I returned home a week ago today from the Portland Marathon. I didn't finish the race so there wasn't any technical fabric, micro-vent knit, pill-resistant finisher's shirt or flashy medal to unpack from my suitcase. Just dirty socks and a wrinkled race bib which to the best of my knowledge is also pill-resistant.
While my suitcase is already emptied and back in its usual space in the cluttered abyss of our two car garage that's a tight fit for our little Subaru Outback, I'm still unpacking what I brought home from the marathon in terms of life lessons. Here's one of them.
There was a three mile loop early on in the course. As my sister and I reached mid-point into mile 2 the first wave of frontrunners approached us from the opposite direction somewhere between mile 5 and 6. We were, to say the least, overwhelmed, amazed, antonished and in general awe of these elite runners rocketing past us. All around us walkers were breaking into cheers and applause and a woman next to my sister said "I can't imagine ever doing that!" Without barely a pause my sister countered, "There are people in bed right now who are saying the same thing about us."
Mike Heidt runs more than 100 miles a week. He recently graduated from Washington State with a degree in biology where he was a member of the track team for three years. He ran his first half-marathon a little over a month ago. The Portland Marathon was his debut marathon and he crossed the finish line in 1st place with a time of 2:21:54, the fourth fastest time for men 20-24 in the race's 35 year history. An Olympic qualifying time. I know all this about Mike Heidt because The Oregonian ran a long article on him the day after the marathon, complete with a photo suitable for framing.
Autumn Jones crossed the finish line in 7705th place in 10:41:22. She was the last person to finish. That's all I know about her because The Oregonian didn't do a write up on her. Their mistake.
One crossed the finish line first. One crossed the finish line last. One ran. One walked. There's a big difference in the racing world between 2:21:54 and 10:41:22 but in my corner of world their achievements are equal because both gave it their all and did their best.
No one will ever convince me that the joy of Autumn Jones at the finish line was any less than that of Mike Heidt. Who knows. Perhaps it was more. Maybe she overcame more to finish the race. Maybe she faced more obstacles getting to the starting line in the first place. I don't know. I only know that whether in a marathon or in life, the thing that most matters is that we bring who we are to it and give our best. We step up to the starting line and we try.
And even if we fall short in what we hope to achieve in our lives, isn't it still better than laying in bed with a head full of dreams and a heart full of desires while we mutter from under the covers "I could never do that!"?