Yesterday I ran a marathon. It wasn’t the 2012 NYC Marathon, but I wore my shirt anyway. They cancelled that marathon and I haven’t heard from the race organizers ever since that fateful weekend. I guess they are too busy with damage control to communicate with the non-elite runners. Their business is about protecting the bottom line, making sure their sponsors are happy and not doing anything stupid. That’s right; because they did a lot of stupid things trying to figure out what was the right thing. I’d say they have every reason to be tentative, but I would also suggest that they have no reason to pretend their business isn’t about the 47,000 runners that have paid homage to their great race and in doing so, actually thought they were part of something great. It’s not about how much Mary Wittenberg is paid; it’s about how those same 47,000 runners have made the New York Road Runners brand. It's those same runners that organized running supplies to Staten Island, donated millions of dollars to the relief effort, and instinctually knew what the right thing was without spending days trying to figure it out.
But, back to yesterday. I had trained for eight months and traveled back and forth from Seattle to New York City and back to Seattle, an estimated 5,000 miles calculating for stopovers, to not run a marathon. Yesterday, I walked two blocks out my door and ran the 2012 Seattle Marathon. By all estimation, it is a marathon that is physically harder than the New York City Marathon, based on both terrain and the temperamental climate. Seattle race organizers reached out to the NYC displaced entrants offering both preferential and discounted entry. Throughout the year, I had worked with three different physical therapists each focused on diligently rehabbing a nagging injury, identifying the source of a critical weakness, and ultimately giving me the strategies to deal with both pain and disappointment. They prepared me for the cancellation of the NYC Marathon more than they ever imagined. With all my preparation, I joined the starting line with my orange NYC Marathon shirt and it wasn’t long until I spotted and starting conversing with many other displaced marathoners. We all had the same need, to run what we had trained to do, without criticism, politics or scrutiny. In some way, we all needed closure, an experience where race organizers didn’t make us feel embarrassed or ignored. We needed to remember that it was okay to have set such a lofty goal or for having dreams that were about conquering the unknown. After all, every marathoner knows that every marathon hands you more uncertainty and alternate experiences than you ever planned for. Nothing is completely in your control when you run a marathon, but every goal is the same: to cross the finish line.
Despite a torrential rain-filled week leading up to the Seattle Marathon, the morning was brisk, foggy, but rain-free. After the national anthem was sung we were off to cross bridges, skirt lakes, scale hills, and find our way back to the start. I ran the 26.2 miles with my New York City playlist augmented with a few rain-repellant selections suggested by my hometown friends. I high-fived every orange-shirted, New York City marathon transplant I passed, met or followed. I held back my tears as my muscles cramped starting at mile 18 and I refused to give in. I was running to cross the finish line, and I wasn’t going to be held back a second time. I adjusted my gait, pace, and expectations to manage the pain and disappointment that were looking for any excuse to take center stage. I focused and concentrated on the finish line. I imagined the warm welcome from family and friends and how disappointed we all would be if I chose to give up.
I ran the first half of the marathon just two minutes slower than my fastest half marathon time, and I ran the second half and the most challenging part of the course five minutes faster than my very first half marathon along the same route. Yesterday I ran a marathon faster than any other marathon I have run. Yesterday I ran a personal best, five minutes faster than my previous time. As a 52 year old woman, I placed seventh in my age category and in the top 20% of all women regardless of age. In three hours, forty-nine minutes and sixteen seconds, I reached my goal to cross the finish line. Yesterday, I held disappointment at bay, and believe me it was knocking at my door, begging for my attention. Yesterday, I found that sometimes your best moments are just two blocks outside of your door, and I was reminded that those best moments are never about the bottom line. Those best moments are about making the choice to follow through, to do that thing that sets you apart, and to be exactly who you want to be. Yesterday, I ran a marathon and it was a good day.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012