Runners who take on half-marathons, marathons and ultra-marathons are selfish. Yes, I said “selfish.” We wake up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and run for several hours. We squeeze in evening runs after not seeing our family all day. We join up with fellow runners on weekday and weekend group runs. We spend countless hours online sharing running stories or looking for running advice. We probably even talk in our sleep about running.
In the past couple of years, I have been selfish in adopting a lifestyle of endurance running. . .and I won’t hide the guiltiness that I feel. I run to relieve stress and stay healthy. I run for a sense of accomplishment, and make up for the weaknesses in my life. Putting all the fun moments aside, my training is really about “me, me, me.”
On my long runs on Saturday or Sunday mornings, I spend 75% of the time thinking about what my family is doing and whether or not I am prepared for the work week ahead. On weekday evenings, I spend the same amount of time thinking about the time I’m missing out on with my wife and child, and wondering if I am doing the right thing for my clients by not putting in more hours at the office. It’s mentally taxing.
In leading up to the recent Louisiana Marathon, the quality of my training faded in the last couple of weeks. I was training for a 3:25 finish time, and everything looked great until the end of a grueling, yet manageable training plan. Was it tired legs? No. Injuries? No. It was that guilty feeling that I was devoting too much time to running.
However, in running and finishing the Louisiana Marathon, I found a balance that has somewhat cured the guiltiness. On the morning of the race, my wife and daughter woke up at 5:30 with no complaining. When we arrived at the starting line, I genuinely felt the support and happiness (and probably some concern) that my wife and daughter had for me. All of the anxiety, fear and uncertainty ended. For one short moment, I choked up thinking how much my family had been there to support me even when I was away from home and trying to put in the mileage that I needed to prepare me for a marathon.
The inspiring vibe led me to running a 7:50 min/mile pace for the first 13 miles. The remaining 13 miles was not so pleasant, and I finished with a time of 3:38:17, and a pace of 8:20.
Disappointing time? Sure. But I was happy to learn about how my selfishness (and addiction) is supported by others. In addition to my wife and kid, my parents and my sister-in-law were there to cheer me on at miles 16 and 21. I can’t say “thanks” enough for family members to get up early and hang out at one spot to see me running for all of one minute. I needed that boost at those points in the race.
The finish line presented the most gratifying reward of accomplishment: the acceptance that my selfishness may have given some inspiration to one person. When I crossed the line, my daughter had the biggest smile on her face, and told me: “I’m so proud of you Dad.” At that moment, I knew those 16 weeks of training and guiltiness were worth it. At that moment, I knew that I inspired my child to believe that the impossible is possible.
The Louisiana Marathon was just one of three long distance races that I have scheduled through the month of March. So, as I immediately returned to the grueling and repetitive routine of tempo runs, speed work, long runs and easy runs, some sense of guiltiness has stuck with me. However, as I prepare for this weekend’s Rouge Orleans Ultra Marathon & Team Relay, I know that my support system will be there to share the experience with me. My brother will be taking on the duties of driving my team through the night. And my wife and daughter will be at the finish line again. As crazy as it sounds, I can’t wait to start running a total of 40 miles for the simple fact that I get to meet up with family members at the finish line.
My Rouge Orleans team, the Pain Junkies, starts with the 1:00 P.M. wave on Saturday. Follow the Pain Junkies (#PainJunkies) and Rouge Orleans Ultra Marathon & Team Relay race feeds (#RO2012). And of course, follow @claimyourjourney for race updates.