“Unladened, empty and turned to stone
A soul in tension — that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try” – Learning to Fly, Pink Floyd
This past Sunday I ran the Rock N Roll Montreal Half Marathon (Demi-Marathon, if you are a cool French Canadian). I was asked to write a race report for the Another Mother Runner blog so you can read the full, official report over there. I did not have a PR. I did not stick to the race plan Dimity and I discussed. I finished on a hot, cobblestony, slightly hillier than expected course and that counts for something. No matter how much I run, I don’t ever feel like I always get it “right”. That is why I consider endurance running “learning to fly”. I’ll never be fast but I am determined to try.
I really admire the fast runners. I know the dedication, the adherence to a training plan, the diet it must take to be in top shape to perform at such a speed. Many people who are fast runners can finish a half marathon in under 2 hours. They can finish a marathon in under 4 hours or even under 3 hours. I am not one of those people and sometimes, I wish I was one of them. It takes me about 2:30 hours to finish a half marathon and it will probably take me between 5 and 5.5 hours to finish the full marathon, if everything goes according to plan; Longer, if it does not. Running often does not go according to plan. Sometimes, you feel like you can fly and you set a PR. Other times, you aren’t sure you are even going to make it to the end before the sag wagon gets to you.
In Montreal, in Corral 24 (out of 28 corrals) I looked around at my fellow runners and considered the guts it takes to sign up for a race, show up and head out on the course, knowing that you will be out there for the long haul, on your feet, making forward progress of some kind. The aid stations will be littered with crushed cups and the ice in the water will be melted by the time you get there and you will pass thousands of discarded packs of GU. There were full marathoners in my corral. Those people were in it for the real long haul. They were going to help close down the course. We are the mid-to-back of the packers. The turtles not even trying to race the hares.
I am often surrounded by similar runners in my corrals. I suspect they think the same thing about me. They are my people, my tribe, my inspiration and my new best friends. They are often fellow mother runners, a little pudgy, like me. We often end up running near each other during the race and I see their kids on the sidelines, exited, yelling, “Go, Mommy” and giving high fives as she passes. The husbands snapping pictures with their phones. The dads with knee braces and baggy shorts, also running past their kids. I am not saying there are no parents in the fast corrals because I know there are but I always notice the parents in my corral. There are a lot.
As we run along together for so many hours, we chat with each other. We have time to talk, to take it all in and to encourage one another. I am sure the fast runners do the same thing but there is a certain camaraderie in the back of the race, a shared determination to finish the race no matter what because, for us, it might not be a sure thing. We’re brave because we know just how long this race is going to take us and we do it anyway, eyes wide open. Rarely is this our first rodeo.
I have no misconceptions about how hard the marathon will be. Half marathons have a tendency to remind you that 26.2 miles is a long damn way. Five plus hours on your feet, constantly moving forward, is not a cake walk. I will struggle. I will feel pain. I may want to quit but I won’t. I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and one day, I will finally learn how to fly.