When I was thirteen, I walked into my living room, sat down on the arm of my father’s Lazy Boy recliner and without warning, came to the full realization of who I wanted to be. Some people spend a lifetime trying to
discover themselves. For me, it took minutes. As I sat there with my father, I was mesmerized by the image of Julie Moss crawling across the finish line at the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. I knew immediately that that was what I wanted from my life. I wanted to push myself and watching Julie struggle on all fours, in the dark, toward that finish line, I knew how I would do it.
This doesn’t make me unique. There are thousands of runners who watched that video, either that day or years later and thought, “That is what I want to do.” It is either in you or it isn’t. You either watch it and think “Why the hell would somebody want to do that?” or you watch it and utter a breathless, “Cool” in amazement at her ability to keep going even in the face of pain.
Don’t get me wrong. I am no Julie Moss. I will never be fighting for first place in a race. Instead, I fight to beat myself. To better my last time. To push myself further than I thought I could. I battle against the barriers that pretend to be there.
When I started marathoning 12 years ago, it never occurred to me to think I couldn’t do it. It never occurs to me to think that anybody couldn’t do it. So, you’re 400 pounds and want to run a marathon? Sure. It might take you a couple of years to get in shape but sure, you can do that? You smoke 2 packs a day and want to run a marathon? Yep, get out there and become a runner. You have never run a mile in your life? It is just putting one foot in front of the other. It is doable. That isn’t to say it is easy. It isn’t. But if you want to do it, I mean really want to do it, you can push through the pain and it is in pushing through it that you will find the joy in the marathon.
I have crossed the marathon finish line 13 times. Each time, it feels a little like a miracle. Did I really just run 26.2 miles? Am I really done with the 16 weeks of training? And most amazingly, did I really just push through that pain at mile 22? The pain that caused me to start silently chanting “this is hard, this is hard, this is hard” over and over again?” The pain that had me crying and convinced it just wasn’t worth the effort? Did I really make it through that? Yes, and that is what makes it worth it. There have been marathons when I haven’t felt that pain, not many, but some. But it is the marathons in which I had to push, when I had to overcome, that I find the most joy.
I have heard it said that anything worth having isn’t going to come easy and maybe that is why Julie Moss’s famous crawl to the finish resonated so strongly with me. Maybe it is why I saw my friend Michelle’s pictures of her marathon experience and understood her joy at the end. It is in the struggle that we find out what we are made of. It is in the marathon that we push beyond that struggle and become the person we know we can be.
Special Thanks to Michelle from Daily Mile for sharing her pictures and experience with me and inspiring me to write about this pain and joy of the marathon.