I have always maintained that I run not just to run because running is a metaphor for life. Running continues to teach me about life, about my journey of faith and love and struggle and pain and joy. Recently, as my marathon training peaked, I was again given the gift of two life-lessons. It reminded me again of why I run , why I’m putting my body through the hardship of 18, 19, 20 mile runs in preparation for the big day of 26.2 one week from today on October 12th!
1. A Friend Catches You When You Fall
On September 21st, Running Buddy and I ran a “supported” practice race down the Lakeshore path with the Chicago Area Running Association (CARA). It was a beautiful day and the run was going pretty well for both of us, though I was still getting over a cold and Running Buddy was having IT band issues. Then, around mile 18, my body wasn’t having it anymore. In retrospect, I was probably dehydrated, because when we crossed the finish line, I started heaving and Running Buddy literally caught my arm and held me up. Within minutes I was fine (thanks to water and recovery drinks!!). But already during those few unpleasant minutes, I was (inwardly) delighting in the running-life lesson being lived out. Running Buddy literally caught me when I was falling, just as her alter ego, Ace, does metaphorically in non-running real life. Just as my beautiful and supportive friends and support network do for me constantly. What a gift to have friends who catch you when you fall!
2. Conditions will Never Be Perfect
I’ve been hoping desperately for good conditions during this marathon training season and especially for the marathon! I’m sick of having qualifications for my training and my races. For example, whenever I talk about my first marathon it always includes something like, “Well, I hurt my foot two weeks before and almost didn’t run and then I ran anyway and got stress fractures in both my feet.” Or I tell the story of how I got mono the day after I won the lottery for this marathon (kinda kills the momentum) and couldn’t run the Illinois Half I’d been training for at that time too (kind of a downer). In addition to those bigger bummers, I just feel like my running in general is plagued with “well, I was kind of sick for that run so…” or “I didn’t get enough sleep this week” or… you get the picture. While I’ll of these things are true, I think it’s left me in the unrealistic pursuit for a smooth, no setbacks training season and race.
So on 20-miler day, when I was still getting over a cold and using sentences again like, “And I had a cold for this run, so hopefully on the actual marathon…” to (rightly) justify why it may not have been as good a run as I hoped (like my 19-miler was!), I realized that I’m always looking for those perfect conditions, conditions that will probably never actually exist. The imperfect, rainy day journey is what matters. It’s the messy here and now. In running and in life.
We rarely get quite enough sleep, have quite enough time for our projects in work or school, or see our friends as much as we’d like because it’s hard to find the perfect window of freedom. Maybe we should stop holding out for the stars to align when we will then be at our best, but make the most of our imperfect and messy lives, which is still full of stars, even if they don’t quite align into Orion’s Belt. Maybe the lesson..and even the unexpected joy, is in the imperfect, “not ideal conditions” journey?
3. Drink Enough Water
Ok, so not all running lessons correlate exactly into running lessons. Sometimes, you learn a lesson while running or racing that is just helpful to learn for future runs. Somewhere along the way in the 20-miler, I stopped hydrating enough….hence the unfortunate end of the race mentioned above. I learned what I need to be especially attentive to on race day!
Thanks to all who have supported me in fundraising for Team Taller de Jose! In addition to water, it is my supporters, whether in person with cheering, through online donations and encouragement, or in spirit and prayer, who will keep me going next week! If you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, you can still do so here: https://connect.clickandpledge.com/Organization/tallerdejose/campaign/2014marathon/fundraiser/MelissaCarnall/