An Even Playing Field


As I prepare to run Boston this upcoming weekend, I am once again in “marathon mode.” The state where anyone with a sniffle is considered a public health threat, where everything I put in my mouth is questioned for its nutritional value and freshness, and every move I make is calculated and careful so as to prevent injury.  This one, however, is different. This is the Boston Marathon, something I’ve been dreaming of since my first marathon back in 2003.  Making it here is an honor; it is like prom to a 16-year-old girl, the Super Bowl to Brett Favre, wearing the Green Jacket to a golfer. Quite frankly, it’s hard to believe it’s really happening.

What surprises me the most, is perhaps that non-runners, the same ones who ask questions like, “Well, how long is that marathon?” actually KNOW that Boston is a big deal. They will say things like, “You had to qualify for this one, right?” RIGHT! But the truth is, I don’t feel like a super hero or a really fast runner. I just feel that back in October, I had a good race. The marathon gods got together and decided that it would be my day to qualify.

This makes me feel especially lucky, because after 11 marathons, I know certain things. The main one being that when race day strikes, anything can happen. The most trained, fit, prepared athletes can crash and burn when hit with a bad stomach, bad weather, or one or multiple injuries.  Heck, even a bad wardrobe choice can be disastrous. Marathon Day has a different ending for each and every runner; it is the crapshoot (sometimes literally, sorry) of all sporting events.  So really, when it comes to the point where you are a week out, two days out, one day out…you are left to rest, hydrate, and trust that what you’ve done over the past months will pay off. Then all you can do is say your prayers and leave it up to fate or your lucky socks on the day of the race.

It only makes sense then, that as I prepare both mentally and physically for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I am quite frankly, scared out of my mind.  Try as I might to stay calm and focused, I am riddled with the anxieties that accompany anything major one has been waiting for.  Was my training sufficient? Should I have done more hills? I think I should have done more hills. What if I get food poisoning? Will I wake up on time to catch my flight? And then, let’s not even talk about what I will be feeling on race morning. Will it rain? Will I freeze, or will record temps knock me out at mile 19? Will I make the right food choices for a smooth run? Will I TRIP on my way to the start?

The bottom line is, I could write from now until I board the plane and still not cover every “worst case scenario.”   Yet I do realize that thoughts like this, while not helpful, are very normal.  A visit to message boards surrounding the topic of Boston shows me that I am not alone in my anxieties. There are many newcomers there who are voicing my same concerns. This makes me feel better as does texting and emailing my running partner about once an hour with questions and comments on our upcoming trip.

Also, when I get to Boston and go to the Expo, I know I will be in a room with my same nervous energy/excitement.  At the start line, I will be surrounded by thousands of runners who are just praying that this moment in time will be everything they’ve hoped for.

And, as I think of this moment at the starting line, where everything either does or doesn’t come together,  I realize how even the playing field is. Regardless of where we come from or how we got there, when it comes to the beginning of the race…we all just want to do the best we can. And isn’t this true about life as well? Each day, we give it our all to achieve our goals and live the best lives we can.  We can fret about everything that could happen to interfere with these goals… or we can move forward with the enthusiasm and hope of a runner at the start of a marathon… knowing that we’re exactly where we need to be, and all that’s left to do is move forward with faith and trust that we’ll make it to the finish.

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