I was at the starting line.
I wasn't nervous. Not one bit.
Of course, I had been facing backward, but that's a mistake anyone could make.
“I'd trained for this,” I told myself and everyone who was in listening range. Two days a week whenever time allowed, and at six o'clock on Saturday mornings. I'd drag myself out of bed and lace up my sneakers, rain or shine. In just a few months time, I had accumulated an ever expanding weekly distance despite moving at a glacial pace.
Two hours and thirty minutes. That's when I expected to cross the finish line.
At some point during this middle-age experience filled with blisters and chafing and jogging uphill (both ways), covering 13.1 miles without using wheels had become not only thinkable but doable. It had also seemed like a two and a half-hour vacation at the end of each week.
I wasn't proud, exactly. I was amazed.
The kind of amazed I felt when I got married …. or when the kids were born … or when they started making their own lunches.
The kind of amazed one might feel when they get a hug from a child or a smile from a stranger.
Granted … it's not the kind of amazed one feels when seeing a George Lucas film for the first time. Or when a hypnotist at the county fair makes a whole bleacher-section bark like dogs. But that's beside the point.
This was real and somewhat elusive, albeit mundane. As I joined the ranks of the Spandex-clad huffing and puffing by the side of the road, somewhere inside my head I had to wonder:
Why do we put ourselves through this?
Shin splints, stress fractures, muscle tears and a laundry list of self-diagnoses ending in ITIS.
It has to be for something other than the subtraction of a few seconds from a stopwatch.
We all have our reasons: Testing limits; pushing boundaries; setting examples; strengthening our bodies; clearing our heads.
I used to think it was all just mind games, mostly.
But that's always how we all feel in the beginning.
When the gun goes off, and you start to run -- a slow jog that stops short a few times before the pack thins itself out – you realize how often we forget to hold ourselves back.
Starting out too fast is a common problem in all human races.
Eventually, I will pace myself. I will settle into a cadence I can sustain.
My body doesn't have much of a choice once my mind realizes it has to pitch in and help.
Miles one and two fly by as I keep up with the pack.
Eventually, I do begin to pace myself. Though my brain – the sad, tired, mathematically impaired thing that it is – can't seem to keep up. The mile marker has a number four on it. That can't be right.
What happened to mile three?
I kept rounding downward.
Mile nine seemed like mile seven. I had scaled the wall I usually hit full on.
I came up on Mile 12 with the feeling of invincibility.
So, of course, finally being the hare in this tortoise fable, I did want all hares historically do.
I started to walk, which startled the nice lady I'd passed at least five times already. She touched my elbow as she passed me again, this time saying the magic words: “We got this.”
We did have this.
I was going to finish.
I just wasn't sure my family would see me cross that line if I didn't slow down.
They'd never expect me to pull a rabbit out of my hat.