Marathon Musings

Marathon Finishers - Seated - BY

What is it like to wake up the morning following a marathon? Without much thinking about it, I stood up — and immediately collapsed back to a seated position. I was unprepared for just how sore my legs would be. But it’s not just my legs. My toes… my feet… my calves… my quadriceps… my hamstrings… my abdominal muscles… my shoulders… and even my biceps are sore. The pain reasserts itself with every movement, but it’s manageable. Definitely preferable to what I was feeling at Mile 25 yesterday morning.

My emotions, surprisingly, are also a bit of a wreck at this point. I would have expected more feelings of pride, joy, and relief. But mostly up to this point, I’ve been feeling discouragement, defeat, shame, and regret. I realize, of course, that this is not the mature response to the setbacks that I experienced in the race — but that only makes me all the more discouraged that I find my emotions in this place! I thought that writing about the experience afterwards would be my opportunity to glory in the accomplishment… laugh about the bumps in the road… share wise lessons learned… Instead I realize that my marathon musings need to be more of a cathartic confessional.

Marathon Home Stretch - BY

So here’s the truth of the matter: I am a proud, proud person. I think way too highly of myself, and — at least on certain levels — I was looking for the marathon to be another feather in my cap. When I fell apart over the last 8 miles of the race, thus, it was a serious blow to my pride. I had to stop and walk, not just once or twice — but sixteen times! I couldn’t hang with the “big boys.” I lost contact with my training buddies, falling an entire half-hour off the pace over the final third of the race. During the most public section of the race, where friends and family gathered to cheer us on, I was barely in control of myself. It was literally all I could do to keep running, and not vomit, or faint, or collapse in a sobbing, twitching, sweaty pile of flesh.

This public failure (or “success” in finishing by the only the very thinnest skin of my teeth) has been eating away at me because it seems to invalidate all the miles of training and preparation that came before it. Nobody was there to see the way I rocked that 18-miler around Lake Nockamixon back in August. I was the only one keeping track of the miles that mounted up on the roads and trails of Kent and Stow and Munroe Falls. But my marathon time is a matter of public record. My children saw me sprawled out on the ground in front of Canton’s McKinley Memorial, and they didn’t know how to approach me in such a state.

Marathon Finishers - Standing - BY

An old friend, Sherry (who also happened to be a part of starting Amsterdam50 in the Netherlands and then later picked up the hobby of running in America), unknowingly helped me get to the heart of the matter by sharing her observations about trying to model fitness, endurance, and dedication for her two young boys:

Samuel was so young through the last training he doesn’t recall all the jogger stroller rides with Mommy (and Daddy) running, and now that I run early, every one is sleeping, so the only evidence is when Samuel sees me (rarely) come home sweaty or asks why I’m up already. William will not have remembered this one at all. Spiritually, I feel the same. Samuel is with us at church, but at home he rarely sees me reading by myself, since it’s not easy with them around. He does hear stories read to him though… He hears/shares in prayers, he hears conversation about God-stuff, and I try to talk about God, but the understanding isn’t fully realized yet… I believe this will be my longest race of dedication and endurance — to maintain and practice in front and around and with the children, so that one day the picture will become clear to them. Not for ‘display sake’ of course, but to God’s glory, that I can count my child a brother-in-Christ (as I’m sure you are starting to see with Elliot).

“Not for ‘display sake’ of course, but to God’s glory.” I can’t say that my motives have been as pure as Sherry’s. Even so, she’s right: I want to remember the successes and failures of this marathon experience as further training for the ultimate race of dedication and endurance: something far bigger than an exercise in physical fitness… something eternal and spiritual. It’s humbling to be reminded of my shortcomings and inadequacies — but it really is valuable to knock myself from that pedestal and leave it open to the True Champion, the Ultimate Hero, the Lord of Life. So for that I’m grateful.

But still a little bit sore.

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