NonRunner's Update

October 25, 2019

 

I just found out the 3rd Edition of my first book is out and for sale! I do so love NonRunner's, everything that led me to writing it, all the places it ended up taking me. I added some content to this new version and wanted to share an edited down version of my favorite new chapter - An Epilogue to My Epilogue. It's a long read about how I almost didn't finish my marathon, and it's "Deep Thoughts by Dawn" mode, you've been warned:
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If you recall, my knee finally had enough of long-distance running around Mile 12 of my 26.2-mile marathon, leaving me to walk/drag my leg the rest of the way. Another fun feature of Mile 12 was that it was also the location of the steepest hill ever created on this planet.
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As I climbed up the roughly 93-degree incline, I noticed other runners sprinting down the hill, on the other side of a thin plastic ribbon. Runners on my side of the ribbon were only at Mile 12, and the downhill racers were at their Mile 20.
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I looked at the hill rising in front of me. I couldn’t run anymore. My knee was done. It had run three hundred miles during training and couldn’t make it the last fourteen. I couldn’t make it the last fourteen.
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Then I looked at that thin ribbon.
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I could duck under that ribbon. I could sit down for a while and kill some time (to make it believable that I’d actually completed the entire race). Then I could get up and finish the last six miles. I could cut eight miles off my torture. And no one would ever know. There would be high-fives and endless ice packs waiting for me at the finish line, and I could get there so much quicker if I just ducked under that ribbon.
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It was one of my better ideas.
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I thought about this plan for a long time. I even sat down at an aid station to mull it over. The second I sat down, all of my body’s muscles clenched in unison, my knee screamed out with violent protests, the heat of the day completely engulfed my head like a rage helmet, my heartbeat blared in my ears, my tears fell without even being invited. I just wanted to be done with all of this, and right on the other side of that ribbon there was a way to be done a lot sooner.
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After a while I stood up. And I kept going up the hill, not down.
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It was true that no one else would know if I cheated, but I would know. And if I cheated, I would always feel like I should have finished. I would want to do it again to prove to myself that I could. And I was already twelve miles in, so why not just finish this one and get it over with?
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So, I dragged my leg and my misery for another fourteen miles. I finished. It was not pretty, it was not fast, it was not the cinematic end I had envisioned. But I finished.
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At some point after the race, I found out that the sensor I had attached to my shoe was meant to keep track of me on the course. I knew the sensor tracked when a runner crossed over the start line and the finish line, to give a true marathon time, but I wasn’t aware that there were also several electronic markers along the route that a runner (and their shoe sensor) had to pass over in order to register as having completed the race.
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One of those markers was at the turnaround point four miles from the Hill of Doom. If I had ducked under the thin ribbon on the hill, I wouldn’t have crossed over that turnaround-point marker. And when anyone searched my name on the marathon website, they would have seen that I didn’t complete the course. Everyone would have known I cheated.
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I think about that hill a lot. About how I held so much of my future in the decision I made while sitting at that aid station, debating my plan of action.
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It’s not an exaggeration to say that my marathon changed my life. It taught me about setting crazy goals, about jumping in with both feet, about the miles you have to put in between the beginning and end, about the value of finishing, even if it’s not perfect.
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I think about that hill every time I want to quit something that is difficult. And then I push myself to keep going, even when things are hard. Even if I have to sit down on the side of the road and cry a little first.
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I hope no matter where you are in your training, whether you’re just starting out or knee-deep in Body Glide and Clif Bars or even post–finish line, you will take the time to remember your “sitting on the side of a hill, debating whether to throw in the towel” moments. I hope you will remember them as fondly as the high-fives and exuberant finish lines.
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The difficult moments are the ones that end up giving marathon training its value for years to come. And sometimes the moments you feel the weakest are when your true strength has a chance to show up. Take those moments, and that strength, with you as you continue your training, as you move through your life.
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Keep running after your marathon, or don’t. Seek out other crazy challenges, or don’t.
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But never forget that one time you pushed yourself to the breaking point, only to discover that you aren’t nearly as breakable as you once thought you were. And the next time you face your own Hill of Doom, on a running trail or in life, take a deep breath, wipe away your doubt, and trudge on up that hill.
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Who knows what beginnings will be waiting on the other side of that finish line. I promise they are worth the climb.

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About Me

Dawn is a mom, writer, and designer from Sacramento, CA. She is tired.

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