In 2011, I entered the New York City Marathon lottery for the first time. I could never say that I loved running but I was decent at it and it’s a great way to exercise and set new goals. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of really good friends who live in New York and I figured why not try to run my first marathon in style? By the time the 2012 lottery came and went, I was 0 for 2 and guaranteed entry to the 2014 race if I wasn’t awarded a spot in 2013. When that turned out to be the case, I decided to train for the Chicago Marathon in the Fall of 2013, partly because I ran a half marathon on little training and felt the desire to step it up a notch before New York City, and partly because my friends suggested that running NYC as a first marathon could prove to be quite challenging due to pre-race conditions, the volume of runners, etc.
Upon the advice of a friend (Do you see a theme here?) I joined one of the Running Room clinics to help me achieve my goals and become part of a community of runners striving to be their best. But what exactly were my goals? Looking back, it isn’t all that clear. Obviously, one goal was to complete the marathon. I also had a vague idea for a time goal, but that evolved with training and speaking with my more experienced running compatriots. Aside from those goals, I knew I was looking for something deeper, something more meaningful, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Sometimes our group gets together outside of running, which provides a great opportunity to discuss goals and accomplishments. It’s a supportive group and it’s usually someone else who points out your accomplishments, and vice versa. Goals tend to be described in a quantitative manner, i.e. goal time for the next race, number of marathons to race this year, etc. The exchange of information can often be a great way to help form your own goals. I can’t think of any other forum where everyone competes as an individual so that if you and I are running the same race, technically one of us defeats the other, but in reality, we are both supporting each other to accomplish one’s goals, meaning with enough perseverance and hard work, we can both come out winners. I think it’s something that makes this sport and the running community very special.
But mapping goals to accomplishments isn’t always easy, or predictable. To date, my biggest accomplishment was something that came as a complete surprise. Even if I am fortunate enough to run 100 marathons or qualify for Boston, it could never be surpassed. It was never even on my radar as a goal to begin with.
As I trained for the Chicago Marathon last year, I decided to leave my training schedule open-ended after the race and before training for NYC starts in June 2014. I had no firm plans and wanted to make my decisions after what I knew would be a gruelling and emotional race. After the race was run and the celebrations were over, a week passed and soon enough it was Sunday morning, the day and time of our usual long run. It was the first time in four months that I didn’t have a race to train for. When the alarm went off, I had a decision to make. Sleep in, or roll out of bed and put on my running gear?
The answer was surprisingly clear. I made it to The Running Room for 8:30am (I think I was even on time that morning) to meet the others for a 23k run. That decision was and always will be my greatest accomplishment as a runner because it was the realization of a goal that I could never quite articulate until the moment I woke up and became immediately aware of its existence and its significance; I had learned to love the sport. I got out of bed for one simple reason; now, I love to run.