Every time I run a marathon, I start to royally freak out about a week before the big day. As I prepare for Milwaukee’s Lakefront Marathon next Sunday, I’m officially in the marathon zone of craziness. As I type this, for example, my left knee is hurting for absolutely no reason at all. It is physically fine, yet in my mind, I’m convinced it’ll be injured for Sunday. This Looney Tune thought is nothing new. In the past, I’ve imagined illnesses that include but are not limited to: mono, strep, chicken pox, and my favorite, appendicitis. I never actually had any of these conditions before a race, but managed to convince myself that I did. (Note that to date I’ve never had to cancel a race due to sickness.)
Now it is Monday, and I am carefully planning each minute of activity this week, monitoring each morsel that I put in my mouth. I am also carrying hand sanitizer with me class to class, and considering wearing a face mask when teaching germy elementary students. You see, these are the factors that I can control; my sneezing third grader will NOT get me sick, gosh darnit! Other things, like worrying if I did enough miles during my training, do not help me now. I know I’ve done my work, but the thing is, most runners freak out at this point in the game because marathon training is absolutely counterintuitive. The training schedule has the longest runs occurring several weeks before marathon day, so that the body can establish a base, and then repair itself for race day. This leaves many a runner wondering how they’re going to run 26.2 when they can barely remember their 20-milers.
Yet, having run a few marathons, I know this isn’t true. Months of long runs have laid the groundwork, and now I know I need to just let go and leave things up to fate. I do this, realizing that I might have a great race, I might have a terrible one; whatever the case, there is not much more in the realm of training that I can do. Now, I simply must rest and nourish my body for Sunday, and trust that my months of hard work will serve as a solid foundation.
That said, it seems this concept of laying the groundwork comes into play often in life. Whether we are training for a marathon, planning a wedding, preparing for an exam, or attending medical school, our lives are full of groundwork-laying events. For example, my mom has been on my hometown’s library board for 33 years, and has dreamed of the day when a new library would be built. After the board spent literally years working to make this happen, the new library will soon open its doors to the public. A patron at the grand opening will see a gorgeous new building, but won’t know that the groundwork for this amazing structure is decades old. Success does not happen overnight.
So, really, when you think of it, landmark events like grand openings of libraries, weddings, graduations, and marathons are only part of the equation. They are the culminating events in the stories of our lives that are built upon hard work, dedication, and perseverance. And when we lay the groundwork with such things, we know that no matter what happens on race day, we can and should be proud, because so much more went into it than meets the eye. The many miles we’ve logged are the true indicators of our success; what happened along the journey is what made it possible to get there in the first place.
Whatever “marathon” you’re training for, remember it’s really not about crossing the finish line, it’s about everything you do to get there. After all, without some good long runs, how do we expect to get anywhere?
Here’s to long runs, hard work, and well-deserved tapers.
by abbey algiers