Running marathons never gets old. You might assume that running 40 would be enough to make one's attention wane, but I just discovered that number 41 was as meaningful as the first. It was was my hometown race, the Los Angeles Marathon last Sunday, Valentine's Day.
I thought this marathon was going to be kind to me, it being the day of love, and all, but it wasn't. The course was challenging from the start, and my body never quite caught up with my heart and mind's expectations. My upper body pushed hard, while my lower pulled back. I blame the disconnect on the many months of long "pace" based running I had done preparing for my 50K ultra marathon in November. The fact was I hadn't "raced" a marathon since Boston last April. I thought I was ready on Sunday, but I wasn't.
The feeling I walked away with after this disappointing race wasn't that my time was slow, 3:26 is still solid, but that I was scared that maybe my speed had plateaued? A sub-8 minute mile pace is fantastic for many runners, and has been for me, too, but I felt that I could go faster that day. I was upset because this race means so much to me. I love Los Angeles. I love the unique people, the lop-sided roads, the smoggy skies, the blue hued seas, all of it, I love it! I wanted to hold my head up high and show the city my appreciation and run the fastest marathon of my 36 year old life. I didn't do that. I ran an average race, and I thought by now I was above average.
The fact is, I am not a fast runner, but I can take a lot of stress, and I can manage it better than most. Awesome, but I want to be more than that. I don't just want to chalk up marathon after marathon for the rest of my life, the count doesn't matter, it is how I run them that matters. Each experience is unique, except the only common thread between every marathon is the presence of pain; both physically and emotionally. I train every single day for these few days a year that I can test my grit and experience the pain. I crave it. However, this time around, my body truly was exhausted.
I gave it all I had. The sadness rolled in when I realized maybe what I have is not what think I have? Maybe I will never finish a marathon in my ultimate goal time of sub 3:15? Maybe I have run myself into the ground with the many miles I have run over the last 15 years? On the other hand, maybe I just need to enjoy all of it. The pride and the pain. I am thankful to have passion in my life. I'd rather feel disappointed, than to feel nothing at all. I'd rather set, prepare for, and go after goals, fail, assess, and do it all over again than never try at all.
I learned last Sunday that I have a lot still to learn about running marathons, and that the LA Marathon means the world to me. Feeling frustrated is okay. I am happy that I want to be a better runner, and am happy that I experienced moments of joy and disappointment on Sunday. Both sentiments have value, I need both, we all do. I hoped to have written a love letter about the LA marathon this year, but love involves a fair amount of torment, too, so maybe I did. This year's Valentine's day was riddled with torment, confusion, frustration, relief, acceptance, it was like falling in love with the marathon all over again.