sFor the last month or so, I've joked that this year I will race for Meg, not run. That's been my running punchline to deflect that fact that I've put in slightly over zero training miles the last six weeks in preparation for the upcoming American Family Fitness half marathon. I'll get it done, I kept saying. One way or another, I'll get it done.
Then this past weekend it all started to hit me. Because when your strategy is to race not run, the reality of that race starts to close in on you like a giant breath sucking muscle cramp when the starting line gets as close as a week away. My reality was this: I could likely finish that race, but I'd pay a dear price during the race and likely for days or weeks after. Our bodies really aren't designed to go from zero to 13.1 fueled by willpower alone.
I had a conversation with Meg's mom Pam recently that also weighed on me. She told me someone once told her that Meg was a racer, not a runner. I interpreted that two ways. One, Meg was flat out good. She actually entered these races to win. Her goals grew bigger by the stride. Secondly, it's pretty clear to win you have to train. You really have to run an awful lot - put in hard work when you'd rather be putting in cheeseburgers and diet cokes.
This weekend, that last piece - the part about the hard work - it started to burden me. I've not been working hard. In fairness to me, it hasn't been in exchange for cheeseburgers and diet cokes (although there were a few of those). Work life and home life have just gone through changes the last several months and I haven't yet figured out the next training routine. I started to feel common sense - and Meg - whisper that just going out and finishing an ill-prepared half marathon was missing the much healthier message behind "run for Meg".
I also began to think of so many friends who've been preparing for their first full and half marathons. I couldn't shake the thoughts of Ed Deiss running through the summer heat (and eating pie). MO getting 20 or more training miles in before I get out of bed - and I'm usually up by 5:00 AM. I thought of Julie Bowman who just simply decided I'm going to crank up my training and conquer that full instead of the half she originally signed up for. My friend Robyn who conquered triple digit heat all summer long on the Cayman Island - not to mention back issues - to conquer her first full marathon a couple of weeks ago. My friend, Jenny Richie, who harassed me constantly when I ran through her neighborhood last year training for my first half-marathon (and second and third) - she's just been quietly working her butt off, eyes on her first full Richmond Marathon. I thought of Anna Dwinger and Heidi Kline - both constant cheerleaders of mine who are coming to Richmond from airplanes away to run their first marathons. All inspired by Meg. And there are so, so, so many more friends coming to town this weekend to collect the rewards of their hard work.
What I finally decided is this year I haven't worked hard enough to run for Meg. Not hard enough to do it healthily. Not hard enough to do it in the true "Run for Meg" spirit. But what I am fully prepared to do this weekend is "Friend for Meg." I'm a story teller, and I can't wait to capture the incredible stories of this weekend, in my mind and on paper and in photos, of so many friends, most of them brand new to my life thanks to Meg. I hate the way that came to be. I love that I can call them friends. I'm prepared to give finish line high fives until my hands hurt, hugs until my friends collapse from oxygen deprivation.
I really am just fine this year celebrating the hard work of others.
But don't you fear. I've deferred my race until next year. In the words of a famous fitness guru: "I'll be back." Until then, I'll just cherish the great memories of the "Races for Meg" I've conquered this past year.