I’m leaving for Washington, DC tomorrow and will run the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday. Trying to dismiss the hamstring pain that seems to now be creeping around my hip, I thought I would re-read a favorite book, “Born to Run”, to get psyched up and forget my soreness for a while. I should have remembered the kind of emotion the book evoked from me the last time I read it, but just like that time, I got sucked into the way Christopher McDougall tells a story. If you haven’t read his book , I highly recommend it, whether you consider yourself a runner or not.
This time, though, I realized that one of the reasons I enjoyed reading his book so much was the intriguing people he wrote about. They are not like most of us, who, while we all may be a little nuts, are definitely more sane than crazy. The characters (real in every way) in McDougalls’s book are definitely not afraid of pushing themselves and living on the edge…the closer to it the better. These are people who run for long distances (way longer than 26.2 miles) for the fun of it…literally. FOR THE FUN OF IT! I guess we can all live a little vicariously through these wild runners who seem to throw caution to the wind.
Of course, As a mother of nine I am certainly not seeking the same thing as they are… Or am I? How can I explain running a marathon…despite a history of injuries and issues that rear their ugly heads every time I head into the end of my training. I guess I can’t… except to say I must also be seeking something beyond the run (or through it as McDougall would probably argue).
However altruistic others might be in this pursuit, I have to admit to facing a kind of selfishness that running can breed (I’m only speaking for myself). For instance, I had a deep tissue massage this morning…that really hurt…and I paid $75 for it. Yesterday I saw a physical therapist who worked on my hamstring and then iced it for 15 minutes. I went to bed last night, as I have on many nights over the past few months rolling away on the foam roller, way too in touch with every feeling in my legs. This is not to mention the hours of training miles I have logged to get to this point of pain I am now enjoying so much. I can often see that this acute awareness of my body can bring my husband to yawning fits and eyes that seem somewhat glazed over when I start in on my latest ache or pain. And every new little pain sends doubts to my brain which seem to breed new pains somewhere else in my body. All of this to say that a big part of me is certainly relieved to be finally running 26.2 on Sunday…for the simple fact that I can be done with it and get “over myself” for a while!
This is also why I am refocusing my nervous energy towards a purposeful approach to getting through the marathon: “dedication miles”. Dedication miles are nothing new; my friend Dan Finanger, who was the executive director of the Twin Cities Marathon for four years, speaks of “running for purpose” by dedicating miles to others, and he has his runners do this even on hard training runs… offer up their pain or hurt to someone who needs prayers. As a Catholic, I am familiar with the idea of offering up hardships or sacrifices for others, and I know it is a common practice. Using the marathon as a means to do this makes perfect sense to me, and I’ve decided to offer each mile for an intention. I am taking requests, and if you have any intentions you would like me to “offer” up, please either leave a comment on this post, on Facebook, or send me an email at email@example.com.
At one point in “Born to Run”, McDougall explained that “the real secret to the Tarahumara” (you’ll have to read the book to find out who they are) was “that they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running…we are all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.” While he researched meticulously and literally “searched” for answers to why this is (even running “the greatest race the world had ever seen”), I can only base my conclusions on my own senses. And I know that when I run I feel strong, I feel free, I feel happy…when I run I feel His pleasure. Laying injury and pain aside, and with it, selfishness and ambition, I believe running can put us in touch with something bigger than ourselves. So with my dedication miles tucked into my shoe, but more importantly tucked away in my heart, I will line up again on Sunday alongside tens of thousands of other runners..all seeking something, if only to finish, and I will simply…run. .