Everyday I find new ways that running is a metaphor for life. Today, as I am less than 48 hours away from my first half-marathon, after taking up running just under a year ago, I am thinking of this one: Life is not a sprint, it is a marathon.
There are some things I pick up or pick up on very quickly. How to do things on the computer, the use of various social media apps, social tension in a room, someone lying, even practical problem-solving in everyday simple to semi-complicated scenarios. I connect the dots very quickly in the academic classroom, as long as it’s not math or chemistry; sociological, anthropological, cultural patterns are to me what riddles and puzzles are to other people. Like mazes I can navigate and begin to understand and unravel fairly quickly. Even, like above, recognizing a metaphor in something that other people might think I’m crazy for connecting.
But other things take me a long time. Accepting change – I’m terrible at it. Trusting people fully – I can count on one hand people I can say I trust, and really the only people I really trust that I can always trust are my mom and my dad. I put boyfriends through the ringer, man. My trust is hard won and easily lost. Moving on – when I get hurt, I take forever to get over it. Physically? A breeze, I’m over it. Emotionally? I carry that wound for years.
I am also a slow runner. My average pace for distances over 5 miles – not counting my five minute warmup walk – is just under 11 1/2 minutes. I am worlds, WORLDS away from ever entertaining the idea I might qualify for Boston one day, even a ways away from running a full marathon period.
But I work hard. This does not come easily for me. Just like for some people, brushing things off and letting things roll of their backs might come easily, a practiced or natural ability to not take things personally, some people can breeze through a few miles without barely breaking a sweat. It wasn’t that long ago that a 5K was the biggest milestone of my athletic life. And even now, less than two days away from a half-marathon, every 5K I run, I am reminded of what a triumph it was for me to be able to do this much.
I work hard. I work hard at work, I work hard on my friendships, I work hard on my relationships, and I work hard on running. For the first three, it’s easy to be disappointed.
The Sag Wagon
Counting on other people has rarely worked out for me. Almost every “best friend” I’ve had, I’ve lost – some people just change and grow apart, some people do cruel things to each other, but for whatever reason, I’m always skeptical whether somebody who promises to always be there for me will actually still feel that way six months from now.
I am always afraid of doing something wrong at work, or a boss deciding I’m no longer necessary, and being fired. I’ve never actually been fired. The closest I’ve come is being let go from a temp assignment for no reason other than there wasn’t enough work and I didn’t really fit in with company culture (I didn’t really want to, but that’s another story), but was praised even as I packed up my desk and left for the quality of work I’ve done. But I’m always afraid of not being good enough.
Crushing the Wall
Running has been different. Running is all on me. I don’t run with a buddy. I never have. I don’t need to. And I’m damn proud of that. I don’t need someone else telling me to keep going. I don’t need someone else to tell me to get up and go for a run. I don’t need someone else telling me how far I have to go and when. I don’t need someone else encouraging me to push myself a little harder or a little further.
I’ve done this, this running thing, all on my own.
Sure I’ve had encouragement. But no one has ever had to tell me “get up from where you’re sitting, put your shoes on, and get out the door.” I’ve had to push myself to do that on some days, but even my own mother has never had to say “go do it.” I do it myself. And I’ve gotten this far on my own.
Harder, Better, [A little] Faster, STRONGER
Some may judge me for how long it takes me to conquer some things. I certainly take longer to get over breakups or run a single mile than it seems the average person does. I don’t get over things after a month or two and I can’t run 6 miles in under an hour. I curse the pain, and I go back to the emotions and the running route several times to process them and break them down into conquerable moments and take a magnifying glass to them and figure them out. I’m meticulous in making sure I move on and move forward. I make a lot of mistakes, in what I say, in my form, in fueling, in healing. I get it wrong a lot.
But you can’t build muscle without pain. I think for those of us it takes a little longer to reach the finish line, whatever our finish line may be, we’re a whole lot stronger for it.
I may not run this half-marathon in Saturday in under my goal time, which I’m trying not even to have.
But I signed up. And I’m gonna show up. And I’m gonna cross that finish line, come hell or high water, I’m gonna finish 13.1 miles at 25 years old in the year 2013, and that, I’m confident about. I’ll never be perfect. But I’ll always be proud of myself.