You have entered the taper period and about to run your first full marathon. How fitting that it will be on Valentine’s Day. But before you run it, I thought that you should write a kindness letter to yourself. A letter in which you talk to yourself the way you would to a mentee, a daughter, a friend…
You’ve invested a lot of time and miles into this, and I want you to know that regardless of what happens, I am proud of what you have done. The real work of a marathon is not the marathon itself, but the journey and the preparation to get there. You’ve known that for several years now….that’s why you haven’t attempted to run one before. You knew that it would take months of persistence, discipline, and sacrifice to get yourself to this point, and you weren’t willing to take it on until you knew you could commit to it.
Along this journey, you have gained confidence, you have tested your limits, you have been vulnerable and put yourself out there. You have run on just a couple of hours of sleep while sweating champagne, you have run in rain, you have made time for runs on vacation, you have missed social occasions, you’ve cross-trained when you didn’t want to, you have given up ever sleeping-in, you’ve swallowed all horrible flavors of sticky salty GU, you have foam-rolled muscles you didn’t know you have, and you’ve made yourself and this marathon a priority to get to this point. Your type A inner nerd has read every freaking “advice for your first marathon” article that ever existed until the point that you have royally confused yourself. You have run up to 20.5 miles in your training. You’ve gotten in two 20 mile runs!
In these last couple of weeks of tapering, you have again started to question yourself. You’ve made yourself go back and read every freaking “tapering for your marathon” article that tells you to resist the urge to add in more miles so that you can calm your overthinking overanalyzing overquestioning mind the f#ck down.
On the one hand, you are like a little excited puppy who is raring to go and tackle this marathon…. you are counting down the days and you have definitely never looked more forward to Valentine’s Day in your life. On the other hand, you find yourself sometimes getting randomly teary-eyed while driving because you don’t want the day to come… you have promised yourself to let certain things and people go on the pavement that day….and the prospect of doing that still overwhelms you sometimes…. You still can’t decide if you are going to run with your running group friends that day or on your own…. this is your journey to complete and you feel the need to do those miles in solidarity despite being surrounded by thousands of people.
When deciding whether or not to run a marathon, you promised that you would not complete it if you got injured…. you promised to prioritize your ability to maintain running for your sanity over crossing the finish line injured. Now has come the time to test that promise.
Several weeks ago, you injured your right knee, and you needed to take some time off. You’ve had to slowly build your mileage back up. You’ve worn KT tape and iced and seen a physical therapist. Your knee is 80% better, but you are not sure if it will hold up for 26.2 miles. I’m here to tell you that no matter what happens on February 14th, you’ve already succeeded. I know that you said that you want to run all the miles and carry your aunt with you for the entire 26 miles, but you’ve already carried her for over 1200 miles over the last year…. you’ve already carried her and been slowly letting her go…. and if you don’t get to take that 26 mile band off on that day, then you will do it on another run.
This Valentine’s Day, whether you complete 1 mile or 26.2, you have already won. You have already done the work and the preparation….that is the real marathon. There is no end to your journey. You have only just begun. Your only job both on February 14th and EVERY day, is to just show up. Show up. I’ll see you at the starting line.
***Updates: I wrote an alternate version of my Mile Shortage essay that was published on Women’s Running Magazine and had over 2000 Facebook shares. I am beyond moved by so many of their readers who have contacted me through social media to say that they are inspired to do their own version of the mile dedication, including a young medical student Alex who is running the Rock ‘N Roll New Orleans half-marathon to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. She is dedicating each mile of her half-marathon to a different cancer patient that she has met. You can read my post on Women’s Running here: Dedicating My Marathon, Mile By Mile. You can support Alex’s fundraising for St. Jude here: Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans: Alex and Paige – St. Jude Heroes. I am truly humbled to have inspired her to make her already amazing run more meaningful. I also had a post on Women’s Running about President’s Day which may give you some runspiration: 26.2 Presidential Quotes That Also Work As Running Quotes. As always, any underlined words in the body of the main essay are also links to prior posts which are related. Lastly, since this may be the last time we “talk” before my marathon, my bib number is 12883, and if any of you (aka my 2 sisters) want to track me during the marathon to make sure I’m still alive and see where along the course I am, you can do that through the LA marathon website on race day.