I ordered my first Road ID almost three yeas ago. It was 6 weeks before I ran my first marathon (Chicago 2009). When they gave me the option to have it engraved (typically with a motivational quote, I was told), I quickly picked the following:
Have faith, not fear.
It seemed like the perfect marathon mantra. I was quite proud of the idea that I had adopted such a Zen approach the whole thing. But the more time goes by, the more convinced I am that I’ve never really succeeded in adopting its spirit.
In fact, truth be told, there’s no telling how many things I’ve not tried out of fear — from making a career change to opening up to trust new people and even to starting a family. I’m far too analytical to just take a leap of faith and make it work. And more often than not, by the time I’m finally ready, I sell myself short or I’ve missed a window of opportunity that makes things much more difficult.
Take the marathon, for example. First, I didn’t go for it because I convinced myself that I needed to train for a half first. Then, when I finally took the plunge, I was filled with doubt. I’m still not sure I truly believed I could finish. I spent weeks pouring over ever training run to convince myself I was ready, mapping a course strategy, figuring out nutrition, and picking out a race-day outfit. I may not have had much blind faith, but I certainly had a plan. And I executed it perfectly. When I finished that day, I danced across the finish line … until a certain someone pointed out that I had way too much energy left … until another certain someone pointed out that I had missed by Boston qualifying time by mere seconds. Then, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was really capable of. I was still elated, mind you. Just filled questions :: What could I have done if I had truly believed? Why I couldn’t I go all in? Why was I still holding back? What was I afraid of?
Now, let me tell you a story about true faith and fearlessness . . .
After being my #1 fan at the Big Sur Marathon last year, my dear friend (we’ll call her Aunt M) decided to give it a go herself this year. She convinced our friend, Lulu, to join her from London. I planned to run Boston again (though I was secretly hoping to be pregnant), but I wouldn’t dare miss their first marathon. And, so, a plan was hatched :: Girls’ trip to Carmel, San Francisco and Napa with a little marathon thrown in the middle. M and L would run together, and I would meet them around mile 20 to help bring them home.
As the big day approached, Aunt M had every reason to back out. She never did a training run longer than 13.1 miles. Her total mileage was around 100-150. Her average pace put her right on the cusp of the course time limit. Lulu couldn’t make it after all, and I was 5 months pregnant, so she’d have to do it mostly alone. Work was nuts, and the extended 5-day trip we had planned felt almost inconvenient.
Anyone else I know — myself included — would have backed out. But not Aunt M. She was not only determined to try; she was prepared to be satisfied even if she didn’t succeed. She was chipper about it, in fact. And if she was all in, then by golly I was, too!!
On Sunday morning, she set out into the foggy redwood forest of Big Sur, California on a mission. Due to traffic control issues, the race directors were going to shut down the course at Mile 22 at the 5-hour mark. With winds gusting up to 40 mph and a 2.5-mile climb lovingly referred to as Hurricane Point, it was going to be close. I ran the 5k that morning, watched the marathon winners cross the finish line, and then ran back out on course to meet her at the 22-mile cut-off.
Being at Mile 22 was downright humbling. As each runner approached, they were desperate to know the time. They didn’t care how much farther they had to go, they just wanted to know they’d be allowed to keep going.
As the cut-off time grew near, I got really nervous. I began walking farther down course, telling runners they had just 3 minutes … just 2 minutes … just 1 minute … and then I finally saw her. I won’t lie — she didn’t look good. But she was still running. I told her she had to keep going just a little longer and promised her that once we crossed the mat, we could go as slow as she wanted. And we did just that.
The last 4.2 miles were pure heart. I think that’s true in any marathon, which suits M perfectly. She’s got heart running out her ears.
She was the last official finisher to cross the line. Due to some confusion among the officials, they started deflating the finisher’s banner right when she approached. And you know what she did? She ran right over the darn thing.
That, my friends, is how you conquer your fears and show them who’s boss.
Here’s hoping a little bit of it will rub off on me (or at least on my little one) some day.