The Last Minute Marathon

The following is a guest post by Mike Davis

What really defines a journey? Does it need a clear beginning? Does it even need to end? Is it just the stuff in the middle?

My idea of a journey has forever changed after a record setting New England winter and a would be marathon in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

After seeing many of my friends from back home (Joplin, Missouri) post marathon times and photos in late October, I became motivated—okay, jealous—of their efforts and accomplishments.

After some thought, I made this post:

Unfortunately, within the first digital minute, my jealousy garnered a few quick “likes.” That digital evidence became a public declaration, which is hard to undo. And so my fate was sealed and outlandish winter treadmill schedule began.

As the snow totals set records in New England, my miles did the same and before long my per-mile pace was encouraging. I even made some “proud moment” tweets to even things out and show I was holding myself accountable for running my mouth on Facebook.

The proud moments did not last. As the big day crept closer, my anxiety heightened right along with the snowfall and on February 17th (my birthday) I opened my email only to find that the race had been canceled.

Happy birthday me.

Immediately I was enraged, and in full disclosure, there was an email sent from my account that was not as polite as I wish it had been. But, oh man, was I mad!  I mean I trained and trained and trained.  Oh yeah…and so did my wife! We were both ready to go.

The next 10-minutes were filled with head-exploding red hot rage and four letter words.

After regaining a sense of composure (my wife’s recollection may differ from mine), we started searching for a last minute marathon to avoid wasting the efforts of our training. First on Google was a Central Park run that circled the park five times. Thanks, but no thanks. Next, was a race somewhere in Pennsylvania that did not sound appealing, mainly due to the lengthy drive and high entry fee.  

After a few minutes, or hours—whatever, I think I was still blind with rage—we stumbled upon the Ocean Drive Marathon in Cape May, New Jersey.  While this run was six weeks away, it fit perfect into our puny budget, since we had a free place to stay. As a bonus we got a much needed excuse to visit family (thank you, Tisha!!).

As the six weeks came and went, the anticipation grew and grew but our training sort of waned. The luster of running three hours on that treadmill had worn off and the shot blocks came close to inducing vomit. A taper week turned into a taper month until race day finally arrived. And then it was show time.

There’s no need to recount the pain and mental strain of the race itself. Or the quarter sized blisters and chafing. Oh the chafing! Or the fact that we both missed our goal times by a substantial amount. No, what I want to express is the feeling of the journey. Not necessarily just the 26.2 miles, but the entire journey.

The experiences I had over those five months altered my trajectory. Through it all I gained purpose, stamina, and confidence. Those long runs gave me time to reflect. I fought through the aches and pains and by doing so learned more about my limits (which I haven’t yet reached). I was able to ride the joyous highs of accomplishments and thwarted off depressing woes from setbacks. I beat the setbacks. My wife beat the disappointments. She learned she’s stronger than she knows.

I learned I won’t stop.

Go back to my first question. What defines a journey? The answer is: you. You define the journey.

While I was searching for a finish line, and focused on Hyannis, the journey decided to continue. The race fell apart. At that moment I had to decide my fate. I had to define my journey and not let mere circumstances create an abrupt end to the dream.

Your journey doesn’t start the day you begin training. It doesn’t end at the the finish line. It doesn’t have a clear beginning or end. What defines a journey is intention, purpose, and how you respond. What do you want to accomplish, and how will you react when the snow hits?

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