Permission to Have Fun

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Photo by Mārtiņš Zemlickis on Unsplash

Is it Possible to Enjoy the Marathon?

I love running and running a long way. But, something happens when the race starts: I stop enjoying the run. Looking back on 29 marathons, I think I have enjoyed only two of them.

I admit that I have always enjoyed approaching the finish line in each race. There is something really exciting about the pride that comes from knowing your body has been able to carry you through such an epic distance.

Recently, I have realized that the last .2 miles, is the first time I have enjoyed the marathon.

Several runner friends of mine have challenged my mindset. After a few of them talked about this year’s Detroit Marathon, I knew I had a lot to learn from a few people. I am drawn to each of these runners’ personalities and mindsets. As I prepared in the final weeks for this year’s fall marathon, which was the day before my 40th birthday, and my 29th marathon overall, I decided I wanted to find a way to enjoy it.

The question going into this marathon was, “How do you really enjoy the marathon while running it?”

Nate

My husband, who I have known for over twenty-two years, always talks about the race like it was a party with his closest friends. He doesn’t listen to music when he races, and experiences the journey. At the end of the marathon, he talks highly about the race no matter his time. He is quite a faster runner than me, but when I see him no matter how rough my times have looked over the years, the excitement on his face makes me feel as if I will break the tape coming across the finish line.

Nate’s enthusiasm leading up to the marathon reminded me I was ready to rock it and should consider it the biggest birthday party ever.

Amy

I have known her for over thirteen years. Amy continues to be one of the people I want to talk to first after a race. She wants to hear all of the details. One of the first things that has always impressed me about her, is that she is often in a good mood, especially when she talks about running. She gets excited about dressing in really bright obnoxious colors, doing weird and crazy themed runs, enjoying details that seem random, and continues to chase the fun in running. Amy sparkles when she runs. She is a person who enjoys the course no matter what.

When she is no longer having fun, she finds a new distance or way of running that brings the fun back.

When I am running with her, I cannot help but laugh and smile. I have a picture from one of our first 10K races about sixteen years ago. It was a PR for me. But it is interesting, that is not what I remember about the race. When I look at the two of us, we look as though we were almost dancing, and bursting with enthusiasm at the halfway point.

This year, I decided to try something Amy would do. Since I was turning 40 less than 24 hours after the marathon, I attached a sign that said, “It’s my 40th birthday” to my back. I have not done anything quite like this before. It ended up being one of the most fun parts of the marathon. I was serenaded in song from crowds of spectators, wished happy birthday by so many runners, and engaged in conversation about PR’s as a Master’s runner, and told I was choosing the best way to celebrate from so many supportive people.

Marvin

I have known Marvin for about a year and a half. He is one of the founders of our local running club and has made being a runner come alive for me again, as I can be part of a team. He is a enthusiastic, incredibly funny, and high energy person. He is someone that people are drawn to. After every interaction online or in person, I walk away feeling like someone believes in me and is excited about my racing journey. Marvin is one of the first people you want to talk to after a run.

He cheers for you no matter how rough the run was. He reminds me of that brother you can’t wait to find to fist bump and share your race results with.

One of the things that impresses me most about Marvin is how happy he looks during a race. The race photos throughout the course make it look like it was an epic experience. I have often wondered how he could be having so much fun during what might be a tough run, and why he was smiling. In addition to his photos, his race recaps are always really enjoyable.

Whenever I read about his experience I am jealous of how rich and exciting the entire experience seemed to be.

Kayla

I have only really known Kayla for about 6 months. But in that time, she has become one of my go-to friends for inspiration, perspective, and support. We met due several mutual friends, a running club, and bonded over reading the same books. We have had several electronic conversations that have reminded me of my purpose and why I run. Kayla is an incredibly brave and deep person. She is authentic and challenges my thinking.

I am fortunate to have found a friend who has similar goals as a runner.

As I would look at some of her training run times, I realized that she was “My impossible”. During this race, she passed me, but when she did I realized I had the best visual in the world. I had a chance to chase my impossible. I look forward to doing this again in the spring as we are both running the Toledo Marathon.

No matter what Kayla’s time ends up being, she decides that the race was worth it, and shares her excitement and gratitude for the experience. When she talked about the Detroit Marathon this fall it was filled with a million things she did along the way. Even though her time was not what she had dreamed of back in the summer, she thrived and had what I would argue was an incredible experience filled with enthusiasm and zest for life. The interactions she had were not accidental. She engaged in conversation along the way.

One of the reasons I chose to keep my headphones off until mile 16 was because of Kayla. This ended up being one of the best decisions I made.

If I had chosen to listen to music throughout the entire course, as I have in every other marathon, I would have missed so many things. I would have missed out on the opportunity to have conversations, hear people saying happy birthday, and hear the pace team leader talk about the race. Without music, I felt whole, present and able to stay focused. It helped me to stay on pace.

A Spectator Sign I Notice

I see it in every marathon. It is either being held by a cheering spectator, or secured to the ground, but it is always there.

It reads, “Smile you paid for this”.

During my most recent marathon, I thought about this sign a lot. I thought about the fact that I should be happy. Most marathons cost around one hundred dollars, for the race fee alone, in addition to time and extra travel costs involved in making it to the starting line. I thought about the logistics involved in being a parent who races, and everything that goes into making the racing weekend possible. I challenged my perspective this time, decided that I would pause to consider all of the people who would drop everything to trade places with me at the most difficult spots in the race.

I thought about the people who are in pain physically, mentally and spiritually, and have unlike me, not paid for it, and not chosen it.

I enjoyed it

After 29 marathons, and in the last hours before turning 40, I completely enjoyed the marathon experience. I broke four hours. I was overcome with emotion when I thought about the fact that I had not seen a 3, in front of my marathon result since 2011.

When I think about why I enjoyed this race, it was not just the time on my watch that made it an epic experience. It was the friends who believed in me, it was not listening to music, it was being bold by wearing a sign about my birthday, it was about giving myself permission to enjoy every step of the journey and take lessons from runners I admire. I am ready for a new decade of challenges, amazing race times, but most importantly experiences filled with bliss.

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