How do you reply to the question, “So when are you going to do a marathon?” when you’ve done every race distance except a marathon – and have no interest in doing so?
I’ll never forget the time I ran my first half-marathon: I crossed the finish line feeling a huge sense of personal accomplishment, completely exhausted, but so proud of myself. As I made my way down the finishing chute, one of the volunteers placed a medal around my neck, and I hobbled along to meet up with my wife and son in the family meeting area. When the fog in my brain began to clear, I finally looked down at the medal hanging around my neck, and that’s when I noticed the half marathon medal was exactly that… a “half of a medal”… It was designed to look like the medal awarded to the finishers of the full marathon, except this one was half a circle with jagged edges as if the medal had literally been broken in half! Now, to most people this wouldn’t be such a big deal, and some might even think it quaint, or funny. But to an addict like me, all it did was make me want to return to the race next year to claim my “complete” medal! Nicely played race organizers, nicely played!
I think all runners settle into the race distance that suits them best. For some, that’s 5k and 10k races, for others it’s the half marathon or marathon, and then there are those who find their joy in the ultra marathons or adventure races. When it comes to dealing with that nagging question, “When are you going to run your first marathon? (or whatever distance it is)”, I think there are two ways you can interpret that question – as an annoying inquiry that deflates your proven accomplishments, or as proof that this person thinks so highly of you that (s)he believes that any distance is within your grasp.
And before you ask; even though I’ve run over 125 marathons, I have no intention of taking up triathlons…at least, not yet!
Have you ever tried guiding a visually impaired or blind athlete?
I’ve met such incredible athletes over the years, and many have supported me when I was feeling broken and lost, while others I have looked up to as mentors and motivators. In August of 2014, I had the privilege of running for 13 hours as guide runner for my dear friend, Rhonda-Marie Avery on her Envisions Run. Rhonda is a legally blind endurance athlete who ran the Bruce Trail in Ontario from end to end –
That’s 885 km in 20 days! The section that we ran together was particularly technical and challenging, and there were many occasions when it was hard to see the “beauty” in such a grueling experience. But at the end of the day, my feet caked in mud, calf muscles twitching from half-a-day of navigating slippery, steep terrain, my achy middle-aged body could not help but feel joyful and proud to be a part of such an epic quest.
Running is a metaphor for so many of us because it engages us with our surroundings and reminds us of what it truly means to “be present” in the moment –Running compels us to see the beauty in a forest swarming with mosquitoes, the beauty in the bone-chilling cold of a run in a January blizzard when most people are nesting safe and warm in their cozy houses – but most importantly, running helps us see the beauty in all of us.
I expect that Rhonda thinks that I was helping her on that leg of her journey, but to be completely honest, I was the one who received a gift that day. I strongly encourage every runner to get in touch with their local Achilles Running Club, and find out how you can get involved with an inspiring community of what my dear friend Rhonda refers to as ‘other’abled athletes.
Send your advice and questions to JP firstname.lastname@example.org