I recall registering for the Big Sur Marathon because I had unfinished business to complete. After being sidelined from last year’s race due to a torn calf muscle, I signed up this year with the goal of finishing what I started. But oh, how circumstances have changed.
Last year, I needed to prove to myself I was still strong. Last year, I needed to prove that I was capable of pushing forward through pain and exhaustion and failed expectations. I recall thinking my reasons were noble at the time.
Now, I realize my motivation is different. This time my motivation is simple: I just don’t want to repeat what happened after my first marathon. After college I completed the first Nike 26.2 Marathon in San Francisco. Considering my training consisted of a few long runs – none longer than 19 miles – and a handful of sessions in the pool – my finishing time of 3:18 was pretty good.
However, I didn’t enjoy it. Despite running through some of the most beautiful areas of SF, the only thing I remember from the race was the last four miles. I was hungry, angry, and in extreme pain. I didn’t care if I finished – I just wanted to eat. I stopped caring about my time – I just wanted to see the banner at the end.
Within 45 seconds of crossing the finish line I chugged a carton of yogurt, nearly a gallon of water and downed a banana, before laying on the ground. The pavement was warm and the heat felt heavenly on my aching lower back. But within seconds a volunteer came rushing over and insisted I get up.
HIM: I should take you to the medical tent.
ME: [eyes closed, enjoying the sun on my face.] No, I am fine. I just want to stretch out my back.
HIM: I really think you need to go to the med tent.
We argued about this for about two minutes. I won, but only after looking him in the eye and saying, “I promise I won’t die on you.” He left me in peace, but the moment was gone. And shortly after I boarded a bus – alone, tired, and wishing I had someone to greet me back at the start.
This year will be different. I will actually put in the miles and cross-training required to stay healthy and run smart. I promise to do more than just get there. I want to enjoy the experience.
And this marathon will be different for another reason entirely – Emily will be running Big Sur with me. There will no doubt be periods of the race where I will question why I signed up in the first place. There will definitely be moments I wish I could get back. Days I wish I had trained harder. But we will conquer the hills . We will face the wind and bare stretches of Highway 1 head on knowing that there will be someone there to hug and hold up at the finish.