It’s been almost a week since I crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon and besides suffering a bit from muscle soreness and pmld syndrome (post marathon let down), I’m doing well. I received more praise than necessary and was told I provided inspiration for many. I’ve reflected on this idea of inspiration quite a bit since then.
It’s funny how everyone looks at a marathoner as a hero, as representing something maybe they’d like to do or know they could never do, and it seems as if the marathoner is almost elevated to a lower form of a deity. This feels weird and uncomfortable for me. When my boyfriend picked me up in Hopkinton after the race, I got in the car and said to him, “now it doesn’t have to be all about me anymore, I’m glad it’s over, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I feel lucky to have had this experience but I’m tired of all the attention” to which he replied something along the lines of, “let it be about you for just a little longer…you worked hard and you went out and did it so accept the praise and then move on”. I took this to heart.
I did run many many miles on the back roads and the rail trails of Rutland, Holden, and Paxton over the past year, through all kinds of weather, some formidable and some delicious. It wasn’t a bad winter so I got a break there, though I know I would have gone to the gym if necessary to get the job done. So yes, I put the miles in and was able to pull it all together on race day and have a great race.
Let me tell you a dirty little secret about probably a good percentage of marathoners …it is that we LOVE the long runs and just about all the training that goes into preparation. It is glorious. There were very few times when I had to motivate myself to get out the door. This may not be true across the board, but I’m betting it is more true than not. I loved the feeling of running away from my kids, my responsibilities in life, my worries and problems. It is a pause, the run, a time to reflect, to go deeper into my consciousness and heal. So it has become a win-win for me as it represents a sort of therapy, all this running, but it is the ones on the sidelines that are waiting and watching and hoping to see their runner in the race, that make the real sacrifices when they love a marathon runner.
It is my kids waiting for me to come home every morning on the weekends, worrying about me on the runs I did in inclement weather, it is my mother worrying and praying for me that I will use good judgement in deciding how much to run and she who knows the energy I’m using to train could possibly be used better elsewhere in the future, but she smiles and supports me as she knows and accepts that being a runner, for better or worse, is just part of who I am. It is all the doctors who patiently treated my stress fracture and a friend who gave me free massages. It is the many who donated to my cause in this past marathon effort, that of raising money for TSC. It is the toll this has taken on my body at age 49. There is a bit of a self destructive quality I have that also can be seen as willpower in light of evidence that running 15 miles a day might not be the best idea for much longer.
So yoohoo all you out there cheering, it is you that are the true heroes. Each marathoner in the race represents a full army of support and we runners are just showing up to represent and honor those who love us with our heroic act of seeming self sacrifice, yet secretly knowing that it is really a joy to run. I have truly had the chance to meet God on my runs, in the trees, and brooks, the fields and farms I run past, there is a still presence that envelopes and fills me and always keeps me coming back, like a good addict.
The paradox of it all is that running a marathon is an act of much willpower yet it is on the run, that there is a chance to really surrender to what is in this world and in ourselves and find true inner freedom. Yet even we runners, have to come down and do the laundry, the dishes, walk through the conflict and drama of our lives and try to remember that we are one among many and we can choose to feel special and exceptional for being able to perform such a feat of willpower, or we can seize the opportunity to let our runs be a wake up call, and walk (or run) the line between willpower and true freedom of the soul. It is a daily thing, a daily battle for me, but taking a step back and bowing to the heroes in all of you, is my lesson from this marathon thing, I did.