One of the marathon’s odd properties is it’s affect on time. Some months before the appointed date you get inspired, sign up excitedly and it feels like the race is right around the corner. I have to train now! Then the months drag on and you think the race will never happen. I peaked too early! The week of the race finally arrives and time stands still. Days drag, the clock doesn’t turn. I’ve lost all my fitness! Suddenly the morning is here, toes are on the line, 30 seconds to go …
The lead up to this race began before Boston, last year in fact. I signed up for Boston last fall, 2:50 on my mind, had an excellent autumn of training, set a 10K PR, then promptly crashed when it actually came time to train for Boston. My legs were cement, heart was stone, every workout sucked, every run was a struggle. My solution was to run more. I increased my mileage, doubled my double days. Somehow I went to Boston, ran a 2 minute PR and was sorely disappointed by the whole process. What I didn’t realize was that process laid the groundwork for this success.
And yes, of course, I consider the 2009 San Antonio Marathon a success. I’m happy with my time, 2:49:51. Moreso though, oh so moreseo, I enjoyed the process. After Boston I took time off from running, I reassessed training, commitment, motivation. We went to Europe and it changed everything. Running along the Seine, the Thames, The River Garonne revived my passion. I wasn’t training, wasn’t running every day, wasn’t even trying, but I was having my best workouts in a year. We came back for the summer and I ran when I wanted to run, rested when I didn’t. No longer a slave to the alarm, to the plan, I stopped keeping a log, stopped caring about Miles Per Week. I found a book that got me even more excited about the process. Need it be said that I was running better than ever? And I wasn’t even trying.
So of course, by regaining the process, I signed up for a race to measure the results. Oh the irony. And that’s the puritan story of how, after swearing off marathons for good at mile 10 of Boston, I came to sign up for the 2009 Rock ‘n Roll San Antonio Marathon and 1/2 Marathon in all it’s commercial glory a mere four months later.
After signing up, I was desperate not to lose the “innocence” as it were. I deliberately stayed away from Gazelle workouts, I purposely did shorter “long” runs, I often cut repetitions short. I wanted to keep not caring about the result, I wanted to keep enjoying the process. I had four months until the race, and in fact I hadn’t even committed to the full 26.2. I told myself, and others, that I signed up for the full but would run the half if the training didn’t go well.
The training went well. Peaked at maybe 75 mpw (not keeping track, remember?). Started taking a day off every week. Doubles when I wanted. My garmin broke but I found I enjoyed running with my son’s one-lap kid’s watch. Every workout was fun, my fitness felt phenomenal, and still I wasn’t really trying. If only I could bottle this, I didn’t want to lose the feeling. And of course as race day approached, the tyranny of the result started weighing on my shoulders, the process pushed aside, and I started struggling again.
So this last week I tried really hard to forget about obtaining a result and endeavored to remember the expression. The result is pressure, the process is an expression. Patience, desire, unselfishness, joy, stamina, love, passion. You don’t try to impress anyone, you don’t feel any pressure to perform, you don’t worry that you’re not good enough. You don’t even have to really do anything, you just have to be what you are … a good runner, a mediocre runner, one who runs, one who enjoys running.
And so yesterday, toes on the line, I thought to myself, “forget about time, remember the process. You’ve trained for this, you don’t have to do anything you’re not capable of, you just have to be who you are.”
To be continued…