Sunday, November 14, 2010
My 50th 26.2 at 26
Numbers have many uses in our lives. Numbers are used for counting and measuring. Numbers are used as symbols for mathematical operations. Many have even gone to the extent to allow numbers to influence and direct their lives. Sometimes it is just a number, while other times it means everything just to that one individual. How much can I earn? How much can I lose? How long can I go? How far? How frequent? Or better yet, how far and how frequent can I go long? Many times, it does not matter what others’ numbers are but what our numbers mean to us. At the same time, the definition of our numbers has evolved based upon our interpretation of combination of numbers or another person’s numbers. For example, woman A loses 5lbs. Could be meaningless but if woman B states she lost 5lbs every 30days for the next 365days compared to woman A, others would be intrigued because it wasn’t simply just one number but a combination of those numbers that made them so appealing compared to others.
As a runner, numbers play the same role. Pace, speed, distance which led me to my first marathon. I ran my first 26.2 miles after never running more than 6 miles at age 14 in 4:05:55. Each segment is not astoundingly impressive but put the combination together and it just sounds a little better. After I ran my first marathon as a young girl, I did not realize then the impact that running would have on my life. It was not the mileage or the time or my age that made it significant but the fact that I had reached a finishing point that I never knew that I could achieve. I did it and despite the physical pain I may have felt at that time, it felt really good. I knew then that the marathon would be more than just the 26.2 number.
As a runner, my endurance did not explode impressively as it has with so many great runners out there. I had chosen to set aside my passion to pursue other feats in my academics and profession. This was perhaps the most difficult period in my life, thus far, because I did not allow my heart to follow my true passion where I felt most joyous and most liberated. I am not one to give up so once I earned my Bachelors, Masters, and credential, I knew it was time to set foot again in the one true place that made my soul tingle: races. Again, I did not jump in and do a marathon every week or even every month. I wanted to once again taste how hard I can go? How frequently can I go hard? I wanted to begin where I had left off but I knew that it would take sweat, pain, time, and dedication. Question was did I truly want to put in the work. When I started, I did one marathon per year for seven years with my fastest in high school at 3:30:11 during my senior year which was my third marathon overall. I was able to cut about 35 minutes from my initial time with some strategic marathon training; unfortunately, much of that speed was lost in college and graduate school as my marathon times hovered around four hours. Finally, in 2006 at the age of 21, seven years after my first marathon, I attempted to race the 26.2 distance more than once per year. Time and time again, I aimed for the “magic” 3:30. Sometimes I came very close and other times I did not strategically execute my race plan effectively. Why did that 3:30 seem like a brick wall? Maybe it was not part of my physiology to run in those speeds. I did not want to accept such an excuse. Marathon after marathon, I looked back at my pace, my splits, my game plan…everything to figure out what I did wrong. Then I realized it. My training may not have been as intense as it had been in high school or may not have been as frequent as it had been in high school but the essential component I was missing to once again gain my edge was that I did not believe in myself. In high school, I had broken course records and school records because I believed I could. It took three years to figure it out until finally in the summer of 2009 I came across this group of runners called the Marathon Maniacs. Little did I know there were hundreds and now thousands of runners around the world that shared my passion as deeply as I do! It was then that I gained once again the belief that yes I can achieve what I sought after. From that point on it seemed like the magic fire was lit because I ran marathon after marathon right around 3:30 and alas broke the 3:30 barrier a few times. I had done what I thought I couldn’t. After racing miles and miles around the world, I had finally reached my 50th marathon at the second annual Malibu International Marathon on Sunday, November 14, 2010 at the age of 26. It was not amazingly impressive in comparison to many runners out there but I had done it at a young age, as a Latina, and took pride in every mile I ran. While many individuals in their early to mid-twenties are still attempting to solidify their path or perhaps enjoying their late nights, I chose to liberate my soul again and run because I can. Not every race went as I had planned but I learned from each one. There were bad races and then there were those great races that left me with a sense of weightlessness and enlightened with ecstasy. I had achieved what I once feared. That meant something to me.
As a runner, an individual can play with numbers and lay out a long resume of stats that indeed are very impressive but why does any of this have meaning. Why do we long for certain numerical milestones? We would like to believe because we do it solely for our own personal satisfaction but we give meaning to our numbers because they have such great significance to others. It is a beautiful thing that we do compare because from comparison can arise competition and from competition can arise our personal pursuit to improve ourselves and that is what gives us great satisfaction. I reached a numerical goal because I was able to ingrain a fire of motivation to propel me there and that came from numbers meaning something to others. So I say thank you my family and friends for giving my numbers meaning because without you I would not have sought to improve myself. My father once said he who believes that he could lose has already lost. The mind is a powerful tool. We need to believe in ourselves, believe in our purpose, and believe that yes we can achieve our dreams.