In my running life. Years away, still close as yesterday to the heart. Yours too will come and go and you will never know it for true until its too late. But really, it is never too late. If you know the secret.
Today I speak of your marathon personal best. The measure of a man in days of yore. Each manboy measured and measuring. The process, with notable exceptions, providence of the barely post juvenile. Too wet behind the ears to even notice let alone appreciate the vigor of youth. Boundless hubris and energy coursing through supple and eager intentions. Let’s RACE!
That’s how it was for me in the 80s and 90s. In America’s fourth largest city. And a bunch of other cats too. Hammering each other week after week after week. Regular cast of characters, pecking order pretty well established. But when a fast cat was having a bad day and you got to kick his ass, man those memories still burn bright. And the occasional win. In the middle of it all comes the one race that you will celebrate.
The marathon pr. That day when everything clicks. For me, it was the final 10K of the 1995 Houston Marathon. Tears streaming down my face while passing people I’d never, ever beaten despite years of trying. And knowing there was no way in hell they could run with me. Now big Happy Smiles as they fell behind. Singly and in groups I would encourage them as I passed. Them bewildered, me flying. The happiest running day of my life. In my prime. Who cares of time? And now twenty years have passed.
My marathon personal best. What a Real Runner hangs his hat on. What you’ll be measured by for the rest of your miles.
I would chase my own time for another half a dozen years before physical reality ended the pursuit, with grace I believe.
Grace. And here’s why, the secret I mentioned up top. That morning in Houston, now nearly three decades ago, I was In It To Win It. Challenged myself to leave nothing on the course. Executed my perfect race. The goal was even 5Ks for all 8 of them, barely noticed the mile markers. The 5K splits were all within 4 seconds of each other. And it never happened again.
That sums up my attitude on marathoning. Its a rare gift. And why I feel like such a dinosaur in today’s we’re all winners, woot woot, world. I just can’t fathom 26.2 miles without it being a supreme test. Instead of purity, honesty and suffering, now a bucket list quest, a penguin’s jest, selfies instead of personal best.
Ah but not all is lost. You know you’re out there. Feeling that same fire. Not many of you left, but your’e there all right. In It To Win It.