This week I am going to tell you about my second Austin Marathon Experience. I will warn you up front that this one is not the same happy laugh along experience as the first. Without further a due …
Anyone who has had the privilege of hearing Coach Sisson speak about marathons you will know he often says, “The Marathon Always Wins!” I wish this statement we untrue. But if you have raced a few marathons yourself, you know he is correct. Even when we hit our goals, we limp away wearing smiles and medals in search of electrolytes and massages. But what about the days we DON’T hit our goals? That is the question I had to wrestle with after running the Austin Marathon on February 14, 2010.
The morning started out perfectly and I truly felt like I did everything I could to prepare for this race. I hydrated the week before. I ate better through this training season. I hit my splits for every lab run I ran. My 2 mile time trial casted predictions 20 minutes faster than the goal I laid out for myself. Hear that? A 26 year old man even set conservative goals in order to play all his cards perfectly!!!
So I started the race and stayed as close to my pacers as I could. The Austin pace team is amazing. My pacers were kind enough to ask my name, give me specific advice throughout the course, and best of all – they sang Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline.” It was like our little party passing though Austin, high on endorphins and sweeping through our newfound hobby – marathoning … no big deal! I had my first marathon under my belt so I am a pro now! When passing through Enfield’s rolling hills my pacers were kind enough to say, “Go easy here. You can afford to drop back and just catch us around mile 18 or 19.” But this was not my first rodeo! I train in Austin, Texas year round. I don’t need to back off on hills!!! I am James Freaking Dodds, People!
So I destroyed those hills and found myself all the more encouraged because of it. And then mile 20 cam again. And it hurt. So I decided to let the pacers creep ahead but not out of site. And then I was walking. I swore I would NEVER walk again. Now I was walking and thinking I would NEVER run again. So how did I get here again? Why? I planned and trained and … Then came the next pace group. Everyone was chatting it up and having their day! Spectators were yelling for that group but I was that lonely guy on the side who felt like the “cool bus” drove by and all I got to taste was the smoke from it’s muffler. Needless to say the end of that race was tough. I fell behind my overall goal by 20 minutes and that frustrated me more than ever. That’s when the big questions started eating at me.
Is this sport for me? Does this reflect a greater weakness within me? Am I the type that has the over inflated view of self? Sure, I have the best of intentions! But doesn’t every failure have the best of intentions? Maybe it is survival of the fittest!!! Maybe I am a nice guy but how much does that really matter? Maybe I am a “has been.” When it comes down to it, CAN I BE SOMEONE TO BE COUNTED UPON?
These are the questions we rarely want to face. But these are the questions a marathon makes you wrestle with. Some may be fine with never looking self in the mirror but I can’t imagine there is ANYONE who has run a marathon and NOT faced themselves a time or two. That is what the long run does at its core. It brings you face to face with yourself. A place where you feel weak not matter your stature. That is why a man like Steve Sisson will say, “The Marathon Always Wins.” This is despite the fact he runs from Rogue on 5th to Rogue in Cedar Park without training a lick!
So what is the point of this rant? The point is that I trained hard and did not receive all glory on race day. Does that mean I should not train or race? No! That is life. There are times in life when we try our best and receive no glory for it. And the marathon teaches you just a bit more about life! Had I thrown in the towel after my Second Austin Marathon Experience, I would have never tasted Austin’s Marathon in 2011 – where I had my PR and ran 1 hour and 8 minutes faster than I had done in 2009. Dr. Time Noakes in The Lore of Running says, “Running in competitions taught me the humility to realize my limitations and to accept with pride, without envy of those who might have physical or intellectual gifts that I lack. While I never run like the elite athletes … I can still devote the same effort to my more mundane talents as they do to theirs, and so attempt to derive as much pleasure and reward from running as they do.” This is why I will still be out there training ….
Come wrestle through the questions with me: