I wasn’t even going to tell Laura I signed up for the marathon, and for a few days I didn’t, but she caught me looking at the website and teased me about considering the idea. Little did she know that consideration came and went, when a certain espresso fueled night of inspiration had me clicking the “submit registration” button…eleven days before the actual race.
Commence swarm of butterflies.
I haven’t told anyone else I did this either, save three other people, mostly strangers (and now anyone that reads this). I’m not trying anything big with this race, but just trying to get my feet wet with the training I stumbled into the past few months, and with as little anxiety as possible, which is no small feat. I should mention, I actually signed up for ANOTHER marathon previous to this one, which takes place in May. Even more absurd, it’s a trail marathon with ridiculous elevation changes, scrambling and a course that makes the effort more about finishing than displaying fitness. That seemed the perfect sort of race to enter where I could simply enjoy the absurdity instead of getting mired in anxiety and feeling “on display”. I don’t really want a lot of that right now…I just wanna see what I can do in a race setting.
Once I signed up for that first marathon though, the compulsion to REALLY see what my body can do had me signing up for the next one. It’s a local marathon of which I have yet to run, so I can’t measure expectations against past performances, which is what I really need right now. I continue to struggle with suppressing my past running self in an attempt to create a new set of aspirations and expectations, but that’s not easy. For now, I’m just seeing where this stretch of training has taken me, and what I can do with it, while keeping anxieties as low as possible.
I do have expectations though, sort of. I’ve been knocking out 20 milers around 6:30 pace through the past couple of months, so if I have any measurement to consider, it’s that. I would be plenty happy to continue that last 10k at that pace and come in at 2:50, which is actually what I put down for my “expected finishing time” during registration. Even if that meant not throwing down and not redlining any significant portion of the course, I’d be happy. I respect the hell out of the marathon distance, so to just finish consistent would be a victory and push towards the next level with current fitness. My mind, of course, wanders to other “what if’s”, of faster finish times, and even disasterous finishes, as tends to happen, but I’m trying to remain level and stable and keep anxieties low…as I keep repeating as a mantra to myself.
There might be more to this. I say might because I’m not sure if this was a subconscious act, of running this marathon, or if the idea was more front and center and I’m only absorbing it after the fact, but this marathon essentially marks 4 years to the day of surgery. I remember standing on the sidelines cheering on my teammates in 2013, an abdomen full of cancer (apparently ridiculously close to death), and waiting out the last day until I checked into the hospital for the first of three surgeries. It was my last pre-surgery, pre-chemo, pre-everything running event to participate in through some small gesture, as a spectator.
I’m not trying to make a bigger deal out of this than I genuinely feel, but maybe this is some sort of personal celebration of being where I am at this point, not only living through the past four years, but also remaining dedicated to staying functional, to actually living, and to do so primarily through running. Maybe this is some sort of anniversary affirmation. It seems fitting to, in a way, start, where I last finished.
It also seems fitting to, personally, acknowledge the friends I’ve lost to cancer over the past four years. Specifically, I’m acknowledging my friend Denver who succumbed to her cancer a bit over a year ago, by wearing the shirt she created for a benefit in her name. Unfortunately, I’m also running with the thoughts of another good friend newly diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma last week.
These thoughts and gestures will be positive affirmations for me, and I’m fortunate to add to that positivity with another 9 months of non-treatment as relayed to me by my oncologist this week. My most recent scan showed “areas of calcification (tumors)” and “what might be mucin…it’s hard to tell”, but no tumor growth or metastasizing from the previous scan, which means we’ll continue another 9 months of doing nothing until the next scan. No surgery, no chemo, no nothing but engaging in that continued human pursuit of chance existence and emotional depth.
For me, that means opening up the potential to take this marathon affirmation tomorrow and capitalize upon it, to create a new baseline of performance and experience, determine how to proceed from there and then go for it. I can’t commit to what sort of shape that will take as I tend to be somewhat fickle and fragile in my motivation as of late, but with the right amount of espresso, the best expression seems to formulate into deep run training. Of course, I’m not trying to get ahead of myself here. I’ve still got 26.2 miles to complete before I go any further. Let’s get past those first and see where we end up.
See you on the start line.