Pittsburgh Marathon Race Day – what an exciting time. Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of running one of the first two legs of the marathon relay and then heading to the finish line to cheer on the field of runners. This year was pretty much the same with just one exception – I PR'd; Nope....not a Personal Record but a Personal Revelation. Standing amidst the crowd at Relay Exchange 1, I realized that somewhere along the way, I lost my Point2.
Just stick with me; I'll get to that later.
As I took off to complete my leg of the run, I was determined to do something I hadn't done in a while; I was going to pay attention to the people and places along the way. It started out like a typical run, people lining the streets and runners weaving their way through those around them. I settled into my pace and my eyes fell on two women running together. They stood out because I usually see these two ladies in the front row of my spin class lost in the moment of the ride. Today I saw two friends running together, covering the miles effortlessly. (Nice job Denise & Lynn!) As I made my way across the West End bridge, a road I'm usually driving at 40 MPH in my car, I slowed down to look to my left at the beautiful city where I was raised. Rounding the corner in the West End, I noticed a sign that said "Today is NO EXCUSES SUNDAY." I started to chuckle and then I realized the sign was being held by a coach who has inspired many people, myself included. Thankful for my coach, I began to reflect on the people I know and how each one brings different dimension to my life.
My short distance flew by as I made my way to my finish line and passed off the duties of our team to Jill, Dave and Erin who easily ran the next three legs (Go Team!). Smiling, I walked across the Smithfield Street Bridge and realized that I had actually enjoyed the miles I just covered! Then it hit me like a ton of bricks....that is what it’s all about right?
Before 2000, I was never really into fitness and I had NEVER considered myself an athlete. I ran my first marathon when I was 30 and it was the first REAL "athletic" thing I'd done! I signed up and trained just like the rest of the crew. I woke up race day a little more nervous than the experienced runners around me. They were talking bagels and carb loading, electrolyte replacements and fuel for the run. I was completely out of my element because all I wanted to do was throw up! I did make it to the start line however and when the gun sounded signaling the start of the race, my feet started to move! The miles flew by and I was totally consumed with what it was I was doing.
I remember something from almost every mile in that race. A blue sign at Mile 1 held by a proud husband that read "my wife rocks", a flock of geese settling onto the lake at mile 12, the lady from Kansas who paced me through miles 17-22 when I thought I was going to die. All of those things are as clear as day in my mind, but the one thing I remember the most about that day is my Point2. Passing the 26 mile marker and starting up that last hill, my eyes filled with tears as I realized "holy crap, this is it, Point2 and I'm done! I can do Point2!" These were the last moments before I could call myself a marathoner. There was one hill and 385 yards between me and the finish line. I began to think of myself differently. With commitment and training, I could do anything! This was MY marathon. The miles behind me were MY miles. I went into this race because I wanted it, not because I was trying to impress someone. My teary eyes opened wide to take in all of the people lining the streets to cheer us all across the finish line. I waved and smiled, grateful that they were sharing this with me. As I crossed the finish line and the announcer called out my name I yelled, "That's me!" Damn I was proud of myself and what I had accomplished. I didn't look back and say, "Well it wasn't my best effort but...." I was there....in my moment.
The marathon training changed my body, the event changed my life.
Over the next 11 years, I morphed into the person that I am today but along the way, I somehow forgot how to pay attention. I forgot what it felt like to pass that 26 mile marker and experience my first Point2. This "life changing event" turned into something that I needed to beat, something that I needed to do better. The competitive nature of my spirit took over and I began to lose sight of the goodness in endurance events. Yesterday, when I asked some of my friends about their experience for the day, I heard, "Well I didn't PR but..." "It wasn't my best showing but..." "I only did the relay but..." and so on. When did stepping up to participate in an endurance event of any distance become not good enough?
Am I saying to offer less than your best at every turn? COME ON…..you know me better than that! Don't misunderstand me; this is not a suggestion to settle for less. It is merely a suggestion to not allow the endless pursuit of another PR to take the joy of the event away from you. Maybe you're running slower today because you're training for another event. Maybe you ran the relay or couldn't participate because you're injured and just can't do the distance. Maybe you didn't PR because you just didn’t have it today!
Work hard, train hard and stop making excuses. If you don’t hold back your effort, you can be proud of your race. Enjoy your Point2 and crossing the finish line, but don't forget about the miles leading up to the finish line! Once those seconds are gone and the miles are covered, there are no do-overs so stop to smell the Biofreeze along the way!