Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Braving it

We like those finish-line moments, when we throw our hands up in the air and celebrate the end of a well-run race. I watched a thrilling NYC Marathon on Sunday, watching Meb bring it home for the Americans.

I also saw Paula Radcliffe tough it out in the last few miles and when the marathon queen finished fourth, we saw her clench her legs in pain. She held off the pain until the very end. Every marathoner must have cringed. That's courage.

Long distance running, or marathon training, means one puts in pure dedication into a passion. Most of us are full-time workers or students so dedication is measured in the hundreds of miles we put in during an 18-week training program, months after most New Year's Resolutions run out. Dedication is measured in the time -- hours with friends lost, hours put aside -- while we head out the roads while everyone else is sleeping or enjoying a beer or spending an afternoon in front of a couch.

We reach the start line ready to race, ready to "express our fitness." Marathoning for us mere mortals is not about showing off your natural running talent on race day. We freaking work for it.

I was out for a post-marathon recovery run this past weekend and I saw a friend of mine standing there in the middle of the trail. I stopped to say hi and asked if he was waiting for a friend. No, it turned out, he was at mile 12 in the middle of his last 23 miler ahead of Philadelphia. His achilles tendon had flared up and it hurt. I asked if he needed bus fare or help to a phone, but he said he'd walk it off and had money for a phone call. I said that on my way back, "if I see you, I'm going to help you out." As I ran off, I imagined what must have been going through his mind three weeks from the marathon. He'd done seven Bostons yet was going through a run that would give most of us self doubt.

I didn't see him on my way back, but I'm reminded that on my failed BQ attempt, it was he who emerged from the crowd in the last kilometre to run alongside me and pass me water. He pushed aside a race official who could have pulled me from the course. He helped me finish. Here's a picture of me and him. You can tell I'm hurting. And yes, I ended up in the medical tent at the end.

All of this to say, is that while I celebrate my blogging running friends who have great races, I also feel pain (and pride) for the runners who don't have their field day. It's more brave than I can think of for someone like Amy to be sick on race day yet fight her way to the finish. Or someone like Marlene's Mark to train the entire summer, logging 1000 miles, and admit to himself 5 miles from the finish that the smart move would be to forego his victory lap.

Just like I had my bad races, and later experienced a little bit of redemption, I know they'll get theirs. The best part is I know we'll all be lacing up our shoes for the next run, the next training cycle, to log the next thousand miles before you once again toe the start line, with the hope that at the end, you can get that finish-line moment.


Arcane said...

well said

Amy Reinink said...

Thanks for including me in a well-written post about a part of long-distance running that doesn't get talked about much: disappointment. But just as ego-boosting runs teach us to redefine our boundaries and dream big in other parts of our lives, those disappointing days remind us that even when things go don't go according to plan, we gain strength from continuing to fight — and in finishing anyway.

Marky Mark said...

That may be your most powerful post ever-it really strikes a chord.

Marlene said...

What Marky Mark said.

This literally brought a tear to my eye. You have a way with words and this definitely hits home.

And this: "We freaking work for it." is one of my favourite quotes ever.

Excellent post... I just emailed the post to Mark, although he has probably read it already. ;) He's always saying 'Did you see Kenny's post today?' We should get together for a beer some time....

Thanks Kenny. We'll definitely see you out there again soon.

And I hope your friend is pay for Philly!

Marlene said...

that was supposed to be 'okay for Philly'

Marlene said...

Thanks for this ... again. :)