Getting through 13.1 miles is a challenge in and of itself. Getting through 13.1 miles in a February race on Cape Cod complete with soaking and torrential rains, wind gusts topping 25 MPH, and temps below 40 degrees? A whole different ballgame.
Some people use music to pass the time and keep them invigorated. That doesn’t work so well for me as I’ve found my times suffer and I get even more bored. Others use newfangled GPS technology to upload the course map and track every second of their run so they know exactly how far they’ve run and in what time. I used to do this, but found if I was getting behind I’d get discouraged and then say “screw it.” So that was out too.
Considering the horrendous weather conditions, I took a different path. I had no iPod. I had no cell phone playing music or virtual trainer telling me how far I’ve run every few minutes. I knew with all the rain making things miserable, I had to think of something truly meaningful to keep my legs pumping. So I did.
I put it in my head that if I didn’t finish this race, my marriage wouldn’t last.
MJ and I have been stressed to the max lately. This pregnancy has been far from smooth and it seems we’re constantly sweating test result after test result. That kind of unrelenting stress takes a toll on even the best marriages, and ours has been no exception. And after it culminated in a blow-up on Friday night, suddenly the race became more important than ever. With more pressure than ever.
You might be thinking this is silly. I don’t blame you. I guess in a way it is. After all, even if I won the damn race (I didn’t…I really didn’t) that wouldn’t suddenly fix everything. But somewhere between Mile 4 and 5 we began the stretch of the race along the ocean. The winds began whipping into a frenzy, the temperature fell, and the rain began beating down relentlessly. The coastal roads were partially flooded which means huge puddles were unavoidable, and slightly wet feet became absolutely doused with water. From that point on it was like running in a puddle, with my shoes making that suction-ey, squishy sound as water leaks out with every step.
But worse than that was my socks. When you get to the point you can wring water out of them, socks tend to bunch up as you move. The long and short of it is I felt like I was running on knots of rope, which caused half-dollar sized blisters on both feet. Every step was painful. Every. Single. One.
And I still had more than half the race left.
All I could think about was quitting. I didn’t want to be out there anymore. I was being tossed around like a rag doll by the wind, I was miserable, cold and tired. Hell, a shit ton of people didn’t even come out to run and a bunch more quit mid-race, so no one would blame me for giving up in tough conditions. It’s no big deal. It’s just a race. It’s…
A perfect metaphor for my marriage.
MJ has had to go through so much the last few years. And she’s still going through it. Don’t get me wrong, we both are. But in the end, she has to physically endure the miscarriages, the losses, and the multiple D&C procedures. Compared to that hell on Earth, if I couldn’t finish a race with some wind, rain and cold then what does that say about me? What does it say about my devotion?
After all, I signed up for the race. I knew it was being held in New England in February and that I’d have to weather certain challenges. If I wasn’t up for those difficulties, I shouldn’t have vowed to do it. But I did sign up for it because I do want it. Because I know that just past all the hardships is a payoff that’s wonderful beyond measure. And the suffering and pain is an endurance test — and a tough one at that — but the juice is worth the squeeze. If you can hack it.
I didn’t get there quickly. In fact, I placed 2,187th out of 2,368 runners. And it was a full 20 minutes slower than my first half marathon last June. But none of that mattered when I saw MJ and Will at the finish line. Because I did finish. I finished when I was hurt, when Nature and everything else was working against me, and when I didn’t think I had anything left. I finished because I said I would, and sometimes perseverance and promises are more important than anything else.
But most of all, I finished for her. Because she’s my life and despite all the fucked up bullshit, we’ll always go to the mat for each other. All the way to the finish line.