Thursday, December 12, 2013

Half Thoughts and Whole Marathons

Have you ever had a half-thought? You know, those thoughts, ideas, or even hints of insight that you seem to see with the periphery of your mind? For me, these half-thoughts float around my ears like ghosts, whispering that they have something important to say but I've got to turn around and chase them down to be able to catch what it is. Over the past year, I have had dozens of half-thoughts flit by me, with hopes of becoming blog posts, but I never took the time to pin them down and find out if there truly was any substance to them.

So that is my excuse for my silence on this blog. Pure, utter laziness that chooses to mindlessly scroll through Facebook for the billionth time rather than chase down a thought that might be worth pursuing.
For over a month now, I've had a half-thought about writing a blog post about the marathon I ran in November. It's still undeveloped, but I've decided to write about it anyway and maybe the thought will take color and form as I process the experience I had.

In January (actually, the same day I wrote the last post on here!) I set my New Year's resolutions as I always do and one of them was to run a trail marathon. At that point, I wasn't really sure if I would accomplish my goal, but at least it would hopefully encourage me to run more. Around July I started to get a little more serious about this goal... there was a 50K in October that I wanted to run and everyone told me that 5 more miles (a 50K is 31 miles, a marathon is 26.2 miles) wouldn't be that much harder than a marathon. I made a customized schedule for running in the 12 or so weeks leading up to the race... and promptly failed to follow the schedule. Excuses... both real and contrived... kept popping up up and hindering me from running the mileage each week I was expected to run. To make matters worse, my shoes began falling apart at the seams...literally. It seemed that my marathon dream was becoming more of a half-thought that was quickly escaping me.

If it weren't for my husband, the marathon dream would have very likely been shelved for "next year" along with so many other aspirations that I have given up on once they became too difficult or complicated. I can vividly remember one day that my running schedule told me to run 14 miles. I wasn't able to get to the trail until almost dusk that evening because I had to squeeze my running in after work. With some confusion of trails and backtracking, I ended up running almost 17 miles, with at least 4 of those miles by the light of a weak headlamp. The run was mostly flat and easy footing (except for the copperhead I nearly stepped on!) but it kicked my butt and I dragged myself home, feeling like if 14 miles (as I originally thought the distance was) was this hard, and if all my runs had to be in the dark like this, I'd never make it in the 50K. Besides, it turned out that I had a work obligation the day of the 50K anyway. Here was my excuse!

I dragged my sore body home, fully ready to tell Tim I was done with the marathon half-thought and I'd just do something "next year". When I got home, he made me dinner, let me shower and go to bed, cryptically asked me what my shirt size was, and went back into his study. When he came to bed he told me he had needed my shirt size because he had been filling out my application for the Bobcat Trail Marathon in November! I couldn't believe it. We didn't have money for the entrance fee, not to mention the new shoes I would need, and besides, didn't tonight's run prove that I didn't have what it takes?

Apparently Tim thought otherwise. He wanted to help me make the marathon dream become a reality and wouldn't let me back out of it. He worked out our tight budget so that we could afford the expenses for the race, the trip, and a new pair of shoes (that we miraculously found for half price online!)

Tim took down every barrier he could to make sure I would follow through with my goal. But the one thing he couldn't do for me was train. So I had to commit myself... and virtually every weekend until the race... to preparing myself. For the next month my free time was consumed in running. During the week I got up before the sun to run a few miles before work, and on Saturdays I committed the whole day to packing for the trail run (I tend to take a lot of snacks and water), driving to the trail, running, and then crashing at home and sleeping. It's a good thing we didn't have any house guests because I don't think the bathroom got cleaned all month and I only kept up with the laundry when my running clothes needed to be washed.

I was getting sick of running, it was becoming a chore. But amazingly, the training was actually working.  It was amazing to see that when I stuck with something and kept pushing through the difficulties that tried to get in the way, I actually began to get stronger and more comfortable with running long distances.

It's getting late and I want to finish this thought, so I'll save a recap of the race for another post. But on November 3, when I finally crossed the finish line of my very first trail marathon in 5:46:22, feeling tired and full of adrenaline all at once, I realized that finishing the marathon was so much more than just running 26.2 miles. To me, the actual race was not as hard as the commitment and perseverance it took to train for the marathon. The race ended up being the icing on the cake, the reward for all the miserable and wonderful miles I had put in leading up to that day. There's a lesson in there, somewhere, but it's bedtime so if you made it to this point, see if you can find a way to finish my half-thought about the challenges and rewards of commitment. You may even find yourself finishing your own marathon while you're at it.

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