Twenty two weeks ago I got the email telling me I was accepted into the Chicago Marathon. One week from today, I will stand at the start line, I will run 26.2 miles, and I will cross the finish line. This training cycle has been everything I expected, it has been everything I didn’t expect, it has surprised me, and it has pushed me. Each week had a life of its own. One week was filled with confidence boosting runs where the numbers on my garmin surprised me. I’ve been amazed by the speed I have found on the boardwalk as the sun rose over the Atlantic ocean. Another week was filled with doubt and questions. I have stopped on that same boardwalk two miles into a long run and cried. I have questioned my own ability and my own strength. My thoughts have consumed me. My body has rebelled. My hip reminds me that I’m asking a lot of my body. The only consistency in this training plan is that I showed up every single day determined to run this race.
Last weekend my mom and I headed to DC. We had a date with Elizabeth Gilbert. She is currently on a book tour that celebrates her newest book Big Magic. The evening started with a reading. I sat in the second row of the historic synagogue with my heart glued to her heart. I had purposely not read one single word of her new book. I wanted it all to be fresh.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert
Every marathon has it’s own story to tell. More important than the story of the marathon is the story of the hundreds of miles ran to prepare for the start line. There is a jewel buried within each mile. This training cycle has been riddled with fear. The list is endless. What if I don’t run fast enough? What if my hip doesn’t behave? What if I disappoint my coach? What if I just can’t do it? What if? What if? What if?
It’s paralyzed me. At times I’ve fought back. At times I silenced the fears. But fear has won more times than I’d like during this training cycle. But then I found my sweet spot. Life shifted. I found myself buried beneath the debris fear left behind. I dug myself out.
Last Tuesday I sat across from my running coach for one last time before I run the Chicago Marathon. As I listened to my plan for race day fear was still present, but fear wasn’t my driving force.
“It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert
My race plan is simple. It makes me smile. My running coach crafted a plan that is exactly what I need for Chicago. I sat across from Jerry and absorbed his words. My heart was glued to his as he reminded me of the magic of the marathon.
Kristy the person has to show up to Chicago. Kristy the person has to run this race. Kristy the athlete isn’t invited to Chicago. I need to run light hearted. I need run for fun. I need to fall in love with the marathon. One day Kristy the person and Kristy the athlete can run a race together. Chicago is not that race. The first ten miles need to be slow. I need to run 10:xx. I need to get to mile 10 feeling fresh. If I run the paces I know I can run, I will get to mile 10, and I will think I have a shot at breaking 4 hours. That isn’t my reality for this race. If I run slow, I will get to mile ten excited for 16 more miles. I need to be okay with walking if my hip hurts. I need to run this race with a smile.
Today I ran my last run in Virginia Beach before leaving for Chicago on Tuesday. A hurricane is swirling off our coast. The winds were wild. They danced between the trees. The trails were flooded. My shoes were quickly filled with water. My legs felt strong. I felt myself pulling forward. I wanted to run, but I heard Jerry’s voice in my head. Kristy the athlete isn’t invited to this race. I practiced this strategy, and I digested it mentally. Fear crept back in: am I taking the safe route? am I choosing comfort over courage? am I making excuses for a slow race?
Maybe it was the wind or the trees or the puddles, but I found myself laughing at these thoughts. Jerry may have known long before I did what I need from Chicago, but I had glimpses of it all along.
“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert
Two years ago after I crossed the finish line of the Richmond Marathon I was exhausted. I had run a PR. I was getting faster each week, but I was burnt out. I don’t want Chicago to have this same story. My only goal for Chicago is to cross the finish line craving more – more miles, more marathons, and more me.
I had no idea when I signed up for this race how much I was going to transform my heart over the hot and humid summer. On Tuesday I fly into Chicago, the place of my birth, to run a race of gratitude. This entire journey has delivered me to a brand new chapter of my life.