Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When The Troops Come Racing In: Part 2

Building Castles in the Sky... 


“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ~Henry David Thoreau
...Waiting...waiting...waiting. Look at my watch, calculate time...distance...where are they now. I visualize where each of them are right now. I know this course well. I can see in my mind's eye where each one should be right now. My brain is churning.

Ambitious and important goals are chased today - some may call them 'castles in the sky' - because they are somewhat audacious - they are big and bold and fierce. They require a certain courage just to allow oneself to go after them - to speak - to others, to oneself - in one's head. They are scary, anxiety producing, and exciting. They make the blood hot and the stomach unsettled.

And if they are not reached today they will be soon. Each of these runners comes to this race with their own histories: This is Cecilia's 7th marathon and she has, time and again, been plagued with injuries and pacing problems in previous marathons. Esther is still pretty new at the running and marathoning thing. Jeni ran when she was younger then gave it up for a long time, but has returned with fierce determination. All three are after big PRs and hopefully BQs, at some point soon, though they all really want them today. All three are right "there" based on their training - it is within reach, but it is still a reach. Each has given it her all during a tough winter of training - and whether they reach the goals they've set for themselves, today or at some time in the future, depends so much on factors that remain out their control. Our will and our preparation - that we have some say in. And on that we must rely, and put all we have into the effort.

But this is one of the most mentally challenging aspects of marathoning: Anything can happen in a marathon - Anything. There are things we can control and there are things we can not control...and we must pray for the wisdom to know the difference...

A post from Amy pops up on Facebook: "Cecilia just passed 21 miles. On a 3:45 pace". OMG. OMG. My brain is just about to jump out of my skull. I still have so long to wait. Sandra tries to keep me calm. I now begin pacing up and down, up and down, up and down the hill leading to the finish. My eyes are peeled for the green shorts and shirt. Oh, come on green shorts and shirt...come around that turn...now. And so time passes...crawls the next 40 or so minutes...

And then they appear, green shorts and shirt, like a prayer answered, they appear out of nowhere and I'm startled by the realness of them. Cecilia looks at me and waves me away with a couple passes of her left hand and an almost imperceptible shake of her head. I look at my watch again frantically calculating. I don't know what time she actually crossed the starting mat - I can't yet see the finishing clock, but I start running alongside her, my own tired legs now completely alive...and we run for the finish.

Those last .2 tenths, those 385 yards, I'm screaming and I see nothing but her, and the finish, and finally the clock, 'Go. You've got this! OMG, you've got this..." and on and on I scream. I'm sure she is hating me. But she gives it everything she has. I look at the clock...3:46:xx...the goal is sub 3:45 for the BQ, but I don't let up on her for a second and she does not let up on herself. She crosses the mat, I put my arm around her to steady her, she looks me square in the eye and then collapses like a sack of potatoes to the ground taking me down. I turn off her Garmin (yes, I can't believe I did that) and yell for some help. Some Medics come and take her to the medical tent. She is in good hands, so I run back to my watching post and wait for Jeni who should be coming in next.

I don't know if Cecilia has BQed, but she did manage a huge PR. That much I know. Now the wait continues...Somehow Amy misses Jeni, so we have no news where she is. Oh, what's happening out there. Where is she??? We get an update that Esther has passed 21 miles. She's off pace, but at least we know where she is.  And I know this is so out of my hands...and I am so not okay with that.

Then Jeni appears around the turn. She is walking. Sandra runs to her and I join and we three run to the 26 mile mark where Sandra jumps out and I continue. She is looking at a 35+ minute PR and I really can't repress both my relief in seeing her and my excitement in what she's about to do. She is hurting, bad, I can see that, but she's running again, and again I run toward the finish.

And she crosses the mat with a huge new PR. And she gave it everything. There was nothing left to give. And that is a good race. And she is ecstatic (well, as ecstatic as a totally exhausted marathoner can be).

I jog back to find Cecilia and Sandra. Cecilia sees me and says "My time is 3:44:49"...my mind spins for a moment not grabbing on to what that means, and then I look at her and scream and jump on her. I hug her tight, forcing back the tears welling up.

And then I turn and see Esther running up that last rise. Danica (another wonderful friend who I ran Fox Valley with last year) is running next to her. She is struggling, but she is running strong at this point.

And for the forth time I am pulled toward that finish. She pushes to the finish with such strength and determination in spite of what I know must have been a real test for her. I don't know what she's been through, but I can assume that things did not go well. And after all that, this is what she looks like crossing the mat! (and notice the person who was ahead of her 100 meters earlier, is now behind her - she PUSHED it!!). She finished strong. She finished with a glowing smile on her face.

And THAT is what it's all about.

The push when you just want to say 'enough' - the smile when the effort is finally over and you didn't give in to the 'enough' voice in your head, - the sigh of satisfaction at being weary to the bone - the inner battle when things don't go well - how do you make sense of it all?  - This is what we ask for, and the marathon never fails to make it's mark on our soul.

And the foundation is higher and more solid than before. And each effort adds to the foundation and each goal reached and each goal that slips through our fingers changes us forever. And each lesson learned and built upon determines whether our life will be one of big dreams that enliven and excite us, that make us giddy by the mere thought of them, or whether we will take the safe and timid route. These women all went big today.

And I had a very satisfying case of Laryngitis for the next 5 days.
“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

And there will be a Part 3...because that's what dreams are all about...


  1. Great post! Worth the wait! Congrats to all three of those ladies (and admiration to you for being so supportive).

  2. These women are AWESOME!!! so is their coach!

    1. Thank YOU Amy, for your help with this tale ;) You were more a part of this than you can know!

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