Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Phidippideedodah! Life is a Marathon, But There’s Hot Chocolate at the Finish Line!

Phidippides was the first to ever run a marathon when he ran the 26.1 miles from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, Greece to tell of the Greek victory…then collapsed and died. He made history, but never got to celebrate his historic run.  Today, many people around the world run marathons voluntarily, some multiple times, for the mere laurel of a finisher’s medal.  Crazy, right???

I ran my first marathon in 2009.  It was after several attempts…at training.  I would always start training, but I would never finish and would abandon my plans to actually run the race.  It would always be some excuse or another.  I only had one legitimate reason in 2002 when I became pregnant with my second son.  But in 2009, I had no excuse and I was tired of making them.  Either I was going to run a marathon or quit training for them.  I ran into the usual challenges of completing my training, but I trained enough to actually run the race.  I ran the Rock and Roll Marathon in New Orleans in 2009 in 4 hours 36 minutes and some change—30 minutes more than my goal of 4 hours. But I finished!  It was a great run and I learned a lot about myself and life.

I love running!  It is the ultimate therapy.  I run to clear my head.  Some of my best thoughts have come during a run.  I started running again in 2016 during my divorce to run away from my sorrows.  And so I decided that to complete the catharsis, I would run another marathon—the same marathon in New Orleans that I had run before.  My training went well and I was on track…until the last month.  I had a scheduled a move the week after the marathon and just could not make the trip to run the race and so I postponed my victory run. 

I signed up for the Publix Georgia Marathon in Atlanta for March 2018 and began my training in October 2017.  I faced many trials in early 2018—extensive travel, illness, bad weather and a series of unfortunate events that kept me from completing my long run training.  I could only run a half marathon as my longest distance before the marathon.  But I was not deterred and knew that I could do it.  I had run it before.  Despite being less than prepared, I ran it any way.  I just didn’t want to postpone another time.  I felt good the day of the race and was well on my way to run a 4:30 and some change marathon.  But alas, the hills of Atlanta got me.  The course had 71 hills (yes, I counted!).  Hill # 37 at mile 18 took me out!  The hill was a slow incline that lasted almost the entire mile.  My legs said, “Girl, you have straight lost your mind with this foolishness!” and gave out on me.  I never fully recovered and had to slow my pace tremendously.  I had to walk the hills for the rest of the course.  And yet she persisted!  I refused to be defeated by 71 hills and finished in 5 hours, 36 minutes and some change.  I was disappointed in my time, but elated that I did not give up.  And I did not die!

There were several lessons learned from this final victory run (Yep, that was my last marathon.  No more Phidippidoing for me. I’m good!) I had three major races in 2018 that yielded great gold for this thing we call life.

Sometimes You’ve Got to Run in the Rain!

In January, I ran the Hot Chocolate 15 K in Atlanta.  The prize was a cool medal shaped like a chocolate bar and real hot chocolate at the end!  I was well prepared for this race, but the morning of the race I woke to rain and cold.  Seriously?? Yep, it was raining for real.  I really wanted to stay in my warm toasty bed.  But a little rain wasn’t going to hurt me.  I put on my warmest clothes and found a blue poncho in the trunk of my car and off I went.  I looked like a smurf running the hills of downtown Atlanta, but it wasn’t that bad.  I had a goal to achieve and a little rain wasn’t going to stop me.  Eventually, it stopped raining and I ran a record time.  That’s how life is.  You may face rain, a storm, or even a hurricane, but eventually the sun does come out and you will be victorious at the end.

This race yielded many great life lessons.  I spent most of the race looking at the backside of other runners. Not because of perversion, but I ran with my head down to keep the rain out of my eyes.  There were a lot of posterior depictions—big ones, small ones, lopsided ones, where in world is it ones—but they were all running.  You don’t need a perfect backside to run!  You just need to move and run your race.  There were also many runners with fancy smancy rain gear.  There was me in my blue smurf poncho and other runners in trash bags.  But all of us crossed the finish line.  You don’t need perfect gear to run either.  You just need to move and run your race.  Far too many times, we don’t go for the goal because we don’t have everything we think we need.  No race is ever run in perfect conditions.  All it takes is the runner and the will to keep moving.

Life never yields perfect conditions.  You will always face rain, potholes, and the occasional inconsiderate donkey running with an umbrella in a crowd of people.  You can’t let these imperfections rob you of the perfect opportunity to do something great!  If you quit when you run into obstacles, you’ll miss out on your hot chocolate at the end. 

Sometimes You Just Need to Enjoy the Beauty of the Race Course

The second major race I ran this year was the Diva Half Marathon in Peachtree City, Georgia.  I had to drive a marathon to get to the race at Dark Thirty in the morning.  Although the race was in March, it was cold.  No rain, but it was cold.  I had registered to run this same race in 2016, but had to defer because of a work engagement that conflicted with the race date.  Luckily, I was able to apply my registration for a future Diva Run.  I had almost forgotten about the credit and remembered when I was trying to plan my long run recovery after almost a month of barely running.  I could not miss out on the opportunity to run in a tutu and earn a boa and crown!  I almost didn’t make the race because I had to get my son off for his Spring Break trip early that morning, but I was determined.  My mind was heavy during the beginning of the race and it was my first long run in weeks.  My pace was off, but I was moving.  This race was on a flat terrain that wound through a beautiful nature trail.  At mile nine, I really began to appreciate the beauty of the run!  I got to see the sun rise beautifully over the lakes and trees along the trail.  The majestic views along this trail were just magnificent!

And I almost missed out on them by focusing on the odds I faced to finish.  At one point, I began to worry about finishing the marathon!  It was one full week away and I was worrying about a race I had not even begun.  But, I raised my head above the dread and enjoyed the beauty of the trail I was on.

It is so easy to be weighed down by the worries of the world that we forget to enjoy the beauty of the moment.  Our lives are a series of moments that create impactful experiences.  We miss out on so many beautiful experiences because we don’t pay attention to the wonderful moments that we have the ability to create.  We are existing rather than embracing the countless moments we have to connect and create great experiences.  As I began to focus on the beauty of the trail, my pace improved and I was able to fully appreciate the awesomeness of running by my own power in a race that I ran against all odds.  In the end, I wore a crown!

The Worst Hills Are at the Finish

In every major race I ran this year, the universe was conspiring to defeat me with steep hills.  The joke was on me because every time, the most difficult hill was at the end.  In the Hot Chocolate 15K, it was at Mile 9.  In the Diva Half Marathon, it was at Mile 12.  And in the Marathon, it was the hill of all hills at Mile 18 and the 34 hills that followed.  How cruel?  Who plans these courses?  Do they place these hills to crush spirits and render defeat?  Or are they just hills that happen to be there and you just have to push through?  Hills occur naturally.  They are not sinister plots to kill your joy.  They are just part of the course.  And so I wove a tapestry of obscenities and made it up each hill to get to my finish line.  The hills did not defeat me.  They slowed me down.  They depleted a little more energy.  They tested my leg muscles.  But they did not crush my spirit.  I took each hill one step at a time until I got to the top.

The thing about hills is that there is a glorious decline on the other side.  You get your wind back.  Momentum improves your pace.  You make up the time you lost making it up the hill.  And so is life.  You will have the ups and downs, but they all balance out in the end when you just keep moving.  You just need to move and run your race. 

Although my Phidippedays are over, I will keep running.  I will run my 5 miles regularly and the occasional 10 mile long run.  I may even run a half marathon if I get to run in a tutu.  I will encounter the monster hill that meets me every day at mile .5 and the rolling hills thereafter.  Some days I will run fast and others I will run slow.  Some days I will feel like a champion and others I may feel like I share the fate of Phiddipedes.  But I will keep running.  I will run in the rain.  I will run for the crowns, boas, and tiaras of life.  Most of all, I will run for the hot chocolate.

Life is better when you run to get hot chocolate.  My hot chocolate was also my love.  He was waiting for me at the end of the 15K.  He was a joy to see!  He waited for me in cold and warmed me up with a hug and kiss.  Honestly, if we had not been running the race together, I probably would have punked out and got back in the bed when I saw the rain coming down.  But he dutifully picked me up and made sure I was prepared to withstand the cold and rain. My love was a great motivation for finishing that marathon.  I knew he would be waiting there for me.  I kept looking for his face along the route.  Hoping he would have mercy on me and come pick me up.  I almost called him at mile 24 when I really wanted to quit.  But I persisted and kept going.  As soon as I crossed the finish line, I ran into his arms to get the kiss that took 26.2 miles to find.  This hot chocolate was even better!

What is your hot chocolate?  A new job?  A business you’ve always dreamed of?  A new love?  A new life?  Whatever it is, there may be a marathon between you and your hot chocolate.  Just run it one mile at a time.  Just conquer one hill at a time.  Don’t worry about the perfect posterior or gear.  Run around the jerk with the umbrella.  Anticipate the monster hills before the finish line and be determined to conquer them.  Just don’t quit.  You just need to move and run your race. 

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