The Finish Line...sort of

During the weeks leading up to the marathon, I journaled a lot. I took note of what was working and what wasn’t, what my feelings were, how significant training was for my life, etc. It seemed too much work to make those journal entries decipherable to anyone not living inside my experience, but things have settled down enough that I will share what I wrote (with minimal editing) the day after the race.

The night before the race, having just sung through with the conductor the role that I’ve been preparing, I felt a sudden onset of cold symptoms. My throat was sore, sinuses full and running like a faucet, and sleep eluded me. In the morning, I made the decision that if I needed to split onto the half course, I would. I started slow - well below my anticipated average pace. I let go of my goal time and the goal of finishing and approached the starting line with curiosity. What am I capable of today? And did I prepare myself to make healthy decisions or will my pride and expectations get in the way? Three weeks before, during my 20 mile training run I had the thought, “What if I don’t finish?” I didn’t really answer that question then. And the morning of I thought, “What if I’m too sick to run?” The answer to that was easy. I have benefited so much from training that I didn’t feel attached to the race. I felt more gratitude for the knowledge that I have of my system and the values that I’ve built around making healthy choices. I felt acceptance of myself and my conditions.

At various times during the race, I was aware of my time. I felt a swell of pride at mile 11 when I passed my pace group. I felt demolished when they passed me at mile 19. I walked a lot. I enjoyed the uphills. I smiled at the crowds and I thanked them. I experienced so much joy out there and very little pain, aside from my cold symptoms. Of course along the way exhaustion and self-doubt found me, but I really, really enjoyed the day. Did I achieve all of my goals? No! Did I achieve some of them? Yes! Does that mean the whole thing is a throw away? No way. There are are things that I would do differently next time. I can learn from my experience because I was present for it.

At mile 23, I considered walking the rest of the course. It would put me in around 5 hours. Right as I was thinking that, an older man who was volunteering with his church group started walking with me. He gave me a little pep talk, most of which I don’t remember. What I do remember is that he said, “This is what you trained for.” He was right. Whatever the outcome, this is what I trained for. I trained for acceptance of my circumstances as a means for growth. I was prepared to walk to the finish, but I really got a boost from that little talk. I ran the last 2.2 miles at the same comfortable pace I had started the race. I finished in 4:36:47. I finished feeling strong, proud, accomplished, joyful, and feeling that I had met myself where I was.

Alexandra Kassouf