This fall I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, all over again. My first time was in 2006; I was 45 and it was my first marathon. It was painful and difficult and I swore I would never ever run that far again until I turned 70. And then seven years later after a few broken hearts, being fired, being dropped by my homeowner’s insurance, hitting a deer with my car, getting a blood clot, and a bunch of other seemingly end-of-the-world events there I was at 52 doing it all over again. And I do realize that 52 is not 70.
I say I did it all over again, but that is not true. It was the same event, but the race was completely different for me this time. Let me explain.
Before you ask, no I did not beat Oprah’s time. I admire her greatly, but honestly I had forgotten that she ran it until I saw the sign during my race. And frankly she is not the bar by which I measure my success.
No, my success is measured against myself! This time I was 45 pounds lighter and I believe that eliminated the chafing that I experienced the first time. I had one tiny spot this time which does not compare to the sores I had on my inner thighs years ago.
I had much better gear. I will not even say that I spent more money, I was simply better educated and chose my attire more for function than for looks. I did not wear anything new; everything that touched my skin on race day had been on my body for many long runs previously. Well everything except my gloves; I bought new gloves because the night before the race after leaving my old ones in the restaurant. Hey, there are worse things I could have done!
I trusted my training and had the least amount of race anxiety ever. I’d run several 15+ milers outside, whereas when I trained for my first marathon I did a lot of my long mileage on a treadmill watching movies in a gym. I logged in many, many hours of yoga. In fact I had a yoga instructor meet us after our long runs and lead us through a thirty minute yin class to completely stretch us out, making for a swifter recovery. I also reunited my love affair with my foam roller and even became friends with ice baths.
I looked at the race for what it was-a race. My results were not signs of anything except my running. Going faster or slower was not going to create world peace, start any world wars, or get me promoted. This race was a celebration of my desire, dedication, and diligence. Don’t get me wrong, it is a huge accomplishment and the medal is freaking awesome. But attaching too much stuff to it causes anxiety and hinders the process, at least in my opinion.
After my first race I could barely walk afterwards and my recovery seemed to take a very long time. This time I was able to walk in heels without pain the day after. I even ran a couple of days after–and that is true progress.
My goal the last time was simply to finish before dark standing up; I had a much different goal this time. I did not meet my goal time, but I ran better than the first time. When I approached the aid stations there was still food and water. The last time they ran out of everything before I got there. Again, true progress.
I am not claiming to be fast, I am claiming to be a finisher and that was the ultimate goal. And now there is a tiny voice inside me whispering that I should do it again before I turn 70. Hey, anything can happen between now and then.