I started this series of blogs by writing about inspiring others. Most of the time, we never know who we touch by our example. More often than not, we don’t even know them (as you read in my first blog).
Several years ago, my daughter asked me, a beginning runner, if I would drive her to her first marathon, in the Napa Valley (from the Sacramento Valley, about an hour away). A marathon! I was in awe. “Marathon”…a term used in hyperbole, to mean anything so grandiose as to be unattainable or unimaginable, as in, “The project was a marathon of work!”
My little baby was going to run so far that other people (including me) find it unattainable. Wow.
So of course I said yes. And since I was beginning to run, too, I checked out the map of Napa, to see where I could run while I waited for her.
The idea of running 26.2 miles seemed outrageous to me. At that distance, you could probably run across the whole country of Liechtenstein! The entire principality of Monaco! Closer to home, 26.2 miles could take you through five cities, from Folsom all the way to Sacramento — the course of the California International Marathon.
The day of the marathon was dark, gray, cold, windy and wet. Fortunately, Stasia is very experienced at running in the rain (she lives in Portland, and loves it). After I dropped her off at the northern end of the Napa Valley, I drove back down to the town of Napa at the south end, and parked.
The route I had planned for myself was about six miles long. Doable, no matter how slowly I ran (I hate running in the rain!), and I’d still be able to be there when she ran in at the Finish.
I had watched Stasia get ready that morning. Special tights that don’t bind, even in the rain, special socks that don’t ride up or down, special shoes that don’t weigh anything, special light-weight jacket (rain resistant!) — it seemed that everything she owned was different. Special. I had no clue what some of it was for.
After my run, I changed my shoes, got my umbrella out of the car and walked to the Finish line. I had never been to a marathon. I only knew that they blocked traffic and caused street closures all around town. It all seemed unnecessary, just to allow a bunch of people to go running. Couldn’t they just run on their own?
As I huddled under my umbrella watching runners come in, I thought about the carbo-load dinner the night before. There were speeches, stories, lots of laughter. But I was an outsider. It was like going to someone else’s house for the holidays, where everyone talks about past events and silly family anecdotes and all you can do is smile and pretend you belong.
Now, as I stood in the pouring rain watching them run in to the Finish line, it hit me just how far outside their circle I was. My daughter had just done something that I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. But I wanted to.
Suddenly, I wanted to feel the depth of joy that I saw on their faces, even on the ones contorted in pain, as they realized they’d finished.
I wanted to know what that kind of determination felt like.
I wanted to understand!
So the next week, I signed up for my first marathon. To friends who asked, I said that, well, yes, I’d signed up…but who knew if I was actually going to do it? But I knew.
As I began to train for it, I told myself that I wasn’t going to let myself waste all that money (it costs big bucks to run in a marathon — another surprise!). But it had nothing to do with money. In that part of you where you just can’t lie to yourself, I knew I had to do this.
It made no sense, logically. I wasn’t a real runner. I had trouble breathing. I didn’t have the time to train for it. I was a teacher and a writer; I spent my days at a desk or in a classroom. Sitting. It made absolutely no sense.
I did finish that first marathon, a few months after Stasia’s. And then I went on to do three more.
I get it now.
Stasia probably has no idea how much she inspired me that day. Made me believe. Until that day, I was a bystander.
Now I believe I can do what I had thought was impossible. Now I know why the car decals given out at the marathon say “I believe in 26.2.” I used to think that was just hokey marketing.
Now I know.