It’s not very often that you can have a run go terribly wrong, yet still enjoy the day. But, that is precisely what happened a little over three weeks ago when I ran my latest marathon in Pittsburgh.
The race was going pretty well through thirteen miles, but then I slowly started to feel more and more tired. A few more miles at my goal pace was all I could manage, before I had to slow down a bit. I’ve never run a marathon where I haven’t hit the “oh man, this is getting hard” point, but to usher in that mentality with nine miles left, is not what you want.
I have been back in the States for roughly 22 months now, and within that timeframe I have run seven marathons. This last one was my slowest of those seven. Granted, I had spent 24 of the previous 72 hours at track meets. Three track meets in the three days leading up to the marathon, combined with probably my busiest week of teaching for the whole school year, prevented an ideal taper. Excuses aside, it was my slowest race and if anyone knows anything about me, you know I am extremely competitive. I don’t like losing, and I don’t like it when I put up my slowest time in almost two years. It was a bad run. My legs started to get real heavy around mile 18, and by mile 20 the heat of the day left me gulping cup after cup of water at every aid station. I ran the same race last year and found it difficult, but this year the difficulty seemed to increase. I finished the race discouraged by my performance. I crossed the finish line, but was disappointed by the way I ran. It was a bad run, but it was still a good day.
It was a good day because of the support I had on the course with me. There were those on the sideline cheering my name and encouraging me throughout the race. Around mile 14, I was joined by one of my track runners and she started to run with me. Around mile 19, another one joined in and the three of us kept going for a little bit. At one point while running I asked one of my runners, “Is this your long run for the week?” When she responded, “yes” I said, “Yeah. Me too.” The laughter sprinkled some humor on a disappointing run. When I was struggling to keep my pace, they encouraged me. When I wanted to quit, they told me to keep going. When I needed to take a quick break and walk a few steps, they slowed down with me. They turned a bad run, into a good day.