Thursday, November 20, 2008
There's a great quote in The Lore of Running about what running taught the author, Timothy Noakes, about life: "It has taught me who I am and, equally important, who I am not." Lots of people focus on the everyone's-a-winner mantra. This is the marketing fiction, where it's nothing but success, awesomeness and glossy photos. Running is both more complicated and more fickle, an endless repetition of a couple steps forward and one back. It's undeniably about achieving goals, but inevitably involves coming up short sometimes. That's what Noakes is getting at: we have our own limitations that running makes abundantly clear. Ultimately there's no hiding. This has happened to me too many times to count, probably most notably my comic collapse 200 yards from the finish of the Delaware Marathon. There's nothing glamorous about getting dragged across the finish line after falling three times, then getting IVs stuck in your arm. And of course, it was my fault. I didn't train enough or respect the heat. I laid in a terrible hospital corridor on a gurney after an ambulance ride that ended up costing me $500 just beside myself. I hate screwing up. The hardest part is not only admitting it but then trying to learn from it and do better. As athletes, we rely on our bodies so much yet sometimes take them for granted. This isn't fair. It's self-absorbed and even arrogant. And the end result is a carelessness that ends up in disappointment. I'm not running the marathon on Sunday. That's OK. There are other races. I will run under three hours soon, I know it. What I need to focus on now is making amends for some mistakes, realizing my limitations, why I ignored them and how I can make 100 percent sure they don't happen again. That's not an overnight thing, it takes work. I'm ready to start. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, right?