Race day is Sunday. 13.1 miles. There is a chance of rain and it is supposed to be in the 60’s at race time. I have logged 211.49 miles since January 1. I have completed a yoga retreat in Bali and many yoga classes. I ran 10 miles the last two Saturdays. My legs felt like they had three more miles left in them at the end of each run. I am fired up and ready to go.
As race day approaches, I am feeling nostalgic. I am thinking about when I finished my first big race in June of 2000. A full marathon. I have since finished four half marathons, but that was my first distance race. I decided to start to train on December 18 of 1999. I had not ran a mile since high school. I was 29. I weighed more than I had ever weighed in my life. I was in the throws of graduate school course work and a bit of a mess. I had seen signs for the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training across the University of Texas at Austin campus and thought it looked like something that I might want to do, a kind of before-I-am-30-and-needing-to-get-myself-together-thing. This was the first time I turned to taking care of my body to calm the storm of life. So, I registered to walk in the San Diego Rock-n-Roll Marathon. I would train with the Team for the next six months. I would follow a coach’s guidance and use a clearly articulated training program.
My coach was a professional Iron Man triathlete and yogi. My walkers team worked with him three days a week. The days we did not work with him, we worked the program on our own. My team was comprised of women of all ages, occupations, and backgrounds. We each had our stories as to why we were racing. Some were leukemia survivors. Some had children battling leukemia. Some had lost loved ones to leukemia. I had no personal connection to leukemia prior to training. Team in Training was an opportunity for me to connect with myself and my community.
My coach introduced me to yoga. He started work outs with taking a moment to center by breathing in mountain pose before we ran. We laid in wet grass and stretched. He exposed us to the idea that we must be mindful of our breath in every element of our workout. He taught us that strength, flexibility, and endurance were the heart of fitness, and that yoga was essential to each. My coach believed yoga was about calming the mind. Calming the mind was about finishing the race. He connected yoga practice to digging deep and reaching the potential of the body and mind.
The marathon changed my life. Training was a lesson in perseverance, discipline, and commitment. Training was also about seeing beyond mental and physical boundaries. The race itself was a lesson in breathing through fear and finding true strength. It took me a long time to finish the race. The victory was won long before I crossed the finish line, though crossing the finish line made me feel like steel. I became a marathon finisher that afternoon. I carry that title with me now into everything I do.
I will be thinking several things as I race the in the Flying Pig this weekend. I am thankful for my health. I am thankful for the strength of body and mind that training has allowed me to build. I am thankful for a yoga practice that builds and relieves tight and tired muscles. I am thankful for my continued connection to the outdoors that running allows. I am thankful for mindful breath that I am just beginning to truly explore. When I first put on my running shoes in 1999, I was not sure I would continue running after the marathon. Almost fourteen years later, I am glad I have continued. Sunday will be a special day. I know I will be thinking of the marathon.