The past eighteen months or so have been stressful. There has been a lot of uncertainty in my career and personal life. There has been a lot of frustration and a newly developed disdain for bureaucracy that came along with this uncertainty, and I am grateful that I have running, hiking, and cooking (and a great Support Crew) as releases for that. It’s safe to say that I was looking forward to this marathon training season to help me navigate this rut.
That is until I ventured back to New England for an overdue visit. A double-edged sword, it was wonderful to see family and friends, but the training season that I was so looking forward to succumbed to the heat and humidity. My training lagged and I lost more fitness than I anticipated. I hoped for the best, but didn’t bounce back quite as well as I had hoped as the season came to a close. My paces were off and I made the mistake of comparing them, split-for-split, to last season. Knowing that each season was run under very different circumstances, I still beat myself up over it.
After a quick vent sesh with a friend, I shook it off and adapted my plan. Reflecting on the sheer exhaustion of the year, I let go of my time goal and switched to an “In It To Finish” mindset, and looked forward to a fun Irish getaway that just happened to include a wee 26.2 mile fun run.
I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the other little thing that has been affecting me and many people that I know: I read and watch the news.
The news has been disheartening lately. Seeing horrific acts of violence and hatred and watching so many lawmakers vote against logic, seemingly neglect compassion, and attack each other leaves me with the impossible question of “why?” In addition to several facets of anger, it makes me feel small and a bit useless. It makes me wonder if we’re still on the same team here.
I won’t digress too much into this, because I’m sure you feel similarly and know that finding words to accurately describe your feelings towards the current state of affairs is an impossible task, but this weekend, I remembered that there is a way to restore your faith in humanity: be part of a marathon- run, walk, volunteer, cheer, honk your horn while you drive by- just be part of it.
Okay, so here’s a rundown of the 2018 Dublin Marathon:
“Fresh” isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe how I felt as I toed the start line of the 2018 Dublin Marathon (although I wore compression socks to bed the night before, so my mind felt like my legs felt fresh). I’m sure it would be lovely to start a marathon feeling “fresh” and confident in your training and the amount of rest you got in the weeks leading up to the race, but I’d say it was more of a “Here Goes Nothin'” kind of feeling. The usual nervous-excitement, butterflies-in-your-tummy feeling was there, but I also felt like, “wow literally anything could happen in the next 4.5 hours, and I’m excited to find out what will happen next.”
It was an absolute battle, but I felt strong, physically and mentally, the entire time. Not once did I second guess myself or question the idea of the marathon. And for the first time in over a year, I felt in control.
Right out of the gate, I was running too fast compared to my watered-down season of training. It was a challenging pace, but I went with it. The fatigue and discomfort that naturally set in every time around mile 16, while incredibly present, were no match for my ability to run on auto-pilot. I never walked, knowing that if I slowed or came to a stop, starting back up again would be nearly impossible and incredibly painful.
The entire journey from start to finish was entirely renewing. It restored my faith in humanity, as marathons tend to do. Seeing human barricades of spectators lining the streets with witty signs, demanding high fives, and shouting words of encouragement reminded me that people are good and we are all still on the same team.
And the encouragement wasn’t limited to the sidelines. Other runners lifted each other up and pushed each other physically and mentally closer towards the finish line. I was genuinely asked on several occasions how I was doing, and honestly, I don’t think it was limited to the task at hand. We offered each other snacks and broke down the course for each other- “It’s just a 10km now, an hour at most!” I said to a runner, struggling as her GPS watch rang in the twentieth mile. “That’s 5km, two times!” someone else chimed in. Twenty minutes (but what seemed like three hours) later, we remarked at what seemed like the longest 10km of our lives, but found comfort in the fact that everyone around us was also embarking on what felt like the longest 10km of their lives.
In the end, I pulled off a PB…and it felt good. It felt challenging. I finished in the best way you can finish a race- feeling like I couldn’t have gone any faster. When my legs checked out, my heart took over and persevered onward to the finish line.
No stranger to crying in airports and on airplanes (happy and/or sad crying), I shed an actual tear on my short flight back to Glasgow Monday morning as I replayed the day in my head. I can honestly say that every moment of the race was enjoyable. It most definitely wasn’t easy, but the challenge, the pain, and the exhaustion, were all deeply personal and reminded me of my own strength, the strength of others, and the kind and supportive people in the world.
Thank You Notes:
- Thank you to my Support Crew (near and far), including the four lovely ladies I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with. It would be impossible to train for and run marathons without a Support Crew.
- Thank you to Dublin for putting on an incredible race! It was a gorgeous day and the atmosphere and support along the course were amazing.
- Thank you, as always, to chocolate milk for being the most perfect, immediate, post-run recovery drink.