The 115th Boston marathon was my 8th attempt at the marathon distance. I was coming off of a personal best time in Chicago and was really doubtful of my ability to run faster at Boston. As I stated in the race report from Boston, I gave into peer pressure and planned on trying to run my fastest marathon ever. I didn’t.
Of course, it was in the not running my fastest marathon where the lesson lie. While I could have paced better, holding some energy in reserve in the first half, I didn’t. I ran by feel, chatted with some other runners, and had great fun. My final time was my second fastest marathon ever, but the lesson was in letting go and enjoying the run. Boston is a great town, and I met up with a lot of friends. But the lasting impression of the race is that I raced well without putting pressure on myself to run fast. Sure, in those closing miles, I ran proudly; I wasn’t going to quit, despite paying the price for a fast start. However, it is that digging deep when things get tough that I love about this sport. I gave my best but didn’t stress out that my best might not be “good enough.”
It was my best on that day, which is good enough for me.
And I learned that I love being a marathoner. Granted, there are times when I am hanging on in the tough miles, or putting in that interval effort that makes my eyes bulge and my breakfast threaten to reappear; those times are unpleasant, but I still like them—in hindsight. But running a marathon, being prepared for the event (more or less) and sharing in the spirit of the effort and the race, is what keeps me logging the miles. I like training. I like running silently through the darkness in the early morning. I like filling up the squares in the training log.
The question of running to “compete” or “complete” is often raised by marathoners. While I have gotten to the point that finishing a marathon is taken for granted a bit, I think that there is some grey area between running just to finish, or complete, the marathon, and running to compete—in the age group or against my own expectations. There is that sweet spot where I am fit and prepared and can just run for fun. There is no expectation of finishing time, just the expectation of getting the most of the experience. I am blessed to be able to run 26.2, and there are times that the obsession with running faster obfuscates that fact. The 115th Boston marathon reminded me of the fact that I love marathoning and that I love being a marathoner.
I learned that I am lucky to be healthy enough to complete the marathon distance, that I have great friends that share my passion, that I have a family that supports my madness, and that the people of Boston love their marathon and treat its participants like heroes. I learned that I am a lucky man.