Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, once said "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."
With "marathon season" upon us, if you're anything like me your social media feeds have been overrun with "marathon fever." Not to take away from Kathrine's famous quote or the accomplishment that so many new and old runners will tackle as they conquer 26.2 miles, but I think it's slightly misguided.
This is not a race report. This is a tale that just happens to involve three races and three distinct moments that have cemented for me whats right with Kathrine's quote and whats wrong.
It's Sept. 5 around 10 p.m. in northern Minnesota. I look down, my headlamp illuminating my GPS watch: 14 hours, 62 miles, 11,000 feet of elevation gain and the same of loss. Im tired, sore, my stomach feels queazy. Theres a river running next to me, calm sound of water running is the only sound besides the crunch of dirt under my feet. I stop, and reach up and click my headlamp off. I'm plunged into darkness. I reach behind me and I pat myself on my back. I start clapping and I let out my signature "Yip, Yip." I'm 62 miles into a 100-mile race, and I've just decided to "DNF" at the next aid station half a mile ahead.
You could call it a failure, but in my eyes it wasn't. It was the longest and hardest run I had ever done to date. Could I have pushed through and finished? Probably (and next year I plan on it)! But had I kept going I knew that I was risking injury, and I wasn't prepared to do that. In my eyes it's okay to dream big, and it's okay to redefine failure and success. Victory (without a doubt) is crossing the finish line. Victory (with a capital "V") is also committing to the starting line. At the end of the day it doesn't matter if you come in first or last or don't even finish at all! What matters is that you toe the starting line with conviction and cary yourself with the type of spirit, grit, and passion that maybe just maybe has the possibility to inspire others or even yourself. If you are losing faith in human nature... go out and do something that makes you proud of yourself.
It's Oct. 12 a little before 11 a.m. in Boston. It's the B.A.A half marathon and I'm running next to my sister. It's her first half marathon, her longest run. She doesn't have the same running genes as me, and it's a completely new sport for her. About a month and a half ago she called me and asked what she would need to do to finish a half marathon. I quickly wrote up a plan and sent it to her. She wasn't convinced she could do it or that the plan would be enough. She followed it though, believing in herself and here we were ready to cross the finish line!
If you are losing faith in human nature... go out and help somebody else accomplish something that they didn't know was possible. Experience the joy of having a moment not be about yourself, but instead be about somebody else. Experience that moment where somebody discovers that yes, hard work and determination can make the unimaginable imaginable.
The Young Ones:
It's Oct. 19, a little before 2 p.m. in Bradbury State Park in Maine. I'm not even going to go in depth about the race (50k, hilly, I came in second, 17 seconds behind first place). I'm sitting in a chair at the finish catching my breath when suddenly I'm surrounded by a group of about four elementary school students are surrounding me. The youngest looking one (he said he was 6) positions himself directly in front of me and says, "One time I hiked 8 miles, and another time I climbed Bradbury mountain without stopping! When I'm bigger I want to be like you."
I smiled and said, "You're already like me, when I get old and start shrinking I want to be like you!"
The next five minutes were spent answering a peppering of questions from my new 6-year-old friend. He wanted to know what everything was from the tape on my knee, to my hydration vest, to the logo on my visor. We parted ways with a high five. Next year I'll return to Big Brads 50k, and I hope my 6-(then 7)-year-old friend is there! If you are losing faith in human nature... go out and interact with the next generation. Let them inspire you to do good to hand the world over to them in a better position, and have faith that there are those behind us that have the will and the desire to do great things. People who share the same ideals, and values as us.
Take from it what you want. Maybe you need to go out and run 26.2 miles to show others the good in human nature. Or maybe it's not about the miles at all. Maybe it doesn't matter if it's 63 miles, 13.1 miles, or just sitting in a chair talking to a 6-year-old...