Training, while time consuming and exhausting wasn't horrible. I had to pace myself and run the race for me, on my time, taking one step at a time, though some paces near the end felt like they might be my last.
I finished well.
I feel that our first leg (pre-bankruptcy) mirrors this race in many ways...hard but not insurmountable (what's 10 months of waiting at this stage in the game?), tiring but not exhausting in the way that a 23+month journey can prove to be. Something that would warrant little consideration before wanting to do again in the near future.
Fast forward exactly two years and something even more inexplicable (oh wait, perhaps there was a bit of motivation) possessed me to run the full 42.2km. I can say it was one of those times when doing what had already been done (the half) just didn't seem like it would be accomplishment enough...for me...at that time.
So, training started.
Sometimes (often!) slow runs.
Hours of training.
I recall a good two months before the race I felt that in some ways I would never be ready. In the same breath I didn't know what I could do to prepare any more or any differently. Let's be honest, you can either complete the 30+km training route or you cannot. There's no gray area in that one.
Fortunately for me, I had built up endurance and self talk and the iPod was doing it's job satisfactorily as well. Yet there was still a wait ahead of me. There were more weeks of training, more wearing of the Nikes, more ounces of sweat to be shed.
This, all in preparation for something I mentally understood but in my heart I couldn't fully grasp. Who can truly grasp and rationally accept the thought of putting one foot in front of the other thousands of times throughout one continuous several hour period?!
Fast forward to the day of the race...the first 8km are always the hardest for me. I don't know why. Call it mental...call me mental. (You could do this based purely on the fact that I was out there in the first place.) Those first many are just really tough. Once I push past it's free flying until, oh say about kilometre 34.
At 34 the going gets tough. I hit a bit of a wall...and the body starts to groan.
And I think that's about where I sit right now.
In this journey.
We're around 34...perhaps pressing on towards 35/36 after the past week of encouragement.
Some are moving past us. They've received their referrals...for numerous reasons: greater age requests, longer waits already behind them, and other factors of which I will never be aware.
Some are still behind. Perhaps they started slower (paperwork or financial hold ups often the uncontrollable - which is the most frustrating of all), maybe they were closer to the end of the pack when the starting gun went off...because in races such as marathons and halves, there are herds of us and we cannot possibly all step over the start line at the same time. People would die. Chaos would prevail.
Here we strut. Continuing on along the hills - up and down, little and big. Often it's the downhill that can be the hardest, as victory - the finish line - is so close we can often nearly see it on the horizon, over the next peak, across the bay...yet it is only within sight.
We can't quite grab it.
As with the marathon, we must continue on. Perhaps the pace is slower while we walk (the joints, emotions, and other aches can be overwhelming) but it inevitably picks up from time to time and the emotion, the exhilaration, it makes it all worth it - and it is these moments - these tangible dots along the timeline of our lives - which carry us through to the next incline or bend in the road.
The expectation and firm knowledge that there is a finish line and we will cross it - these are the understandings which allow us, enable us, and force us to ignore the aches, to forego the depletion that often is kilometre 34, 36, 38, or 40. We know it is there, as we have seen others cross it, having felt the exhaustion we feel at our current place. The anticipation that there is the reason (one of the many) we continue on and is enough (simply because it has to be) to keep us going until we hit that 42.2km finish line.
And while it could be that final 0.2km that feels the longest, it is there.
The finish line does not move...though we may often feel that it does.
It's distance from us is most certainly finite.
It won't move.
Though we may not see it from our current place in the race, it remains.
I don't know where to find our finish line, nor how long it may take us to get there...I don't know how many more aches and groans we will feel. Certainly a few. Yet, I rest on the understanding and the firm knowledge that it is there.
I have seen too many "coincidences" to know that you don't reach the end just by chance, fluke, or laziness. We reach the end by seeking, praying, patiently waiting (and then some more...about a billion times over), knowing confidently that there is a higher power - a God...mine, actually, who planned this marathon out...step by step...ages ago. He aches when we ache. He rejoices with us (and long before us, actually). He does all for good. And when we are attacked He hears our cries, comforts us, carries us, and reminds us that His will be done.
And all we need to do is continue to confidently, patiently, daily, put one foot in front of the other until we cross the finish line.