Sunday, October 08, 2006

Autumn is More than a Season

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.
Autumn Jones.

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!"?


Karen said...

I love this entry. Thank you for writing it.

Jules said...

You writing is starting to sound more optimistic and you seem to be seeing the good in all that you experienced! I am proud of you!
Keep it up... J

Linda Stipe said...

In terms of going to school right now, at soon to be 58, I hope someone says something like this when I graduate. Loudly.

jeanne said...

oh i LOVE this. Just LOVE IT! it was just what i needed to hear.

and linda: here's who's gonna say it loudly: YOU!

LBTEPA said...

Hear hear!!
In my last post I said I run becuase runners dream big and go after it with everything they have. Same goes for walkers!!

Nicole said...

Great post.
My first marathon was less than a stellar time and any time I tell people my time when the ask their response is WOW you are really slow but at least I'm a marathoner so I agree with you we need to celebrate all runners because we all win as long as we start. I suppose you can say I've been influenced by John Bingham.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. It was very inspirational.
This was my first attempt at a marathon and I am very proud that I've completed it. I did overcome some obstacles to get to the finish line. I came down with a horrible case of bronchitis half way through my training. After the marathon I had a hip that needed some therapy and the worst blisters. I threw the towel in at mile 21 and called around for a ride home. I got to mile 22 without anyone picking me up and I decided to push forward.
I will do this again next year.
Thank you for writing about me.
It's amazing what comes up when you google your own name.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - the anonymous above is from Autumn Jones. 31 years old, fellow walker from Portland.

Ali said...

This is really amazing to see a stranger who was inspired by my friend Autumn. She and her good friend Kelsey trained for months to walk this (bronchitis setback and all), and I am so proud of them for finishing (especially since I got a "where are you? can you come pick us up" phone call!!) :)

Way to go Autumn (and Kelsey)!!!

Anonymous said...

and they were in shoes I gave her !!!

MidAgeChick said...

Phat Girl, I am going to tag you on my blog and check on you every once in a while! I did the Avon Walk in 2003, then had a baby, and am now building back up to do the PDX Marathon next year. Glad you wrote about sweet Autumn. And you're right, it was a big deal for her! Take Care

Kristina said...

We love you Autumn and Kelsey and are very proud of you ! I was one of the ones in bed saying I would never be you! :) Congratulations, and how cool that you inspired an article!

mrsdate said...

It is easy to fall into "I could never do that" mentality. Sometimes the thoughts of what if's and if only drown out what we do accomplish in life... I know I am guilty of it! I needed the reminder that what I have accomplished in life (though not what I planned or set as a goal)is indeed an accomplishment. Thank you for writing such a touching entry about my dear friend Autumn and reminding me of my great life and what I have accomplished.

Beth said...

I'm so proud of you both, Autumn and Kelsey! Love you gals!

Brenda said...

I was doing some random dinking around online today and went back to look at my finish time for the 2006 marathon. I had desperately hoped to finish in less than 7 hours, and my official time was a rather heartbreaking (at the time) 7:00:01. I appreciate your positive attitude about your attempt at the race, and I hope so much that next year you end up with one of those pill-resistant shirts and shiny medals! I'm currently in physical therapy for a long-standing injury that was made worse by my training, and your upbeat writing was a good encouragement for me to keep training and get better for next year.