I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pain and Pride

I admire an athlete who commits to a training in pursuit of a goal and a dream regardless of their abilities.  Every one of them, from the elite to the one closing the course, have wanted that goal bad enough to do their homework and train until their body felt like it was going to break into pieces and their lungs about to explode. I’ve been there.

Since I started marathoning in 2006, this is the first year when I didn’t sign up for a marathon nor trained for one. My mind needed that break to regain the appreciation and love for running that was tested by an unnecessary and difficult training I willingly subjected myself to. A training which left me tired and injured.  My body forced that break and in the process has tested my spirit.  
Today I used a coincidental opportunity to be at the site of a marathon and ran a few miles in the opposite direction finding along the way friends I didn’t expect to see, and cheering on total strangers.
I got to see a 2 ½ hour marathoner walking at mile 18, his face a blend of frustration and defeat. I saw the exasperation of the 3 hour pack delayed by the passing of a train. 
I turned around at mile 15 and ran with the slow pack.  My choice was not only because I could only stay with the slower pace, it was also that I enjoy to watch the 4 hour and 5 hour group more than any other.
It is in that pack that I see the sweat and the struggle of the ungifted runner. The man who walks and answers with a smile to the course marshal “I had better days”. The woman who stretches her calf, and another one pushes her toes against the sidewalk hoping to alleviate the cramps.  A man bending over from exhaustion, his sigh a mixture of contentment and relief when I told him the next half mile was a slight downhill.  
I catch these same people at the finish line.  There are tears of excitement and tears of pain.  Parents behind a young woman encourage her as she cries in pain: “You’ve got this Ash” A man who told me he was running his first marathon shakes his head and smiles as I yell “26 miles here! Push the last 0.2 and sign up for another one”.
The woman with a prosthesis approaches mile 26. Her smile is radiant, her fatigue palpable.  Her finish is now 30 minutes slower than when I saw her earlier, but even more commendable. She humbles me and her inspiration reminds me of the hope I should never lose.  The hope sometimes I question and lose sight of.
I applaud the effort of every one of them, and I secretly lift a prayer to God to make it possible for me to reach that finish line one more time, and one more time after that. My spirit has been tested enough.