COLUMBUS — The thoughts and doubts came crashing in during the last two miles as the pain and weariness grew with each step. I knew the finish was approaching, where I could rest and catch my breath, but it couldn’t approach quickly enough.
In the marathon, there comes a point called “The Wall.” Never running the distance before this past Saturday, I had heard stories of what that meant. With about 15 minutes left in the race, certainly, this is what my friends have described, I thought.
The Wall is when you’ve met the brink, the point where you’re literally and figuratively on your last legs. A runner since 7th grade, I am well-aware that pain is part of the running game, yet this pain gripped me in an unprecedented fashion.
This pain has a longer duration than the ones I’m familiar with from countless 5k’s and it targets your body more than your lungs. It’s the result of not just the race, but the months of training racking up the mileage.
As I made the final turn onto the straightaway, I couldn’t muster the energy to crack a smile but internally beamed. It was far from pretty, yet the goal had been accomplished. I had completed my first marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon.
This year’s tolls have lasted longer and in much more significant fashion than my marathon, as long as it seemed. From the coronavirus and its resulting economic issues to calls for racial justice through protests, some peaceful and some not, much has transpired in 2020.
Perhaps more troubling is that we do not know where the finish line is. We can hope it’s soon, but in many ways, it is out of our control. It’s a poorly-marked course, the weather is unfavorable, and it seems like this hill is only getting steeper.
Many are tiring of this 2020 race, which is more like a 100-mile mountain climb, already. If they are hitting the wall, they’re going to need a cheering squad, loud claps begging for progress and not stagnation.
I had a cheering squad with me during my race, both in person and in my head. My family met me on various parts to bike alongside me, to pick-up my water bottles, and capture photos so I can see how gracious (the opposite in reality) my form looked as I plodded to the finish.
More powerful than my body is my mind, which if you were to take a glance at my figure would not shock you. A runner’s strength is not visible in a mirror, but rather what is in between their ears. Their lessons and memories are stored, the times of great joy and utter disappointment a reminder and roadmap to where you stand.
Preparation for the ultimate task meant mileage to gain physical knowledge of my capabilities and mental knowledge of what I am willing to do to live up to that potential. It meant running alone along the floodwalls, racing the sunset as I did laps around Spartan Municipal Stadium, and spending my weekends in the hills of Shawnee State Park.
You have a large carb-fest before running a marathon, which stores high levels of glycogen but endure training to store levels of confidence.
When we look to this year’s challenges, no one could have trained for all that has happened this year. Wherever we are in this race, it’s not looking great. We’re way off-pace, taken a few stumbles, and maybe lost feeling in our ankles.
It will not be a world record or personal best when we cross the line and pause our watches, but we’ll have at least traversed and finish what we set out to do. We might need medical attention, someone to walk or carry us to our cars, but the road to recovery will have begun. You can eat just about anything after completing something like this race, free of judgment.
At this point, the mistakes or misjudgments made in the earlier parts of the race cannot be deleted. It’s part of the troubling past since March and will be included in our total time to finish.
What can be done now is acting on the knowledge that we have garnered since the starting gun went off and a reliance on one another. No one registered for this, but we’re all in the thick of the race and there are no spectators.
Progress is slow, unified progress is even slower. When someone begins to falter in their resolve or health, we have to be considerate even if doing so from a distance. The only way through is a collective buy-in, to be the best version of ourselves not for ourselves but for each other.
When the going gets tough, the tough rely on what they can control and look for the best possible future.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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