The perfect antidote? Run a marathon. In Washington DC, no less, with 35 000 other members of the running tribe.
On Sunday, I took to the mean (which are not mean at all, and in fact, are quite friendly and lovely) streets of DC for the 37th running of the Marine Corps marathon. This was to be my first full marathon in almost a year after complete training derailment with illness last winter and spring. To say that I was excited is a complete and utter understatement. I was practically vibrating I was so excited. Mind was ready. Body was ready. Heart was ready. What I was NOT ready for, however, was the weather on this particular marathon race day. In case you live in a cave with no interweb, TV or other various news media and missed it, Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Sunday evening and Monday for this region of the northeast coast. And while I was not running in brutal rain or cold temperatures, I was facing some pretty darn spectacular winds.
Rewind to the starting line of said marathon. The Marine Corps marathon is unique in that you not only run Washington DC, you also run some parts of Arlington, Virginia. The start line is in Arlington and much like the other large races I've participated in, this means an early wake up call and camping out in the dark in a large parking lot until the official start time of the race. Definitely not ideal for running fast, but super fun in its own right. I met some lovely people that were a nice distraction from the pre-race jitters.
As for the course itself, the first 15k of this race are spectacular! It is run on the back roads in Arlington, which meant protection from the wind, beautiful fall colours lining the course, winding roads and rolling hills. To be honest, my legs weren't feeling it right from the start. Although I was running with control and maintaining my goal race pace without labouring, it still felt a tiny bit foreign.
And then I hit the wind.
For those of you reading this (wouldn't it be awesome if my blog went viral? Just saying :) , maybe send me some interweb love and share this post) who haven't had the pleasure of pounding out a 26.2 mile road race, it is an amazing, if not incredibly challenging feat in its own right. When you throw in an added complication like this brutal wind, a tough situation just gets that much tougher.
I have never experienced a wind quite like this. At times it was so strong it was like running on the spot, which, when you still have 27km of running left, is not an awesome feeling. I had a few fleeting moments of anger and frustration, but I let go of those quickly and remembered why exactly I was running this marathon.
I was running it because I love running. Simple.
I was running it because running allows me to feel a level of freedom that I don't experience doing anything else. By freedom, I mean the feeling of leaving behind, stress, worry, anxiety, life, the feeling of being in and appreciating the moment, and the sense of feeling completely alive. Simple.
And although I had a pretty ambitious time goal in this race (2:59 in case you don't know or I haven't put it out there into the universe enough) I had to remind myself that in every single race that I run, the first and most important goal is to enjoy it, to love it and to have an amazing experience doing it.
Perception really IS everything. Once I remembered these small things, my body felt lighter. I smiled and laughed. I started to notice more my beautiful surroundings and the wonderful spectators and volunteers who, despite the cold and wind came out to support all 35 000 runners on a day when they likely should have been preparing for the disaster that was about to strike their city in hurricane form. What amazing generosity, kindness and spirit. I enjoyed each and every step, even the last 10k which were incredibly painful and tough. And although I was physically in DC alone, I felt the spirit, energy and love of my friends and family who I KNOW without a doubt were thinking about me during those 3 hours of time. When they read this they should know that I felt the love and energy and used it. A big, BIG hug to those people- you all know who you are.
This is what mile 23 of a 26.2 mile road race appears to look like. Special thanks to Bobby Gill, friend and lululemon run ambassador extraordinaire who provided amazing runner support at the lulu cheer station and also takes fabulous pictures. I'm thankful he caught me smiling. :)
|What am I doing? Running a marathon and a doing a moving sun salutation in appreciation for the amazing cheer station that was provided at mile 23 by lululemon. Photo Courtesy of Bobby Gill.|
|Running through mile 23. Please note the sign. And also note that I'm losing 2 toenails.. Badge of marathon honour. Photo courtesy of Bobby Gill.|
So? Where did it all leave me? With 3:12. Certainly well off my personal best and certainly well off my desired goal time, but I am happy with my effort nonetheless. I really did leave it all out there on the course and couldn't have run any harder than I did. And given the stress that has been my life for the past month, running in this marathon provided me with something so valuable and precious, that money could never, ever buy it and nothing else could ever replace it. And that is, like always, peace in my mind and happiness in my heart.
Thanks DC. Thanks Marine Corps marathon. Thanks so very much volunteers and spectators. I hope that your recovery from Hurricane Sandy is as quick as my recovery from the race.
And as for the 2:59, I'll get there. I know I will. And knowing is half the battle.