Forty days after my wedding I ran a marathon, my first and my new husband's sixth. It was the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, Vermont on an unseasonably warm Memorial Day Weekend in 1999. I have been a runner for a long time, but this was by far the longest race I had ever done. We had trained for it together, our race preparation nearly as important as the wedding plans.
The day was beautiful and sunny and Burlington is a fun, funky little town. My husband's entire family came to watch and celebrate after, as they did the year before when my husband and his sister ran it.
The race started well and I breezed through the first eleven miles, literally I felt light and lighthearted. I was quite impressed with myself, waving like a movie star at my new family members who popped up along the course to cheer us on.
The next five miles didn't feel so great. It felt like someone had poured concrete into my shoes as the late morning sun bared down on us. I trudged along, finally stopping to walk around Mile 16. I don't remember specifically any conversation we had, at least not on my part. My husband may have said something along the lines of "You just ran sixteen miles, you should be really proud of yourself." But that may just be an exhaustion-induced hallucination I was having or maybe he was cutting me some slack because we were newlyweds. We had established pretty early on in our relationship, he's more coach than cheerleader.
I do remember him walking over to a group of his family and saying "Find everybody, we are leaving the course." Maybe that's what did it or maybe it was the goo and Gatorade I had. As I continued to walk into Mile 17, I decided I was not going to walk off the course.
There was no flash of lightening or angels-singing-in-the-background epiphany. The moment of decision was rather fleeting in the face of the two hours of grit and determination that followed. Somewhere along Mile 17 I started running again. I ran, walked, limped and fought the urge to throw up until I finished the race in five hours and eight minutes.
I hold that fleeting moment of determination like a smooth stone in my pocket. It is there to quietly remind me that I can finish what I start. I've been reaching in to worry that stone quite a bit lately. It's not so much that I want to walk off the course, as I'm not sure what course I am following. I have been easily sidetracked by the grocery list and the bank statement and have forgotten that this race of being a mother and a writer is the only one that counts. I started this blog as the journey of a writer and I'm not going to walk off the course.
Stepping away from the blog for awhile reminded me of a time I left a boogie board along the edge of the beach in Hawaii. When I sat up from my suntanning spot to survey the shoreline later, the board had drifted out into the water. I went jumping through the little waves trying to retrieve it, but the farther I went out, the farther away it got until it was a pink dot on the horizon. Things can too easily drift away.
So, I'm back.