Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Spirit of the Marathon

In my five short years as a runner, I've been lucky enough to experience a wide variety of milestones, no pun intended:

I ran my first 8 miles the morning of my senior prom.

I friction burned my legs through my first half-marathon.

I cried for half an hour upon hitting the finish line of my first marathon, complete with
sparkling cider and trying to hide my tears.

I surged the peak of Hurricane Point at the Big Sur Marathon.

I've crewed runners at the Western States 100 and the Rio del Lago 100.

I've run through Nevada and California hopping in and out of a van reeking with the effort of
12 other runners while surviving on coffee and adrenaline. And yes, I LOVED it.

I've had a severe allergic reaction to an unknown substance while doing a 12 person, 212 mile
relay in BFE Oregon.

I've run a 50 mile ultra twice and asked myself each time while the hell I agreed to run it.

I've known defeat in the Marin Headlands twice, once at the 100 mile distance, once at the
100k distance, and yet I still want to go back for more.

I have felt closer than I've ever felt to the Earth and nature cruising along Mount Bachelor in Oregon, Folsom in California, and the Sierra Nevada mountains from the hours of three to seven a.m.

Throughout all of these experiences, I have grown angry at my own ignorance, but I have learned patience beyond measure. I have grown to be understanding of my own body, to know when and how to push my limits and when to gracefully submit to the demands of the day. I know the fine line between insanity and I can tell you that doing something as insane as running the long distances I do actually keeps me sane. I can also tell you that running reassures me, on a daily basis, that I am strong and that I can endure, in all realms of life. These are the many, many things I have learned and done in my short career as a runner...

But...I have not yet been a coach. Cue Paris Marathon training group.

When I arrived in France, coming off an injury, and not having raced in nearly a year, I knew I wanted to train for the Paris Marathon. I also knew training in a foreign country posed some serious problems--the most serious being that I had no awareness of the lay out of roads and potential running routes for long runs, the second most serious problem being the weather. I'm a California girl and the harshest cold I've run in during the winter is the low fifties, and France decided to through low twenties at me. I'm a disciplined person, and a disciplined runner, but if there were ever one thing that could keep me from logging my twenty-milers, you had better believe it would be snow and cold.

These issues lead me to get involved with a marathon training group in Paris. Even though I am easily one of the youngest people involved with the group, I'm also easily among the most experienced. This lead our organizer to ask me to coach one of the pace groups, so I've suddenly been thrust into the role of coach.

Being a coach and helping rookie half and full marathoners train is such a rewarding experience. I feel like I'm able to pass on a lot of my knowledge of the sport and to share the benefits of running with others. I'm able to help newer runners on the road to hard earned self-confidence. However, I think the best part is that their worries, their enthusiasm, and their spirit reminds me so much of why I started running in the first place. It reminds me just how much I LOVE this sport and how much running connects me to people and to nature, to my own sense of inner calm, to my ability to triumph over adversity.

And that, friends, is the spirit of the marathon.

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