I had completely forgotten how to run a marathon.

The old me had a very simple recipe for running a marathon:

  1. Do the least possible training without blowing all plausibility of finishing a marathon. This essentially amounts to at least one training run over 13 miles.
  2. On the morning of the race, pile your heart, your soul, and your guts into a little dish. Slide it across the table as a small offering to the running gods.
  3. During the race, don’t wear a watch. Don’t look at clocks. The gods don’t care what your time is. They care about the contents of that little dish. And that you promised to let the race strip you bare, to leave nothing for yourself. You deserve nothing, you earn nothing, you possess nothing.

Motherhood is transformative — physically, behaviorally, and emotionally — and I’m still trying to figure out what person came out on the other side.

Motherhood is the least rebellious thing a woman in her 30s can do. So I figured I might as well go with the flow and try a conventional marathon. I trained. I wore a watch. I went to the track. I even threw in a long run on roads. Well, it was mostly on roads. I set a goal. A concrete goal. I wanted to podium (top-3). I thought I had prepped for the race of my life.

The racing gods laughed in my face.

First, they took away my legs. Marathon pro tip: don’t start PT for an Achilles injury one week before the race. One week is just enough time to murder your calves (the PT had me doing hundreds of calf raises up until the day before the race). And not nearly enough time to see benefit. My calves felt like bricks at Mile 1. I spent a good portion of the race wondering Why, PT Tim? Why did you do this to me?

Then they took away my heart. I can’t blame my race on the World Series. But the timing couldn’t have been worse. After so many late nights watching playoffs, the Nats had to go and blow three straight losses at home in the World Series and my spirits had been deposited somewhere in the gutter.

For extra sparkle, they through in some torrential rain storms. Haine’s Point was a lake.

Only the hardiest fans came out

It could have gone worse. I hung in there and finished in 3:06, 12th female. I smiled and waved every time I saw Aaron and tried to stay positive. But I haven’t had a marathon race go over three hours since 2006. Aaron had to wrestle my hand away from my Garmin when I tried to delete the data at the end. I wanted to erase every trace of the dismal day.

Bjorn thinks the weather is a lot of nonsense.

Aaron and I have dropped our fair share of race bombs in 2019. Aaron’s had two 100 mile DNFs. I lost at Highland Sky where I hold the CR. We’ve hit so many shanks into the bushes this year Trevor refuses to go golfing with us.

Of course, bombs happen. Ultras, being longer, can be more forgiving. You can be back with Mario and the horses at the end of Western States, take a little nap, and find yourself enjoying a nice second wind. Ultras can also be less forgiving. Ask Daniel Bedell and his burned sticks at Fat Dog. Marathons, I’m afraid, are always less forgiving.

But I was particularly low about the Marine Corps result. It wasn’t just the time. I felt like I had lost my way as a runner. I understand that as a mom I have to be more domestic, more organized, more efficient. But that doesn’t have to transfer to running.

A decade from now, the main memory I’ll have will be Bjorn in his yellow rain jumpsuit screaming his guts out because he’s been waiting all morning for mom and dad, and when they finally arrive mom’s legs are far too weak to carry him.

Just as I have to decide which parts of traditional motherhood suit me, I also have been going through a process of figuring out which bits of Bob are worth preserving. Sometimes I’m mortified by similarities. Other times, I realize I miss the person who knew better than anyone else how to enjoy a good burger.

The last time I ran the Marine Corps marathon, my dad was standing on the Mall cheering for me. After the race he defied all traffic advisories to scoop me up along Lee Highway in his green Toyota convertible. Roof down. He whisked me back to DC to celebrate a marathon in the only proper way: giant juicy burgers at Old Ebbitt Grill. He was so excited he couldn’t help but blab on to all the hostesses and wait staff that his daughter had just finished 5th in the Marine Corps Marathon. I was mortified. And touched.

After Marine Corps I realize I will always be a fringe runner with different running gods. Gods that care little about my work ethic or whether I hit goals. Gods that seem to prefer events like the Trilogy, the Race for the Birds, and the Beer Mile. And are pleased when I stop for kinglets and wrens. Gods that let you know that you can technically win a race by crossing the line first, but still not win at all in their books. Because the most important part of racing is the human part.

Bjorn gets mom with a little help from dad

Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.