When I signed up for my first marathon, nearly nine years ago, I did it sort of on a whim, and then almost dropped out several times during the training. What was I doing running a marathon? I surely wasn’t qualified- I was more of a worker-outer vs. a serious runner. How did I expect to snap into marathon shape in a four-month period? But then, as seen in earlier postings (see “My People”) I not only trained, but I enjoyed the training, and gained confidence and friends at every run. My new friends (veteran marathoners and Coaches with Team in Training) kept telling me, “You’ll finish the marathon, don’t worry!” As the long runs got longer, I was stunned that 12, 14, 16 milers were actually doable, and waking up at 6 on a Saturday to run was actually fun. I was becoming a “runner” and loved it. While I still had my doubts about 26.2 friggin miles, the wall, and other mysteries a first timer worries about, by marathon day, I decided I might be ready.
On race day, my friends and I gathered at 5:30 a.m., waiting for the 7:00 a.m. start. Note that “down time” before a marathon is never exactly relaxing. I nervously looked around me, looking for signs that I was the only first timer in the crowd, to prove that indeed I had no business running such a race. Yet, I realized it wasn’t a meeting of the “super fit, super small, and super young.” I wasn’t surrounded by Kenyans. I saw runners of every shape and size, age and ability. They were sitting on the cold ground, just like me. They had all most likely followed a training plan similar to mine, and prepared for this moment to the best of their abilities, just like I had. What I couldn’t see, but realized at that moment, was that we were all there because we believed we could do it. We wouldn’t have come at that crazy hour to run that crazy distance, if we thought finishing was an impossible dream. Sure, we were freaking out and had our doubts, but we were there, pumped and ready to go.
I’m not saying that my holly jolly “I believe I could do it” meant it was an easy venture, or even made me less nervous. That marathon (and every one since) brought many moments where I didn’t believe I’d live to see my next birthday, much less the finish line. Yet, somehow, I mustered up the one iota of belief that did the trick, and got through.
That’s the thing about belief in general- we need to have it, or we’re in serious trouble when we face challenging life situations. Since few of us are psychic, we need something to hang on to and hope for. This “something” comes in different forms for all of us, but is backed on the general ideas that we need to think positively, pray, meditate, reflect, focus on what we want, put out good intentions…basically, just have faith that it will all be okay. We’ve all had times in our lives where we’ve needed to call upon this faith, yet, it isn’t until we’re in very scary situations where we really need to believe. The problem is that while we desperately want to believe at those moments, it isn’t always that easy. We’re human, after all, and afraid of what could happen.
Here’s the other kicker. The situations that call for a whole lot of belief also tend to wear us out, and make it really hard to be positive about anything. (Again, kind of like a marathon.) YET, just like the most difficult times of the marathon when we absolutely think we can’t run a step further, we have to believe we can… because that’s quite simply the only way we can continue. And in life, the point at which we are beat down and do not know if we can believe in anything… is that most crucial moment when we NEED to believe the most.
So, as we run into the Christmas Season, and the New Year with all of its hope and promise, remember that believing is the name of the game. And, if anyone sees someone named Virginia out there on the trails, pass this link on to her.
And if you find yourself stuck in the middle of a marathon, or just in the middle of life, I’ll end with a quote from my dad….”You gotta keep the faith, baby.”
By Abbey Algiers