I completed the Go! St. Louis Marathon on Sunday, April 10, marking the 4th time I’ve completed this journey and run 26.2 miles.
Statistics say that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has ever run a marathon. So according to the numbers, I’m in a pretty elite group. But I didn’t feel accomplished on Sunday. I was disappointed with the number on the clock as I crossed the finish line.
Instead of going below my best time , I added 37 minutes, taking 5 hours and 7 minutes to cross the finish line. In my mind, it was a failure.
I trained for the last four months with Fleet Feet to prepare for the event, and my dedicated, loyal coach ran 19 of the 26.2 miles with me, including the grueling back half of the race. I began complaining somewhere around mile 15.
“It’s hard to keep going knowing that this is going to be my slowest marathon time ever. Why bother?” I pouted.
She went all “coach-y” saying, “I want you to see this as an accomplishment, a win. You’re running with an injured knee. And it’s your first marathon in a long time. Absolutely everything has to come together perfectly to get a PR (best time). That doesn’t happen often, so it’s better if you focus on the journey.”
Then she told me that the main reason she coaches for Fleet Feet (a volunteer position that requires a LOT of time) is because she gets to spend time with people who have learned to enjoy the journey. The journey that leads up to the race is the fun part. The race is a piece of that journey, but it’s not about the time it takes to finish it.
“I hope you’ll be able to see it that way, even if you can’t right now” she said.
She was sharing these golden nuggets of wisdom during the worst possible miles of the marathon. Even when I’m having a good race (which I wasn’t) and when I’m feeling great (my knee was howling) and when the weather is good (we were getting drenched in rain and whipped by wind), I am not in a happy place between miles 19 and 23 of a marathon.
So, I promptly ignored her Polly Anna pronouncements. Thankfully, I kept all “shrew-like” thoughts to myself, so I don’t have any amends to make, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think them. Sorry Lindsey.
The next day, however, it all started to come together for me in light of another statistic and another journey that is tied to my running. And those things helped change my perspective.
About 16.6 million people suffered from an alcohol use disorder in 2013 according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But only about 1.3 million of those adults received treatment in a specialized facility in the same year — about 7 percent of those those who have a problem with alcohol.
Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t release much information about its membership — thus the anonymous part — but estimates are that there are about 2 million members worldwide.
I am a sufferer of this diseases, but was blessed with sobriety more than 11 years ago through a 12-step program. That’s also when I began distance running.
Relapse rates for alcoholism are high — some estimate between 50 and 90 percent. By God’s grace, and the fellowship of others in a 12-step program, I am NOT part of that statistic.
So again, I’m in a couple of elite groups: the group that got sober and the group that has, thus far, stayed sober without a relapse. Truth in advertising: It’s not my doing. God and the fellowship get the credit.
Recently, however, instead of being grateful for my blessings, I was feeling sorry for myself.
I was with a dear friend in Italy on an incredible vacation where the wine flowed with most of the meals. It was social drinking, meal-oriented drinking, perfectly normal drinking that was intertwined with food and culture and festivity. But I couldn’t participate in the drinking part of the festivities.
The trip was so fabulous and I was having so much fun that I really didn’t care one iota about that. In fact, I didn’t even think about it while I was in Italy. I was with one of my closest friends. I was seeing the Amalfi Coast, and Capri, and Positano and Rome! I was laughing and shopping, eating and touring. I jogged on trails cut into stone overlooking the Mediterranean below and Pompei in the distance.
I didn’t have the time or the inclination to feel sorry for myself until I got back home. Then, in the days following my trip and leading up to my oldest daughter’s 21st birthday, I began brood about how I won’t be able to enjoy a glass of wine when I return to Italy in a month with my daughter to celebrate her graduation and birthday. Yes, I will be back in Italy in a month!
Instead of focusing on that — on the fact that my 21-year-old daughter chose a trip with ME to Europe as her college graduation present — I was brooding on how flawed I am, how “less than,” how “left out.” And I was letting the time it took me to complete 26.2 miles diminish the fun I had preparing for the race.
But over the past few days, as friends and family have texted and called to congratulate me on the marathon finish, and posted words of praise on social media, I began to reflect differently on both the race and the gift of sobriety.
I am back to seeing the value in the journey — both the journey leading to my slowest marathon ever and the journey that means I am blessed, or so very blessed, to be among the small percentage of alcoholics who GETS to live a sober life. It doesn’t make me flawed or “less than.” Instead, it means He made me for more.
My daughter and husband asked if this is my last marathon. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Miles 19 to 23 are still too fresh in my memory, so it’s not a good time to decide.
But it wasn’t my last race or the end of my journey.