Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Gag-Worthily, Hopelessly-Romantic, Version of The Boston Marathon 2018

Most of you know me by now, and know what to expect with my stories from events. What this one lacks in length, won't be shorted handed in romanticizing. Everything from this city, these people, and this run; as played up by yours truly, in my true-to-form, hopeless-romantic, endurance-athlete fashion.

Mile 21.5 - I am at the top of Heartbreak Hill. It's down-pouring. I'm borderline hypothermic and doubled over a barricade dry heaving. My run is over; I am in tears. Friends that I had been running with had dropped me miles ago and not even the amazing cheers from loved ones along the grass of the hill could cheer me up. The wind and the rain had beat me down enough; I decided to give up and walk the remaining fives miles to the finish line on Boylston Street.

I gave up on myself.

That scene was the summation of my 2015 Boston Marathon, and I hadn't forgiven myself since. Which is strange because I am usually the guy hoping for more adverse conditions. In harder conditions, a person is invited to take a deeper look into what motivates and drives them to do what they are doing. This kind of introspection supersedes the posts on social media, the perfect training runs that are bragged about, the egocentric Strava segment KOMs, and, most importantly, it forces the disintegration of expectations that have been setting up by someone pre-race. These expectations are what can be heard before the race, "I should be able to finish this run in (insert meaningless time here)." These goals and expectations are an important factor in one's motivation, but they must be for the right reasons. And as I can see it, all too often they are governed by ego alone.

Though I try not take polarizing standpoints in these posts; here's one: There are definitely right and wrong reasons to do what you do. Especially physical tests that involve mental fortitude.

THE WRONG REASON: You want to make people gasp and say, "Wow, that's fast! You're an incredible person and a better human because you can run that fast!"

THE RIGHT REASON: You want to test yourself and see how you react to the world around you even when it presents you with a situation that is not optimal. You want to recognize your surroundings and find the best version of yourself in those surroundings- at that very moment- in that exact setting. Rinse. And repeat for the very next moment.

An unexpected addition to the expected challenge thrown in at the last minute, like freezing rain and 20mph headwinds, will capitalize the ever looming question, "WHY DO YOU DO THIS?"

To quote Seneca, "No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity, for he is not permitted to prove himself.

The 2018 Boston Marathon was, on average, the slowest- across the entirety of the participants- in decades. And though "grit" is not exactly measurable by any means, the same marathon saw the greatest amount of it. Through that grit, those 26.2-miles instigated an immeasurable amount of self-discovery.

The winners of the pro races experienced the same feeling of self-discovery as the people crossing the finish line long after the crowds were gone and stands were deconstructed. Though their clock-time was very different, the feelings were equal across the field.

Not only across the field of runners, but these feeling were also shared among the fans, officials, and police details that came out to stand in the inches-of-rain that soaked our beloved roads from Hopkinton to Boston.

The Boston Marathon, as a community, and as an event, and as an "essence," really showed its true colors and magic this year.

As I look back on 2015 and the moment I decided to give up on myself. I realized that that moment was very crucial in my learning process as well.

If you aren't happy with your time yesterday, or if you feel like you gave up. You are now faced with a new situation of "How will you use that to make yourself better?" I don't think you know what your best-self looks like until you know and experience what it feels like to give up on yourself. The key being that you've got to channel the experience and make the best of it.

I once told an amazing person, and I stand by it to this day, "It is more impressive seeing you fight through your worst fear, with a slower finishing time; than to see you set a personal best on a perfect day."

As I approached Mile 21.5 yesterday, it was as though I crossed-over into this indescribable barrier of time and space. I was brought back to the exact moment of three years ago, and I felt the exact feelings that vibrated thru my body then.

I looked over to the same spot where I gave up on myself and started crying in the freezing rain and the ripping headwinds.

Thinking back now, it was all-too-perfect and poetic that the conditions were set up in the exact same way for me to confront my biggest fear in the same exact circumstances.

I had a friend later text me this:

Through the same chilling cold and howling headwind, I felt the very vivid difference of tears running down my face, even among the rain drops. This year I was still in full stride, but I was crying all the same. I ran past the ghost of myself that gave up three years ago. I realized how much I have learned, grown, and changed in the past three years.

This life is filled with moments like this if you check in often with yourself and become aware of them.


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