Sunday, May 25, 2014

On Finishing 1716th

I ran a half-marathon last weekend with my daughter.  I was thinking of saying that the training for this race was not nearly as arduous as for last November’s marathon in Richmond, Va.  But then at my age, every time I go out to run my body says, ‘Excuse me, but have we ever done this before?’

We ran the Marine Corps Historic Half marathon in Fredericksburg, VA.  Beautiful place for a race and absolutely perfect weather for running – 40s, clear, sunny, low humidity – no excuses.

My daughter had run several half marathons before.  This was my first.  She declared she wanted to run with me.  I know from experience that she is quite a bit faster than her father, so I figured that after an initial gesture of comradery, our natural paces would take over and that would be the last I saw of her till I crossed the finish line.

But it didn’t happen like that.  Instead, we started together, we ran together, and we finished together.  What a privilege!

But running with my daughter who runs fast had the effect of pushing me, to the extent that I ran this race faster than I have run any distance race in my life.  We clocked in at seconds over 2 hours flat.  I wish I could say that the last mile or so was an exhilarating, endorphin-enabled sprint to the finish line.  Truth was I really had to push myself and reverted to my childhood mantra ‘Are we there yet?’ when the finish line didn’t appear and didn’t appear and just didn’t appear.  But finally it did and yards away, as my daughter and I made our final push, I grabbed her hand and we took our last steps together.


We finished tied for 1716th.  And we both got a medal!  And so did all of the 6400+ other participants who finished.  The last one who crossed after 4 hours 22 minutes and 48 seconds of hard work got the same medal as we did as the first one who crossed in an astonishing 1 hour 5 minutes and 9 seconds.  For me, just finishing would have been a triumph.  The fact that I finished with a personal best time and pace at my age is gratifying.  I should run with my daughter more often!

The signs and t-shirts say that ‘Running is cheaper than therapy’.  I think I just might qualify as the poster child for this clich√©.  Not that running is magical or that it has taken my problems away.  But it has given me something useful and healthy to do with myself. Signing up for the marathon last November and this half-marathon in May has given me a challenge to work towards.  I never dreamed I would be running 10, 12, 14, 20 miles down Virginia country roads.  And then actually running races is just an awesome experience.  All these men and women of every age and ethnicity and background, each one with a story, each one having worked so hard to get to this point, all running together.  And then the cheers and encouragements and high fives from the people lining the streets.  And then running towards that finish line and finally crossing, and getting my medal, and getting my freebie ‘race treats’ and then getting to go to the ‘free beer’ tent at 9:15am and after 13.1 miles and it (the breakfast beer) being so good…  The past year has been a desert for me with respect to joy.  But last weekend was one of those God-given oases.  More than worth all the hard work.

Post-race Celebratory Breakfast for Hungry Runners

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