No, I Didn’t Win: Catnip’s Columbus Marathon Report

Catnip at the 2017 Columbus Marathon“Did you win, mama?”

I had arrived home from the race spent and crusty. I lost and, although that part wasn’t unexpected at all, I had run probably the most miserable marathon out of my total of 15 finishes. The Columbus Marathon, not to mention a few hundred other runners, had beaten me thoroughly.

From the gun, runners flowed around me, among them quite a few friends but thousands of strangers.  Right away, I got caught up in a friendly pack. I’ve embraced my introversion recently, but something here felt right and I lost my inhibitions, comfortably joining the chatter.

I lost my nerve, but only briefly. Approaching 13 miles my new friend had left me behind. I was warm. I was tired. I was uncomfortable. I stared longingly at the turnoff toward the half marathon finish. I swerved, calculated the consequences, then corrected. I’d finish the whole f-ing enchilada.

I lost my pride. I was on track to run my slowest marathon in 10 years, and my pace was going the wrong direction quickly (ha). I was walking regularly. I considered what people might think about this result next to my name, then let the thought just die. I ran, then walked again.

I lost my faith. How was I once able to dream of running an Olympic Trials qualifying time? At this point in the marathon I was barely able to run a single mile straight through and it was really, really hard. I doubted my ability to finish this run (/walk), let alone string together any 6:15 miles one day.

Then I lost my shit. Finally. That is, I lost the BS excuses I’d been feeding myself, the excuses for quitting workouts and sleeping in, for lowering my goals and feeling only nostalgia for the runner I used to be rather than desire and hope and ambition for achieving whatever my potential it. I disputed the memories that falsely claimed that those miles and those paces used to be easy. It’s harder now, sure, but it was never actually easy.

I became lost to the world, passing a high school friend and even Bergamot screaming my name twenty inches from my head without even flinching.

“No, I didn’t win,” I told my son.

In the end, actually, I had nothing to lose.

I'm a 20-year veteran of competitive running, USATF certified coach, mom of a toddler -- and still trying to set PRs. I write about training from 5k to marathon, motherhood and competitive running, and the elite side of the sport. The 5k is my favorite race (16:56 PR) but I've got a score to settle with the marathon.

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  1. Way to push through to finish with a time the majority of marathon runners only dream of on what was a very humid and warm day. Really enjoyed sharing the early miles with you and wish we could have stuck together when the tough miles came. Can’t wait to see how you do next time!

  2. ok, so last night I read Olives half report, now yours, and I can honestly say my half in November was not at all stellar. but I didn’t care. What is going on with us? are we burned out? do we just need a break from training plans and just enjoy our runs? Are we all in this running slump-lol. I know for me, I decided that this winter I would focus on getting stronger by going back to weights, trying other forms of exercise, running when I want, and not expecting anything until I find a race I really want to train for. I was never one of those that needed to “keep up with the Jone’s”, and I’m not going to start now. I don’t care what my Athlink account has in it, that’s not what makes me a strong runner. my kids make me a strong runner, the support from my family makes me feel like a strong runner and that’s all that matters.

  3. Thank you for sharing this so authentically. I read it at just the right time tonight. As my other running friends are submitting improved times for Boston and gearing up to train for it, I’m having a little pity party for myself over my downward slide from the PRs I was running a couple of years ago. I’m working to overcome the day to day grind and excuses that put me here, but wow…some days are just tough. I was shooting for a PR at Indy and ended up dropping out at 18 and its a tough pill to swallow.

  4. Great post! And good reminder that when things are hard, or not going how we want them to, that doesn’t mean it used to be easy.