions of people live with their addiction. Addiction never really goes away, but people learn to manage the fact that they are addicts and they can live happy, productive lives. The organization, of course, has its critics, but one of the main tenets is honesty. That is, the ability to describe yourself honestly to yourself and others.

I’m struggling with this idea. To try to be honest to yourself? Always! That’s part of the main tasks of life itself, I believe. To discover who you are and to refine and make that person better, and to live “yourself” as honestly as possible. To try to be honest with others? Mostly, and mostly superficially, it’s a good idea. Don’t lie, swindle, cheat.

But are some secrets better kept … secret? A difficult diagnosis, for a while. A difficult past. Some traumatic events that don’t need to be talked about. Sometimes, an inconvenient emotion. I’ve kept some secrets for many, many years. Mostly from people I don’t know: I’m not one of those people who tell their whole difficult life story on air and feel the public love because of it. But some secrets I’ve kept from people very close to me. Is that wrong? I’m not sure.

So, from the profound to the superficial: I’m an amateur runner, and I run at a pretty average speed for my age. I’m a “back-of-the-pack” racer, and happy and grateful that my body works so well. But I still felt a twinge of self-doubt when I looked at the results and saw that embarrassing number. 5:42:20. Sheesh. Couldn’t I have run faster? Hey, I ran a full marathon, and I did it with a smile on my face. What could be better than that?