That’s the thought I had after an all-too-fast 5 mile run on a Thursday…two days before my long 20 miler — the longest training run of the season for the Chicago Marathon.
My pace had been, up until that point, a steady 10:15/10:30 minute-per-mile pace…and I was happy with that. A 10:18 pace would allow me to cross the finish line on October 8 at around 4 and a half hours. However, this particular Thursday, I was feeling healthy and light, with a touch of let’s-just-get-this-over-with. I ended up running the 5 at a 9:05 pace…over a minute faster than I was used to at the time.
It must have been the perfect combination of aggravation for my Achilles, but because of the quick pace, and then the 3.5 hours on my feet for the long run, the 20 miler on Saturday was the last real training run I would do before the Marathon. Essentially, I took a 3-week break before running 26.2 miles.
I was hopeful on race day because my achilles was feeling good. I was also hopeful that taking 3 weeks off of running right before a marathon wouldn’t effect me TOO bad. While the Achilles did well through the race, the 3 weeks off + increased temperatures on race day seemed to be the perfect combo to zap any energy I had stored up. A hopeful 4:30 marathon turned into a grueling 5:48 finish.
But, with anything in life, there are lessons to be learned.
It’s not about me.
This lesson was, and still is, a tough one. All 3 of my marathons have been linked to raising funds for Team World Vision. It’s easy to say on the surface that it’s not about me, my finish time, how well I manage the course, or how I feel during the 26.2 miles. It’s tougher to live out those things when circumstances arise that jeopardize them.
When issues arose with my achilles, I was super bummed. However, one thing it allowed me to do is turn my focus a little bit away from running and a shift it to fundraising. I had more time to brainstorm ways to inspire people to join the cause and donate to clean water. I remembered my friend Billy rockin’ a Tutu as a way to raise money, so I decided to do the same thing!
Was it slightly annoying running for almost 6 hours in a Tutu? Yep. But again, it’s not about me.
Around mile 9 or 10 I realized I wasn’t going to run a 4:30 marathon, so again I had to refocus my mind and reshape my expectations. I was walking every few minutes so I’d use those opportunities to talk to people…most of whom I didn’t know. One man had a running jersey that was promoting cancer research. The back of his jersey said, “Running for Dad.” So I walked beside him for a bit and asked him about his Dad. I learned his Dad had passed away a couple of years ago from Cancer, and since then this man had taken up marathons to raise awareness and money for the cause.
This “it’s not about me” way of running a marathon was inspiring and giving me energy. It was put to the test, however, around mile 24. I noticed a guy on the sidewalk bent over in pain. I walked up to him and asked, “Hey man, you ok?”
“Nah dude, I jacked up my hip.” (Note: He didn’t say ‘jacked’)
He then asked if he could run to the finish with me…he needed someone to run with that would motivate him and keep him going. “Sure!” I said.
Because I had gained some energy and experienced a sort of “second wind”, I was secretly hoping to have a strong finish and run in to the finish at a quicker pace. Running with this guy would prevent me from doing that. “It’s Ok” I kept telling myself… “It’s not about you.” Even still, I could feel myself wanting to tell this guy that I was going to run on.
He wanted to be distracted from his hip, so I began asking questions about his life, his family and his work. I learned about his girlfriend of two years, how he grew up in the city, and how he wasn’t a religious person at all. Meanwhile, I’m battling my internal desire to find a reason to run on and leave him to finish by himself. The struggle was real, but I’m glad I chose not to run on.
We crossed the finish line together, got our medals, and then I made sure he got to a first aid tent.
At the end of the day it would have boosted my ego a little bit to have a faster finish time, but who knows where that conversation could go? Maybe nowhere. Maybe that conversation was solely intended for me…a God-ordained conversation to teach me that it’s not about me.