What's Worth That?

Sometimes running can be a solitary experience. I am currently sitting in the dark huddled in a blanket, forcing myself to eat breakfast and get some coffee down, because I'm running a trail half marathon in an hour and a half. My stomach is churning with nervous energy and I'm obsessively checking the hourly temperature forecast (-1 at the start, 5 degrees at the finish. No rain, so all in all a good morning for a fall trail run, but I'm going back and forth on whether to wear a hat. This decision seems of paramount importance at the moment). Once the breakfast settles I will painstakingly attach my timing chip to my shoelaces, triple-checking that the zip-tie is secure and vaguely worrying that I have put it on backwards, even though I have worn chips countless times and know this does not make a difference. I will likely visit the bathroom at least 4 times before I leave the house, and yet somehow need to find one as soon as I arrive at the race start (and I will not be the only one; there will be a long lineup).

I've spent many race mornings this way - not always alone physically, but certainly very much inwardly focused. I am unaccountably nervous this morning, given that (a) I have run at least ten half marathons, and (b) I am not in contention to win the race. You might wonder if all of this is worth it. Why put myself through this? It's Saturday morning; I've had a long work week and part of me would kind of like to still be in bed under the duvet, reading and drinking a leisurely cup of coffee.

The problem is, the runner in me knows that in the long run I wouldn't be as happy doing that. I still keep a New Balance ad that I cut out from a magazine over 10 years ago. It reads,
"Nothing's worth that," the naysayers laughed.
"The crack of dawn!  The bitter cold!
The pouring rain!  Nothing's worth all that!"
"Obviously you don't know me," the woman said.
"For if you did, you'd know I am." 
And I think this sums it up nicely. Even though I am not going to win this particular race, I am nevertheless always out there to prove something to myself. Even though I might be wondering why I am not in bed right now, I actually know the answer. Once that race starts, I will run - I will feel the crisp air on my face and the frosty leaves under my feet, and I will breathe my usual silent thanks. And once I cross the line just over an hour and a half later, I will feel infinitely better than that extra cup of coffee and couple book chapters would have made me feel.

And hey - it will still be early. I can go back to bed then if I want to.

*Update: well, I did wear a hat (and needed it). And while it's true that I did not win, I did finish second! 1:34; 2nd woman; 8th overall.  And I loved every step of it.


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