“And in the space of a few short hours, life had been reduced from a highly complex existence, with a thousand petty problems, to one of the barest simplicity in which one real task remained – the achievement of the goal.”A. Lansing, “ENDURANCE”
Running a marathon is such a transcendent experience. In the span of this one, single day, you inevitably live through all the emotions of life – all the highs, and all the lows. Within those few “short” hours, you earn decades of wisdom – the kind of self-knowledge that people pay shamans and therapists thousands of dollars in order to discover. The kind that can only come from being broken down to absolutely nothing – and then finding just a little bit more residing within. It’s a language you simply can not speak until you’ve endured it for yourself. It’s in these moments of utter emptiness, that we discover exactly how full we really are.
I remember when I ran my very first marathon, right here, in Pittsburgh; I told myself that my goal was to conquer the distance, not race the clock. But this time, over a decade later, I found myself doing a bit of both.
I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed every mile and every moment of this race. The truth is, it hurt like hell and there were many miles, and many moments, where I just wanted to raise my arms up in surrender, wave that proverbial white flag, and step off of that unforgiving pavement.
But I didn’t… my friends would never have let me, even if I tried.
I worked so hard for this moment, and I owed it to myself to finish the race. I owed it to the friends who had chosen to run beside me, the ones who had invested in me with their time, their energy, their friendship, and their faith – to not give up this fight. And after everything that’s happened, and all that I have been through, I deserved my shot at Boston – even if it was the longest of shots.
The journey up to and through this day was never about breaking personal records or regaining my previous speed. It was a lesson learned in accepting all that has so drastically changed. A day by day discovery of what is and what is not, any longer, possible. A settling, a surrendering, and an eventual equilibrium within these new parameters. Finding balance and playing to my strengths. Rebuilding my endurance and, most importantly, making my physical body as strong and as sound as my mind had become.
It’s about having the mental fortitude to keep going – even when you’re sore, even when you’re tired. When you’re hot, hungry, nauseous, and emotionally breaking down. When your body is telling you that there is no justifiable reason to continue. When you train so consistently, week in and week out, yet your brain does the mental math and calculates with nearly 100% certainty that you most likely will not reach your ultimate goal. It’s what you do in THESE MOMENTS, when it seems like “all hope is lost”, that determines the very depths of your character.
For me, out there on the roads, it’s never been about the other runners – being better, stronger, or faster them. Because, in my eyes, we’re all in this together. The competition is never really between each other. The biggest battle is fought deep within ourselves. I had a lot of help this weekend, but I dug deep and I did the work. Anyone can run with you, but no one can run for you. Out there on that course, under that clock, when the going gets tough, it will always boil down to one single opponent. It always has been, and always will be, YOU vs. YOU.
Standing in that starting corral early Sunday morning, my friends surrounded me, amped up and ready to support. They asked me how I was feeling and what the plan should be for this day? My mind began to spin at the thought of what lie ahead, double-digit miles of uncharted territory since 2021. I took a deep breath and this is what I said:
“In the first 10 miles – don’t let me be stupid. The second 10 miles – don’t let me be a sissy. The final 10k – just be with me.”
As always, they did not let me down.
Now that it’s over, people keep asking me if it’s sunk in yet that I just qualified for the Boston Marathon?
I don’t think it really has – and I don’t think it really will until I’m standing at that Start Line in Hopkinton, as one of the many in that crowd of 27,000 runners, when that gun goes off and we start running all the way to that Boylston line.
I can tell you this though – I feel a whole lot lighter now. No more wondering if I can or I can’t? If I will or I won’t? How bad is it going to hurt, and can I withstand the pain?
The sun appears to be shining brighter now, the sky is a deeper shade of blue. I’m breathing a little bit deeper now, and these city streets feel more like home than ever before.