On November 4th I’ll be running the New York City Marathon wearing bib number 28537, assigned to Orange Wave #2 and starting from Corral #28. These are the type of details that are supposed to make me feel better, feel in control, as if I know what I am doing. That is far from the truth. I usually try to divine some luck from my bib number, associate some clairvoyant omen from the color of my wave and hope that my corral is conveniently located. The truth of the matter is that I still don’t know if I have transportation to the start since I missed the critical email where I had to make a selection and my journey to this point has been a roadmap plotting out a path between pain and disillusionment. I am not invincible, I have been robbed of my hopeful spirit and visions of wonder, and I am barely grasping at that thing I used to recognize as hope. All I can eke out at this point is the goal to start the race and the hope that I will finish.
My adventures in running have paralleled my life’s experience and I shouldn’t be surprised why this last 6 months of training should be any different. I’ve learned that there are cheerleaders and coaches that used to be in my corner that have gotten bored and moved on. I am old hat, no more than a passing fancy or relegated to an amusing anecdote. What is infinitely more important is I’ve also learned who I can count on. They are the cheerleaders that are always in my corner, cheering me on when I can’t get out of bed in the morning, coaching me through both emotional and physical pain, and have a way of showing up when I need them the most. I am so very thankful for not being blind to the gifts that they continue to bring. They have been the analgesic to a year that has not had very many bright spots.
I can say that I have learned that even in pain and adversity, my inner spirit pushes on. Even with chronic hip/groin pain, I’ve learned how to rehabilitate myself after pushing myself to the limit, how to make small changes that protect me from the sharp, unbearable episodes, and how to trust that even in the worst moments, I will live through it. At least in this small way, I can take care of myself and ask for help when I truly need it. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That has been the outcome in my training. I am running faster, I am fitter, and I am lighter than I have ever been in my running life. I am still looking for that glimmer of joy that will make the pain worthwhile. I have come to believe that I will only experience that joy if I let go of all the disappointments I have experienced or imagined; and release myself of the many expectations that run rampant in the intensity that tends to define me.
I am not one to leave it all to myself to figure out how to move on with grace and peace. I asked an expert in this field for advice and she said that letting go is much like finding your place between regret and forget. When we regret, we hold on to all that we didn’t do, have, or experience. When we forget, we negate and invalidate the truths that are part of the deed, experience, or behavior. Both extremes are painful and debilitating. The key is finding the place in between. We need to find the place where we honor the truth by, in her words “taking the first arrow,” but shielding ourselves against the second arrow that brings with it deep pain and can inflict a mortal wound. If we can shield ourselves from that second arrow, we can find a way to acknowledge the feelings, the experience, or the behavior and give ourselves the opportunity to not to be dictated by that second shot. In the place between regret and forget we find a balance that is about letting go without giving up. It is the same technique that I practice when my chronic pain condition flares up as I am running. I visualize letting the muscles relax, slowly I adjust my gait and I concentrate on my breathing. I acknowledge that the pain is there and I concentrate on an image of a clenched fist opening and letting it go.
Another expert in EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is offering to put me through a technique used for trauma victims next week to deal with the anxieties that I have in running this latest marathon. In her words, it won’t hurt you and if it helps then it is worth giving it a shot. I am touched by all those that have come forward to hold me together in my state of fragility and self-doubt. Your actions have allowed me to believe in myself just the way I am, warts and all. That is a gift.
So back to my NYC marathon number and what type of meaning I can divine from its random association to me as a marathon runner. I suppose I can say that it means that I will run like I’m 28 (even though at 28 I was nothing close to a runner), create a legacy I can be proud of before I turn 53 (just 5 months away), and believe that my lucky number will be 7 (if you add all the numbers together and continue to do so until you have a single digit, my number comes down to the value of 7). I ran my fastest half marathon time to qualify for the New York City Marathon and received an orange (my only orange) shirt, so it is kismet that I am assigned to the Orange Wave. I also finished second in my division, so of course the seeming coincidence that I would be in the second division of the orange wave makes perfect sense to me. As for corral #28: it is just a final reminder that this 52 year-old will channel her younger self to do her best to get from the start to the finish, running the fine line between regret and forget. And that my friends will be a wonder in and of its self.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012