When I first started my career running political campaigns, one of my friends looked at the abundance of energy and enthusiasm I was putting into my work, and said to me, “Evelyn, pace yourself. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
It was good advice for the work I was doing (thanks TT!), which can be draining and exhausting. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s also good advice for distance running.
I’ve had a week to recover and reflect since running the Los Angeles Marathon on March 21st. I don’t think that when I started running a year and a half ago, with the encouragement of a much younger, much fitter friend, that I saw myself training for and running a marathon, and I don’t think it was even on my “bucket list” of things I had to do in my life.
But I did it, and now I will always be able to say that I ran a marathon.
And I have to admit, when I saw that finish line I welled up – despite the fact that it took me five hours and forty-one minutes to get there, I was one of only ~22,000 people who saw that finish line from the runners’ vantage point.
When I first told a few friends that I was going to run the LA Marathon, two of them (who have run marathons before) instantly volunteered to help me. One said she would meet me at Mile 17 and run the final 9 miles with me. One said she would run with me for a good chunk of the middle. And I had no idea how much having company along this very long trip would make it possible for me to finish, and finish strong.
I remember passing each of the 26 mile markers but I don’t remember all of the sights I passed along the way. I know I ran from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica pier, through Downtown LA, right by Olvera Street, past the Walt Disney Concert Hall, through Echo Park, down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, past Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (don’t remember seeing this at all), down the Sunset Strip and through West Hollywood. I know I ran through Beverly Hills, down Rodeo Drive, past Century City, through the Veterans’ Administration facility, through Brentwood and into Santa Monica, to the pier.
I remember seeing a handful of friends cheering along the route – and I gratefully accepted Gatorade, peanut butter cups, hugs and high-fives from each of them. I remember having people call out my name after reading it on my bib and cheer for me, even though they didn’t know me.
I remember thinking the whole time, “I have not trained properly for this,” and telling myself that that “wall” that everyone keeps talking about is at Mile 27. Thank goodness I never actually found it.
And I guess that just like it was 17 years ago, running a marathon is a metaphor for life. For me, I have found that if I surround myself with friends and never doubt that I can accomplish something, I succeed.