Yesterday, I finished my first marathon. 26.2 whole miles traversed in one attempt in nothing but a pair of shoes (well, and a few other choice pieces of clothing of course). I could go on and on about the rigors of the training or the hours spent doing something other than what I ‘wanted to be doing,’ but I want to focus on one aspect of my experience that was so impactful for me.
A modest estimate of how late I finished after my ‘time-goal’ is about 1 hour. If you had asked me at mile 13 how I felt about this, I’d probably have given you a terse censorable response about how pissed I was that I wasn’t performing at the level ‘I felt I was capable.’ What happened over the course of the next 2 miles, and then thankfully carried over for the rest of the race, was something very special for me indeed.
I got over myself.
I somehow was humbled by 13 or so miles of self-induced pain and realized that I needed an attitude adjustment – or I don’t think I would have made it the next 13.
I realized that just finishing in a reasonable time would be just as fulfilling because the only person who was really concerned about such issues was me. I thought to myself, “Come on Joe, this is your first marathon, RELAX! There will be many opportunities to get a better ‘finish time.”
This realization allowed me to focus on so much more, on the truly incredible things that were going on around me. I realized that there are many more people than I can count who would do many (if not anything) to be able to even compete in such an event. I also realized that just participating afforded me a profound lens into human nature that one doesn’t normally get to use - that thousands of people around me were all willing to work toward a difficult goal and really push themselves - going beyond a reasonable concept of effort to reach said goal. And then thirdly, the amazing nature of support that so many volunteers exhibited, who could have otherwise enjoyed a very pleasant Sunday – but instead came out to perform such undeniably important yet small things to assist strangers/runners/athletes accomplish ‘something.’
In retrospect, if I had been too focused on 'keeping my pace' to finish on time, I am sure I would have missed all of these things. Recognizing these and more allowed me to enjoy the rest of the race more than I thought possible – all except about the last 1.5 miles when I was really hurting – and do so with a smile on my face at the wonder all around.
I could go on and on about how this experience transcends the actual nature of the race itself… but I’m sure you can do that just as well as I can.
On Friday, I quoted Emil Zatopek – a famous Czech runner – on my facebook page who said:
At that time I skeptically hoped he was right. One day later, I am happy to say that he was right on.
As always, thanks for reading :) A.M.D.G.