Runner of Steel

Pittsburgh Half-Marathon Finishers

When I got home from the Pittsburgh Marathon yesterday afternoon, my children were quick to ask what place I got.

My answer: 1,298th.

Pittsburgh Marathon - Mile 25Their faces fell, recalling my higher placement in the recent Black Squirrel 5K. But then I showed them my finisher’s medal, pronouncing me as a “Runner of Steel,” and I told them that I could hardly be happier with the way the race went.

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city. The event was well-organized and well-supported. The weather conditions were perfect: cool and overcast. My friends and I all recorded personal best times in our respective events. I even came in a minute faster than the “best case scenario” I had mind before the race! The whole experience was a lot of fun.

For the small number of people who might actually care about the numbers, my time for the half-marathon was 1:46:38. In my division, I came in 139th out of 820 runners (top 17%). Among all men running the half-marathon, I was 931th out of 5,586 (top 17%). And from the total pool of half-marathon participants, I came in 1,298th out of 14,589 (top 9%).

Like my children, I find myself all too quick to attach value to these numbers: pride and discouragement, simultaneously. It’s ironic, and idiotic, but I somehow find a way to think too highly of myself and to be envious of the ways that I don’t stack up against others. I’m realizing, however, that if I’m really going to make running a long-term habit — if I’m really going to “go the distance” in this mara-meta-phor-athon of life — I need to break myself of these metal positioning habits sooner rather than later.

Pittsburgh Marathon Group Portrait

So: I’m happy for the way that this weekend’s running experience turned out. I’m happy that I got to do it with great friends, and I’m happy that they had great experiences as well. Most of all, though, I’m happy that after a couple weeks’ rest I’ll be back at running again, with an eye on going the distance.

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