This past weekend I was fortunate to have the opportunity to run the Buffalo Marathon.  Based on the course layout, weather, and some good training, my goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon next April.  Feeling confident and strong, I had a purpose, and set out to accomplish this goal I had set for myself.

Two years ago this coming weekend is the last time I ran a marathon competitively with a goal time in mind (and within reach).  Throw in the mix a year living in Guatemala, plenty of shorter races in between, and coming off running the Louisville Derby Marathon in April, my body was in for it – physically and mentally.  More importantly, my body and mind were prepared to endure any challenges I would encounter.

The Race

The road to Buffalo couldn’t have gone any better.  We arrived safely, picked up a friend from the airport, and drove the course the night before so I wasn’t surprised by anything on Sunday.  I woke up Sunday morning to sunny skies and a 45 degree temperature.  The bowels were moving (every runner knows the importance of this), my legs felt fresh, and at 6:30 I made my way to the start line.

To qualify for Boston, I had to finish in no more than 3 hours and 5 minutes.  My plan of action was to go out with the 3 hour pace group to allow a 5 minute cushion in the event of any complications.  The starting gun fired, and we came out fast – real fast.  Instead of being at a 6:52 minute/mile pace, we were running a 6:41 minute/mile pace for the first 5 miles.  In getting ahead of myself, I had fallen off track with my plan.

Thankfully, my friend, Jeff, jumped in the race with me at mile 6, and we ditched the pace group.  Jeff helped keep me calm and slow my pace down as to not burn up my legs with several miles still in front of me.  For the next ten miles we were strong and consistent.  Jeff jumped out of the race and picked me back up at mile 21, and I was never so happy to see him.  By that point, the cluster of runners had thinned out and the previous five miles were some lonely ones.

Five point two miles to go – a bit tired, but feeling strong.

Four point two miles to go – legs are burning a bit, but just need to push through it.

Three point two miles to go – “I’ve come 23 miles, all I have to do now is run about a 5K.”

Two point two miles to go – Me:  “Jeff I can’t keep that pace, my legs are trashed.”  Jeff:  “Yes, you can; you are finishing this race and going to Boston.”

One point one miles to go – “I can see the finish line.  This is the home stretch, but why in the hell is it so far away.”  Legs are running on less than fumes.  Pace is slow and sluggish.  Losing Focus.

Point two miles to go – Reality sets in, and I know that I’m not finishing in less than 3 hours and 5 minutes.  I see my girlfriend at the final round-about cheering me on – supporting me like a champion after finishing the half marathon herself.

Finish line – 3 hours, 7 minutes and 30 seconds.

photo-1After 15 minutes of getting fluids back in my body and another 30 minutes of being pissed for not qualifying, the reality of what had just transpired hit me.  A few thoughts came to mind that allowed me to realize the importance of the day’s events.  These thoughts are something I feel everyone can and should practice on a daily basis.  

  1. The only time you fail at achieving your goals is when you give up on them.  Coming up short, not finishing by a certain time, or not receiving an ‘A’ on your next test isn’t indicative that you have failed.  Reaching your goals is a process and a journey.  You are going to be challenged.  You are going to attain everything you ever wanted should you choose to persevere and keep the goal in sight.  Learn from what you know, and better yourself for the next time around.
  2. Run your own ‘race’.  No one is forcing you to do anything or act in a certain way.  You are the captain of your own ship.  You set your own pace.  Do what works best for you and follow a plan that will allow you to be successful.  Forget the pacer, forget following the path that everyone else seems to be following.  Create the one that gets you from where you are now to where you want to be.
  3. There is no need to rush life.  Our world is built around the concept of ‘now, now, now’ and ‘faster, faster, faster’.  Technology has eliminated several middle steps in various processes, thus producing an end product in seconds.  This instantaneous culture has invaded our personal lives and results in lack of productivity in addition to missing out on everything in between the start and finish.  Life truly is a marathon – appreciate the present and the journey and be patient in doing so.
  4. There is a time and place for everything we do.  Of course we can do certain things or act in a specific manner to increase the odds of reaching our goals, but in the end, it will work when it’s supposed to work.  We can’t force it.  The only controllable factor we have is to try again and again until we receive what it is we are after – and that will happen when it’s supposed to.
  5. A small improvement is just as important as a big improvement.  Plain and simple – take little steps.  There is no need to cross the river with one giant step.  With small victories we increase confidence levels.  These small gains are the catalyst for taking the next step.  Continue to step, continue to move.

Do you ever find yourself rushing through life, forcing things to happen? Have you done this and missed out on all the truly important things occurring while having tunnel vision and focusing on the end result?

Take a breather.  Slow yourself down.  Understand the process because the process causes growth.

It was being a runner that mattered.  Not how fast or how far I could run.  The joy was in the act of the journey, not in the destination.  We have a better chance of seeing where we are when we stop trying to get somewhere else.  -Unknown

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