The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pat's Story

The air was cool; the weather was warm.  A juxtaposition lending to a perfect race day morning.  The coolness of the October morning would hold due to the overcast skies above.  Pat glances up at the sky and smiles; he'd been training 6 months for this day and the weather seems to promise perfection for a runner.

Standing in a crowd of 8,000 people, Pat took in his surroundings.  Each runner nervously waiting for the gun to go off and trying to calm the jitters inside.  Pat was no different, but he knew the pre-race anxiety would help deliver a strong race.

The gun went off, the crowd surged forward and in that instant the testing of all his hard training had begun.  It was do-or-die time.  Crowds lined the streets of Portland, Oregon cheering them on as they began their 26.2 mile journey.  Japanese Taiko Drummers played in perfect unison letting their powerful beats echo off the downtown buildings.  Pat could feel the drums as he ran by.

Pat's goal was to take the first mile easy and not go out too fast; a mistake often made in the marathon leaving the runner too tired in the final miles.  The last miles were tough enough and there was no reason to add to it.  Mile marker 1 approaches and looking at his watch Pat wonders if he took the first mile too slow.  As planned, he picks up the pace.

The miles came and went and Pat felt strong.  Each water stop he was careful to walk a few seconds and drink what was needed.  Leaving the only out and back section of the race - a industrial park made interesting only by seeing the faces of other runners going in the opposite direction - he made his way toward the Saint John Bridge.  The climb to the top of the bridge would be the biggest hill he would encounter.  He was ready and knew with his quickened pace, he'd gathered a two minute cushion.

Countless hours were spent in hill training, hundreds of miles were run through the hill-side trails of the town in which he lived.  Hills are tough, a hill at mile 18 is cruel; it provides a visual interpretation of the battle beginning inside.  The key is to not let it infiltrate your determination.  With tired legs and breathless lungs, Pat crested that hill.  The view from the bridge over the Willamette River was beautiful and allowed him to take his mind off the hurt that follows cresting a hill.

Pat found himself running through residential streets peppered with homeowners cheering  for each runner.  He drew on their enthusiasm.  Running over some rolling hills tired him.  He was well into Dragon Territory; the land that exists between miles 20 to 26.  A marathoner enters these miles with a dose of intrepidation and incredible amounts of respect.  Race-day demons and dragons lurk in these miles, stalking the runner while looking for signs of weakness.  The legs of the runner are moving, but it is only the sheer determination propelling them.  The mind must stay strong to keep the demons and dragons away.

Mile 24 they attacked.  Pat fought hard at keeping the exhaustion from winning. The mantras he had scrawled on his hand went unread as the energy needed to turn his palm upward to see them seemed too great. He relied solely on the utterings of his heart echoing in his mind, "Finish, finish, finish." 

The dragon leeches onto his back and whispers, "You can walk now, it's ok.  You'll just be happy you finished."  The chatter in his head becomes louder, every ounce of him wanting to stop.  He fights the demons.  His legs feel like concrete.  He fights the dragon.  His body begs him to quit.  His determination the only thread holding onto his race day dream.  The thread is worn and dangerously close to breaking.  Pat chooses to listen only to the rhythmic voice repeating, "Finish, finish, finish."

Closing in on the final stretch, the crowds thicken and their cheers are louder.  His friends are near the finish line screaming his name.  He hears no voices but one, the solitary voice carrying him home with "Finish, finish, finish".  He crosses the finish line, leaving the race behind him.  He stops.  He is now standing in the reality of what he'd done.  The race clock tells no lie.  Pat looks at his watch.  He had fought and won his Boston qualifying time.  Every emotion washed over him and the accumulation of those emotions only seen by others as they tumble softly down his cheek.  There is no fight left and he lets the tears fall.

A person drapes a medal around Pat's neck, bringing him back to reality.  He smiles through his tears and says, "Thank you".  He walks away from the finish line and in a private moment he whispers to himself, "Nice job" and looks to find the friends who are the only ones who will understand.  

1 comment:

  1. Loved that Pat. You made running real for me even though I'm not a runner:-)