Monday, March 8, 2010

26.2 thoughts about my 26.2

Finishing a marathon is extremely difficult. I know—I did it. It was painful. I’m still sore 24 hours after I finished. But, I did it. 26.2 miles. We (me and 2000 others of all adult ages) started in Calistoga and ran down the always beautiful Napa Valley and finished in the city of Napa. 26.2 miles. I learned a few things about life and running yesterday. Here are 26.2 of them:

1. At the starting line, it is easy to make value judgments of yourself and others based on appearances that you will later learn are completely wrong.

2. It is easy to forget how long the journey is and start out way to fast.

3. Drinking water from a small cup while running is challenging.

4. Having even just one familiar face to start the journey with is encouraging.

5. There are some amazingly fit old men.

6. There are some amazingly fit old women.

7. Getting beat by amazingly fit old people doesn’t make you a bad person.

8. It is okay to slow down even to a walk while drinking water or Gatorade from a small cup.

9. Being properly trained is beneficial to completing a long journey.

10. Training and competing alone is far inferior to training and competing with a team and mentors.

11. If you pay attention to other people’s goals you’ll miss the fact that you are right on pace for finishing your own.

12. Surrounding yourself with a “great cloud of witnesses” is important to finishing.

13. When you are halfway done you still have halfway to go.

14. Cow bells are not annoying when they are attached to people voicing encouragement.

15. A loving, supporting, encouraging wife is the most confidence building friend a man can have.

16. Being a daddy is one of the most meaningful occupations a man can have.

17. Never judge a woman’s fitness by the shape of her body.

18. After 18 miles, Gatorade is not the only drink that tastes good and replenishes electrolytes.

19. Any race that has hills of any size yet finishes at a lower elevation should not be considered a “downhill” race.

20. Getting to the top of the mountain is exhilarating but it is far from the end of the journey.

21. Aid stations along the way are a beautiful oasis that get you to the next part of the journey.

22. If you can, make friends along the way.

23. Sometimes a turn in the road is exactly what you need.

24. It is good to have friends who have been there before.

25. Cameras have a way of keeping one accountable to the goal.

26. Seeing the finish line allows you to pick up the pace so you can finish sooner.

26.2 While the journey can be difficult and full of unexpected challenges, it is worth it to finish.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I'm running a marathon tomorrow

I'm running a marathon tomorrow. It will be my first one. I say "first" because I have never done it before, not because I plan on doing another one. Another marathon may be attempted someday, but, for now, tomorrow is all about the Napa Valley Marathon. I ran cross country in high school, and had an eleven year career as a high school coach for distance runners, so distance running is not foreign to me. I even like it. But throughout all of my time around running, marathons were not part of my thought process, until last year.

In a session on "Awakening Your Creativity" by Les Christie at the National Youth Workers Convention in Los Angeles, Les challenged us to take something on our bucket list and do it. No more waiting. And so, on my little index card I wrote down "run a marathon," and on the back of the card wrote down all the reasons why I couldn't do it. Then I tore up that little card and all the excuses and made a vow to take the first step toward accomplishing that goal upon returning home.

That week I entered the Napa Valley Marathon. It was the beginning of October and I figured 5 months of training would get me where I needed to be so that I could just finish the 26.2 mile race. My training started off great, hit a rough spot in November, was incredible in December and January and then kind of fizzled in February as everyone in our household battled colds. But I was able to finish an 18.6 mile run in February and I didn't collapse.

Tomorrow, March 7, I will step to the starting line and begin a journey through the beautiful Napa Valley that will cover 26.2 miles and last around five hours. It will be a big moment for me, and I am still considering the kind of impact it will have. When I cross that finish line I will have completed something incredibly difficult, and I imagine that how I view my own suffering will change. But mostly, I will be realizing how I could not have done it without the great crowd of people I have in my life supporting me and encouraging me. I'll be looking for my wife, and my children, my mom and my in-laws, and all of my friends.

And I will thank God that He has made this journey one that I do not have to complete alone.