Now What?

This past weekend was rather strange.  For the first time in months, I had no 6:00 a.m. Saturday long run. The dream of a lifetime, Boston, is already a few days behind me.  Luckily, at this point, I am still basking in the glow of the past weekend and run.

Traveling to a marathon, especially Boston, is always like going to the land of make believe.  In this land, problems, jobs, and responsibilities other than making sure to get one’s race packet and not spend too much money at the expo, are forgotten. Everything centers around the run, and every runner walks around, hoping their invisible force field will continue to ward off sickness, dehydration, and injury before, during, and after the run.  During this pre-race time, every runner is a kindred soul, and stories are shared about past marathons, this marathon, the weather, hydration, and other important facts. It is a running nerd’s paradise.

In addition to the excitement, a cloud of anxiety floats above each runner’s head. Not a bad anxiety, but more of the first day of school variety.  Multiple alarms are set the night before the race; a new race outfit is carefully prepared and laid out for the next morning.

Then, before you know it, you are at the start line; with a physical and emotional race about to begin.  Each mile is a checkpoint; a sign that you are closer to reaching your goal. I read a t-shirt early on in the race that said something to the effect of: run miles 1-10 with your body, 10-20 with your head, and 20-26 with your heart. For me, I took the advice, but considered my own:  just make it to the half point, and then start to click off the miles, being careful not to get the math wrong when body fatigue sets in. (26.2 minus14 is…WHAT? Is it 12.2?) Reaching the 16 mile mark was another high point, as it began the “I just have single digit miles left.” Then, at 20, I reminded myself that, “A marathon is just 20 miles and a 10K.” I quickly remembered how much I hate that saying.

The bottom line is, a million different things go through a runner’s head before, during, and after a marathon. Each phase leading up to the run carries its own challenges and excitement, as does the run itself.

But then, the moment (believe me) you thought would never come, is suddenly there- you are crossing the finishing line.  You are celebrating. You are on the plane home. You are back in the “real world” where you suddenly realize that your spouse, co-workers, and others close to you may tire of your marathon stories after hearing them 5 or 6 hundred times a day.  It is December 26, New Year’s Day, the hour after final exams… the time when that “thing” you’ve been waiting for has passed and it is time to get on with the business of daily life.  To say it’s not a bummer would be a lie; human nature sets us up to feel a natural disappointment after big events are over.

So, the question- whether you’ve just completed a marathon, landed your dream job, closed a big deal, gotten married, or just had a great day- always comes down to “now what?”  And, I guess, the only logical answer (besides signing up for a fall marathon…) is to go to bed, wake up, and lace your shoes the next morning, ready to face whatever new roads are ahead of us. Because, whether long or short… grandiose or low key- each road and each day can be pretty darn cool. We just need to show up at the start line to find out what’s in store for us.

by abbey algiers copyright 2010

One thought on “Now What?

  1. You go girl! I am just happy to have finished a half with the montra that “anything past 10 miles is just STUPID!” I can’t imagine the mental game of a full marathon.

    I have not been running enough lately, but am trying to find a balance between my running, writing, and family – thanks for the much needed inspitation!


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