Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Little Perspective

Yesterday was a lesson in Perspective. 
After the race, I spent the rest of the day thinking about my PR (personal record).  At first, being elated thinking I set a new PR and then devastated hours later when I realized that I had, in fact, not beaten my PR and had missed setting a new PR by 13 seconds.  That's right, 13 seconds!! For those counting, that's one second per mile that cost me my PR.  I can't tell you how many times I went over the course in my mind looking for where I could have picked up 13 seconds.  Thinking of those awful two and a half miles into a strong headwind or remembering when I caught myself staring into the ocean instead of focusing on the run ahead of me, surely losing precious seconds.  Going into the race,  I had no thoughts of hitting a PR, but after the race, all I could think of were the 13 seconds that I had lost somewhere along the way.  13 measly seconds ate at me like crazy.
What I never once stopped to think about was how lucky I was to have finished.  I never took the time to thank God/Life/The Universe for getting me across that finish line alive and healthy.  The preciousness and fragility of life never crossed my mind. 
We as runners often focus on the tiny details and minutia of a race.  We obsess over how we did.  Did we do all we could have done?  What should we have done differently?  Did we train hard enough?  Could we have run faster?  Were we fueled enough?  Were we fueled too much?  Did we rest enough?  Did we stretch enough?  Were we warmed up properly?  We look for any and all of the tiny details to analyze the race and our performance. 
What we are doing is missing the big picture.  In the details, we miss the importance and beauty of it all.
Late in the evening, after hours of obsessing over my missed PR, I was given a heavy dose of perspective.  I learned that one of the runners, Kaytie, collapsed at the finish line and after receiving emergency care in the finish corral, she passed away.  I was not there when it happened.  I was already at brunch obsessing over details.  My running buddy, Amy, was there and even helped guide the paramedics to Kaytie.  Thank God for fellow runners.  Even though I was not there when it happened, I have felt the loss deeply.  Knowing that this sister runner spent her last hours running the same course as I ran, seeing the same wonderful Galveston sites as I did, and celebrating with her fellow runners is touching.  But knowing that her race ended so much differently than mine, has really shaken me.  The finish line of a race is supposed to be a place of joy, release, and relief.  It should be the highlight to a hard fought race.  It is the place where you are rewarded for your work and can celebrate with friends and family and even complete strangers.  Knowing that our finish line was the site of such great tragedy is heartbreaking. 
Shortly after learning about Kaytie, I learned that two other runners died the same day at a half marathon in Raleigh, North Carolina.  In one morning, our running family lost three members.  It was a devastating realization.  I've written many times about the bond of runners.  We may not know each other's names, we may share no more than a glance, or we may never meet in person, but we are all connected to each other by the run.  We are in the long run together.  We share the same goals and challenges.  We understand each other's journey because our journey is the same.
I am so saddened by the events of the weekend.  But, I am going to learn this lesson now, while I still can.  I vow not to take another race for granted.  I will always run and race with a thought to those who no longer can.  I promise now to never cross a finish line without thanking God for getting me through to the end.  I will be grateful for my legs and my heart and every part of my mind and body that carried me through.  I will celebrate my life and my health, no matter what the clock I pass under reads. 
I can obsess over the details later. 

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