Excuses and perseverance at the Self Transcendence Marathon
Have you been to a race lately and heard your fair share of running excuses? How about “I got lost on the course” or “I haven’t been training for this race.” As a former coach I heard them all. Statements like “I forgot my shoes”, “My shoes are too heavy”,” I couldn’t breathe, coach” are among a few of my favorites. A young man running an NCAA Regional race stated the later as he dropped out of the race. I had a guy last week tell me that he would have done better but he ran a hard 10K last weekend. I just smiled.
As an athlete I have even used my fair share of excuses. Sometimes it feels good to tell someone that you know you are running horribly and offer some weak excuse as to why you need a new sundial to time this performance. There may be something to the Catholic faith and the idea behind confession. It is good for the soul. I’ll bet that any psychological study would reveal that it makes us feel better to have the excuse. The excuse somehow decreases the amount of self humility we will suffer by giving up. Most people can’t wait to tell the story of their demise. Sometimes they even have the audacity to utter excuses before the race is over. Hey let’s face it…a marathon is a long race with a plethora of opportunities to chat.
I will forgo the standard excuses and just tell you that it rained hard for most of the race. All the runners and spectators had to deal with the flood. This eliminated my first attempt at a valid excuse. I did forget my drymax socks and my racing flats. Thus I wore some training shoes and smartwool socks. This actually turned out to be a helpful excuse as the wool socks did not soak up much water at all. Nine laps of the same course might also cause most runners to talk of boredom and monotony. Here again we all had to suffer through the same tedious course. Other outlandish obstacles that each runner encountered included a 30 minute delayed start, plastic cups on the course, lapping walkers along the 9 lap course, and an open path that allowed other local runners and walkers to traverse the course freely. Fortunately I ran steeplechase in college and didn’t mind hurdling the occasional child or walker.
the aforementioned excuses, which all runners endured, I did have a slight
nagging foot issue from the previous sand ordeal last weekend in
I was in fourth place for the first few miles and slowly watched as my mile splits faded into the high 7 minute range. I found myself a little disoriented and ready to go home to my soft down comforter and a long deep sleep. The negative energy slowly built in my mind. The pain in my foot began to throb and echoed throughout my lower extremities. The thought of having only four days of recovery from my last race enveloped my brain and caused my eyes to close heavy with no energy to reopen. It is in this quietness where the rain stopped and all motion and thoughts ceased. Had I passed out? Had the one thing on this world that I loved given up on me? I remember feeling nothing and it felt good to be absent of pain. I think this is probably what goes through any athlete or competitors mind when they offer excuses. The same must be true with any difficult situation in life that we face. The option to give up and quit is always there. The nagging pain or emotional hurt seems to beg us to cough up an excuse and throw in the towel. These excuses are from some evil force that has some how infected our minds. How long had I been building up to this moment in time and over how many weekends had I wanted to walk away even if it were subconsciously? To walk away from the adversity, the rain, the pain, the crowded course was so much easier than sticking around and seeing it through. I did not feel that I had the energy to push through any more pain. It felt so good to think that I was done and that finishing this marathon was no longer in my control. I saw myself being escorted to the medical tent and wrapped in wool blankets to warm my limp unresponsive body. This peaceful solitude, which seemed to last for hours, was violently interrupted by an unexpected shove from behind. My peaceful delusion of warmth and rest came to an eye popping abrupt end. I was suddenly aware of my legs, the heavy rain and the looming task ahead of me. A walker chatting with others did not see my slumped over body and plowed into me like a wrecking ball. I am not sure if it was this physical jolt or the sight of my great friend John coming toward me with soaking wet hair, rain soaked jacket and a gel in his hand that caused me to raise my head. I felt like Noah must have felt seeing the freshly plucked olive tree branch in the mouth of that dove. I was hungry, wet and had, for the most part, given up on finishing. I quickly reminded myself that I have been through far more grueling and demanding situations. I stood and steadied my physically withdrawn body and allowed gravity to pull me to the finish line. After coming through the first half marathon in 1:17 I plodded through the second half to finish in 2:49.41.
Although I may ponder not finishing a project, journey or commitment, if it is left up to me, I will see it through. I will hopefully fight stronger should this same scenario happen again. I have even considered the mistakes along the way, like putting on the wrong shoes or getting caught up in the storm, but I will finish. Some may say that finishing a race with an injury is ignorant. I say it builds character. Others may bail on a race or situation that seems too difficult or painful and spout out hopes for another opportunity tomorrow. This is a thought I had often in my early running career. You and I are not guaranteed tomorrow much less another opportunity like the one that is right in front of us. Take hold of today and run with it. Literally. Run a marathon and find out what true perseverance is like. If you have run one, run the second….the next weekend. You and I may even make mistakes along the journey. If we sign up for it and put our bodies on the starting line we will drag, scrape and claw our way to finish line. Running is one of the few sports where no other person can legally prevent you from crossing the line.
What you face tomorrow might be your last mile, your last chance at a relationship, or your last chance for that new job. Run to it and finish the race. You started it and you can persevere. Anyone can create excuses, point fingers and act critical to justify how badly things went. As bad as it is, rejoice that this is not as good as it gets.
See you at the
starting line in