Marathon: On Purpose
FIRST, this is my tattoo on my ankle. XXVI.II. It is the anchor for my body when my brain want to give up and give in.
Ok, let’s start the story. Are you comfy?
When I was 26, I had a mid-20’s crisis… It’s a thing, really. I realized that I had never really completed anything. I swished back in forth between colleges and jobs, and felt like I wasn’t really good at anything. I was good at waiting tables and other things I had to do for work.
I skirted around hobbies and projects, trying things on and then leaving them on the floor weeks later to chase something else shiny. I was a professional quitter, except I never got paid. I had never gotten the thrill of accomplishing something on my own terms.
So, I had an idea: To run a marathon. YES! That will be the answer to everything. I’ll train and run it, and then I will finish that fucker and prove to myself and all those crappy bad brain voices who kept laughing at me that I can accomplish something. YES.
One problem, I wasn’t a runner… Like at ALL. So, I scurried out one afternoon and ran like the wind and it was so easy. Until I got to the bottom of the hill I had just flown down. I stopped, hyperventilated, cried a little, and walked back to my house completely defeated.
The months that followed were a stop/start version of attempting to run. I made mistakes, wore the wrong bra, cried, and ate everything in sight (‘cause I was almost a runner). After a whole year later, I completed my very first 5k. Yes, a whole year training for 3.1 glorious miles. I ran the whole thing and cried like a baby at the end. 3.1 miles, yep.
My body and head were hooked and I got out to do more and more, running my body a little longer. I jumped up to running a half marathon 6 weeks later. I was not prepared, but I ran it at a snail’s pace and I finished upright and smiling.
So…now, marathon training is in full force. I had one picked out in Southern California, The Long Beach International Marathon. It just sounded flat and perfect for my debut as a marathon runner.
From February to November, things happened. I went on a honeymoon, then got laid off from my job. I got a fun bout of depression and I had to train for a marathon. I had no job, and the running was helping with the brain, so I got out and ran with my yellow Walkman and backpack full of They Might Be Giants and The Breeders. This was before Gamins, so I ran with a calculator watch (which was so awesome) as my mile timer. And if you typed in 80085 it looked like BOOBS. It was hysterical at 15 miles!
I think it was when I had my 17 miler on the schedule that my head just was like, “fuck this, let’s quit!! It’s so much easier than running 17 miles and you are SO much better at quitting.” So, I did. I quit for a whole week, and then the following week, went out and ran 17 miles. It was an unprecedented moment in my life. I went and did something that was hard, and for me, and I did it on purpose. I had done many hard things in my life, but this time is was for me, and I wanted to quit so, so badly. But here’s the funny thing; quitting stopped serving me. It had worn out its welcome and I officially bid it adieu. 17 miles was so hard, but then I realized, it’s just running. It’s just my legs, my heart and The Breeders were all going out for a 4 hour sweat party.
Then something happened, 9-11-01. As with the rest of the world, I was broken by it. It was just the May before I was spinning under those towers when we were on our honeymoon. My brain kicked in and was yelling. “Perfect!! You can quit now! It’s such a perfect OUT. You are too sad to run, it’s all too much to run.” I thanked my brain for sharing, put my headphones on and completed my training. I had to stop and sit on the sidewalk and ball my eyes out when a sad song came on. All those people, that city, the fear, the new world, cry, keep running, rinse, repeat… for 20 miles.
When I showed up at the starting line of the marathon, there was a firefighter from New York there in full uniform, holding a huge flag. Yup, I am going to run a marathon, and that guy is going to run it with me and 2000 other people. And we did, together.
I didn’t cry at the end, but it was the first time I had the feeling of, “If I can do this, I can do anything.” Hard work and passion can move mountains and heal.
I have run 10 marathons since then and one ultra, for you see, it is just running. You just have to want to do it.
P.S. And if you do run one, I would recommend doing it in a group, and not after a national tragedy.