I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible. -John Hanc
The week after a marathon is always surreal. Your body isn't quite sure what to do with itself. It is simultaneously exhausted but energetic, fatigued and sore by dying to run.
The week has been spent letting my muscles recover, which means only walking, no running, eliptical-ing, zumba-ing, yoga-ing, and stretching daily (+ a trip to the hot tub. best.decision.ever). This downtime, on top of the recaps and responses to friends, family, professors have given me time to reflect on why I do this. Why run 26.2 miles? Why do I enjoy it so? What is this runners high? and more importantly, how the hell did I get to this place??
I know that I think clearest on my long runs. I know the beauty of self-reflection that comes during hours on the road. I'm the driver of a vehicle that sails along at a reasonable pace, allowing me to keenly observe the world around me while learning about my true self. 26.2 is a long ways, mentally and physically, and every time I do it, I feel like I can truly accomplish anything. Running clears my mind, soothes my soul and makes me feel ALIVE.
I'm reading Once a Runner, and while it is a good read, i was never a runner. In highschool i was on the debate team. I never considered myself athletic. I danced seriously from age 3 to 14. Once that had to come to an end I took up 3 mi runs to get "in shape" for a month-long backpacking trip. I enjoyed waking up early to get a run in before school. I begin to see myself as fit, but even as my mileage increased I've always had a hard time identifying myself as a runner, that elite class of individual, who finds joy in mile repeats, hill workouts and waking up before the crack of dawn to get a long run in. I may not fit the body-type stereotype for a runner. I'm not willowy. My race photos are not graceful. But I'm persistent. I go out there and try my best. And that's what makes me an athlete. I may be 7 minutes away from qualifying for boston but I am still a runner.
This transition hasn't been the easiest one. I find myself wallowing in self-doubt and negative comparisons. "oh I don't want to run with her/him, I'll feel slow, and I don't want to drag them down." In the middle of the race I had to shove these thoughts away. Put them on a far away shelf and dig deep into the strength that I know I have. Because I have no "baseline", because I'm never searching for that "oh well, in 8th grade i had a 5 min/mi" I have to continuously surprise myself by what my body can do. The mind can not comprehend that what it has not yet experienced, and my 10 minute mile jogger self had no idea what it felt like to run 4 miles in 28 minutes. But now I know I can do that. I know that I can finish a sweltering marathon in 3:47 minutes, and not feel sore 4 days later. So what's next? I know qualifying for Boston is right within my grasp. I want to push my boundaries, I want to run faster I want to run further.