What I learned yesterday

Yesterday was my fifth marathon. I ran my first in May of 2003 and have subsequently run in June 2004, October 2005, June 2006 and yesterday. Each race has brought me a variety of emotions; joy, pain, pride, humility, and thankfulness just to name a few.

Yesterday’s race taught me more than anything about humility and friendship. Going into this race I had quite lofty goals of reaching a PR of 3:50. My last race was a 3:57 and I was under the impression that this course would be easier. (It certainly was not easier) After a very stressful first few miles, I became aware that my 3:50 pacer was neither going to keep even splits nor going to avoid weaving (to get around people in the very tight crowd). My estimates are that in the first 8 miles, I did an extra .5 miles just of weaving. As I have excellent coaches through my club, I know this is a BAD choice, but I wanted to stay with my pacer. Alas, I paid the price. By mile 13, I knew it was going to be a bad day.

I was blessed to have my dear friend and running partner join me at mile 14. She is an amazing example of unconditional friendship (as is her husband who was out on the course cheering for us vehemently.) She picked me up when I was already down and we were ahead of 3:50 for about a mile. Then as the 3:50’s came and passed, she continued to encourage me. She kept me strong, telling me stories, getting me GU and water, even advil! She helped me to keep moving even if it was at a turtle slow pace with a very bad ‘tude. I have not fallen into such bad shape ever in a marathon and she did not let me quit. As the 4:00 pacer came and went, she pushed me to join the pack, led cheering for the whole crowd around me, and even invoked Jesus’ struggle on the cross to get me moving. She is an amazing example of friendship. All this only two weeks off a very sucky ankle sprain to boot. I have so many amazing friends in my life who lead me, inspire me, and call me out when I’ve done wrong. But yesterday was a keen example to me of how to be a true friend. Forsake your own pain, your own needs to lift up and guide another, even when they seem ungrateful at the time. I am so grateful and only pray that I may do the same for her or another on another day.

Yesterday was a truly humbling experience. I have been on an upward track since undertaking running four years ago. In 2002, I got up off the couch and started running. I ran a marathon a year later and finished in 4:48, without a lot of training and I was proud, hit by the running bug. I have not stopped running since and I have made huge improvements. I have cut 51 minutes off my marathon time, 7.5 minutes off my 5k time, and recently ran a 1:47 half marathon, these are quite good for a “mid packer”. I’ve been proud, growing in speed and success. Yesterday was a true indication that running does not always go up. That things cannot always go the way you plan. I was humbled by my loss. Humbled by my lack of improvement. Yet, given the grace and God’s gift of a friend, to help me cross. I did not quit, I did not give up, I finished yet with a sense of humanity that I had not quite ever encountered before in long distance running. I was no longer a competitor; hungry for the PR, but a weak participant, praying for the finish. I am a humbled runner. But I am still a runner.

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