It was my worst ever effort.
I haven’t kept count over the years of how many marathons I have run—somewhere in the low double figures would be a good guess—but my best ever time is 3:40, and my worst—now—5:10. A full 50 minutes worse than my previous personal worse, a forgettable experience already related in some length previously.
At least I think my time was 5:10. I wasn’t wearing a watch, and in all honesty I forgot to look at the clock as I crossed the line—I was too busy concentrating on not collapsing.
By all accounts I should be upset—I certainly was after my last personal worst—it took me a full three years to follow it up! And to think that only five years ago I ran 38 miles in 6 hours, not that much longer than it just took me to run 26.
But I am not upset at all—in fact quite the opposite. I am exceedingly happy, even over the moon. Is this wisdom? Old age? A little bit of spiritual progress? Probably all of the above.
There were many mitigating factors, excuses I am more than comfortable wearing. It was hot. And very humid. So much so that many runners pulled out on the day, and this runner, fresh from a New Zealand winter in the height of the North American summer, was, in the end, happy just to reach the end. Whatever the time.
I went through the half way point in 2:10—by no means fast but still respectable, and at least still running—but very soon afterwards hit a wall—I was simply getting too hot to run, unable to take in air even though limbs were still strong—and had to start walking. I then ran/walked the entire rest of the race—walking only the entire last 6 miles, and surprisingly, very much enjoying myself.
Walking as fast I could—here my 10km a day for eight years as a postman came in handy—I enjoyed myself by simply getting rid of expectation—a valuable lesson in the spiritual life, one I may mastered a little later than others. Being in the moment, just being happy, just being your Self—despite the 13 miles left to walk or run.
Rather than feeling sorry for myself, or begrudging every runner passing me whom I had already myself passed, I cheered them on—and still enjoyed reeling them back in again temporarily when I wasn’t too hot to run.
I even took the starting to wear a little thin now cheers of “Johnno Bloggo!” from friends in my stride.
So despite running a time I once considered respectable only for the infirm, I am more than happy the result.
I may even run a marathon again.