What I Took Away From My Last Marathon

What I Took Away From My Last Marathon

Well, the Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is history, but I always try to take away something from every marathon I run. I found this marathon grueling, but I’m not sure why. I haven’t spoken to anyone else who ran the marathon, so I really don’t have any point of reference except my own experiences with other marathons. I am pleased with my results, even though my goal was to win my age division; I came in second at three hours and thirty-seven minutes, a pace of 8:19/mile over the 26 miles of the marathon, two minutes behind the runner who won our age division. I was 121st overall out of 1591 runners. Could I have done things differently in order to improve my time? Of course, there are always mistakes made before and during any race. I went out too fast, for one thing; but I felt good in the beginning, so I wanted to take advantage of this; I should have known I was pushing too hard too early and that I’d pay for it later in the race. But I’ve always lived this way: all out. I never leave anything behind me, if I can help it. So, this is probably the lesson I will take away from the Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon: it’s OK to come in second (or even last), if you’ve given everything you can. And I can honestly say that I gave everything I had last Sunday during the running of this marathon.

At mile six, the neuroma in my right foot flared up, and the pain was intense. I had run the first five miles at a 7:40 pace and I felt strong. Mile six began with a brutal uphill climb of at least a quarter of a mile, which I attacked as I always attack the hills. At mile seven, my legs were already growing weary and the pain in the ball of my right foot had become more acute. I hadn’t suffered pain from my neuroma in a long time, ever since I’d switched brands of running shoes, ever since, I should say, I’d had the surgery so many years ago in which the enlarged intermetatarsal nerve that had caused me so much pain to begin with had been removed. My case was unique because the inflamed nerve had grown back three times, so I had to undergo three surgeries to remove the neuroma. The second and third surgeries left scars on the bottom of my foot that had always caused me problems that I’d had to learn to deal with during my runs, but I wasn’t going to give up running no matter what, so I found creative ways to deal with the discomfort. And now, so many years later, the pain reared its ugly head once again. Had my neuroma returned? And now on Tuesday, two days after running the marathon, the pain in my right foot is still very sharp, but I’m not going to let it get me down; I will go out for a run later today, probably a short, easy run just to stretch my legs, but I will go out in spite of the pain from the neuroma.

By mile ten, my legs were already screaming and the pain from the neuroma had worsened. My pace had slowed to 8:30/mile. I was beginning to doubt whether I would even finish, let alone win, the race. But I was determined to finish, however; I’d finished every marathon that I’d ever begun. At mile thirteen, things were beginning to unravel; I tried to think of anything except my intense pain and discomfort, but pain is relentless; it isn’t easily ignored. Somehow I was able to survive the miles between thirteen and seventeen, but something happened to me at mile seventeen. I told myself that the pain was all right, that it was something I would just have to live with, that, in fact, it wasn’t my enemy at all, but rather it was, for the next nine miles anyway, my companion. It’s funny how we can learn to live with pain and agony, especially when we come to realize that we don’t have any other choice. If my pain wasn’t going to go away, then I’d use it to my advantage; I’d increase my pace just to spite my own pain. What was the source of my pain anyway?  Besides, it was insignificant compared to the emotional pain I’ve tried to deal with over the past several years. I’ll take acute physical pain over emotional pain any day, so I told myself that my physical pain was actually a comforting break from my emotional suffering.

I picked up my pace and began passing runners along the course who had passed me earlier in the race. Runners were struggling, and I wanted to reach out to every one of them, but I pushed on because I knew that I couldn’t help any of them. Marathons require self-reflection; each runner would have to deal with his own agony in his own way; this is why marathons are more about dealing with one’s self than with the course or the other competitors. It isn’t about winning; it isn’t about personal records; no, it is all about finishing, and finishing with as much determination and raw courage as you can possibly muster. At its best, a marathon can represent life itself; life isn’t a race, but rather it is a contest of courage and determination. When it’s done, one doesn’t look at records or where he placed, but rather he should look at the courage he was able to muster in order to finish as hard as he possibly could. Life can beat you down, that’s for sure, unless you take your pain and suffering as motivation to run even harder, to live on an even grander scale.

I finished second, and I’m OK with that; what I’m most pleased about is how I dealt with my struggles along the way, and overcame my pain in order to finish as hard as I possibly could. I won’t ever be the fastest marathoner in the world, not even close, but it doesn’t matter because I am always racing against myself. And the interesting thing about that is that I can never beat myself, so I will always come in second; I will always be just slightly behind myself; and that is what life is all about: how will we view our efforts after the race is done? Our perceptions of the world exist milliseconds after the events have actually taken place owing to the nature of light and energy. Nothing that we see or experience is actually real, because it happened before we realized it happened. We are seeing life as a reflection of the past. And that is how life unfolds, measured by our reflections of our pasts. As much as we all want to live in the moment, it just isn’t possible. But that’s OK. Life runs on ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean that we have to continually chase after it, not if we focus on our own race, focus on how we should give everything we have while we are still on the course. Leave nothing behind; that’s enough.

  1. David!

    Nicely written! I won the female wheelchair 1/2 division! A bit of misfortune knocked on my door too at mile 6! My feet began to slip off the foot plate; downtown Denver is rough & bumpy! I had to stop 3 times for people to help me align my feet back on the plate! Next time I’m placing Velcro on my shoes/plate!

    I’m doing my very first marathon Jan 16/17 at the Arizona Rock N Roll event!

    Thanks for your great story I read tonight!


    • Hi, Tina!

      Congratulations on your finish in the half marathon! I wish we’d run in to each other after the race, but the marathon started almost an hour after the half, and I didn’t finish until close to 11:30, so you were probably already gone. I did look for you, however. And good luck on the marathon in January. I know you’ll bring your best. I hope everything is going well for you; I’ll give you a call sometime so we can catch up. Thank you so much for your comments on my blog post. I truly appreciate what you said.


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