Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Another Journey in the Epic Adventure

9 November 9, 2005

I have been running for a lifetime. But for the past four months I have been running with a specific purpose in mind… the New York City Marathon. Although I have been running for as long as I can remember, I never really wanted to do a marathon because I could never convince myself that I wanted to run that far. But do an Ironman where I get to run that far after I already bike 112 miles and swim 2.4 miles… that’s a different issue. So I did an Ironman instead. Well, it’s been two years almost to the day since I conquered that feat, and I finally got the itch this year to do a marathon. So I put my name in the lottery and I was one of lucky few (37,000) chosen to run the New York City Marathon. Surely crossing the finish line was the anticipated climax and grand end to a four month journey, but I experienced an unexpected and overwhelming sense of gratitude… a feeling almost more poignant than walking away with a medal around my neck and a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.

As I ran along the 26.2 mile route through all five boroughs of this great city, I was impressed and my spirits lifted by the immeasurable amount of enthusiasm and support coming from the two million spectators lining the roads. It didn’t matter if they knew you or not, they cheered for you. There was a collective admiration for all the athletes running, which exemplified a utopian community that we all wish existed every day. I was grateful for all of those people. I didn’t know them. They didn’t know me. We probably have different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and religions, but none of that mattered on Sunday. I appreciated it more than ever after mile 20 crossing into the Bronx when the pain and fatigue really set in. Without my own sense of determination and unwillingness to accomplish what I set out to do as well as the cheers from the crowd, I might not have continued running the last six miles. Inevitably, their cheers reminded me of what I had worked so hard to attain, and I found renewed determination to put one foot in front of the other. And seeing my mother and friends at mile 24 got me through the last two painful miles. Although I do not always see these marathons or triathlons as impressive feats for myself, the support and admiration of my family and friends is a worthy byproduct of such self-inflicted torture.

I finished. As I walked from the finish line through the park to get my bag and then meet my mom and friends, I was quite aware of the pain my body was in. It was sort of relentless. Every step my body was telling me that it was upset that I had just made it do what I did. But then I thought about how grateful I am that I can even do what I just did… that I can run 26 miles with relatively little injury or suffering. I train almost year round rarely ever incurring any major damage to my body. I have the use of all my limbs and joints, and I am healthy enough that doing an Ironman or a marathon is not a concept at all out of reach. It doesn’t feel good walking up and down stairs or sitting and getting up after a marathon. But it’s a great reminder that I am not invincible. It is also a great reminder that the body is a miraculous and amazing machine that can be trained to do what was once thought impossible. I am probably shaving years off of my life by doing these kinds of things, but I do so appreciate my body and health. It’s amazing how quickly we forget about the pain and opposition, and also how quickly our bodies recover from such intense physical exertion. Three days later… it’s easier to go up and down stairs, and I have already decided to do Boston in April. I even have plans to run this weekend. It just goes to show how little weight the pain and negative factors have against the joy and triumph.

That night, my roommates and friends planned a dinner at my house in honor of my accomplishment. It is not unusual to have dinner parties at our house, especially on Sunday, but this time I hadn’t planned it. I had not cooked anything, cleaned or prepared. All I did was come home, take a shower and lay on the couch. My mom and friends took care of everything. When I walked into my apartment, it was spotless… a site that nearly brought me to tears. Friends came over and hugged me, gave me massages and wanted to spend the night honoring me. It was a little unreal, as I don’t usually like to be the center of that kind of attention. I sat there thinking about how lucky and blessed I am to have the friends and family I do. Everyone should be so lucky. I feel more loved, cared for and appreciated than ever, and that was worth all the pain of that 26.2 mile journey.

The race is only a small fraction of the whole experience, and I would never have made it through the race had I not had all those other experiences and lessons throughout the journey. I am not superhuman. I am not the greatest athlete that ever lived. I am just a girl with a lot of passion, an endless supply of dreams and goals and the firey spirit to get the most out of my life. All the people in my life are the fuel that feed that fire. As I said before the Ironman two years ago, it’s not about the race. It’s about the journey, and this was just one more memorable journey in the grand epic adventure of my life.

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