This past weekend, my oldest friend Lisa and I made the road trip to Harrisburg to watch our husbands run in the city marathon which took place yesterday.  Scheduling conflicts for both our families made it impossible to run in the Philadelphia marathon next weekend, so the guys chose Harrisburg and we all took advantage of grandparent babysitting to spend Saturday and Sunday in our state’s capital.   As you might expect, the race had doubled in size in the last week and we were joined by many New York marathon runners who were both grateful and gracious in light of recent events.  The day was beautiful, and Harrisburg was surprisingly lovely.  The race course started and finished along the Susquehanna River, which along with the Fall foliage and 60 degree weather, made for quite the extraordinary backdrop.

Even more extraordinary was the fact that both Dave and Lee finished within their goals times, despite their polar opposite approaches to the race.  Lee trained like a mad man for the event, sticking diligently to “the program” that had him running five to six days each week.  He ran with a pace group that would cross the finish line at 3 hours and 25 minutes.   He was intense in his preparation and goal setting, which allowed him to run through considerable hip pain which he communicated to us at mile six.  When both Lisa and I did not see him at mile eight we thought for sure he was injured and bailed on the race.  We fretted over coffee as we waited for the phone call that never came.  Somehow, we missed him and he crossed the finish line with a personal best.  Happy, but hurting.

Dave on the other hand, took another approach.  He, too trained with purpose, but with a completely different attitude.  He chose the Jeff Galloway method of running which entails running for four minutes, and walking for one minute throughout the race.  He ran just three days each week, sometimes two days.  At the three mile mark, as I stood with my coffee and screamed his name as he approached, he came to a dead stop in front of me, took a few sips out of my cup, and planted a big kiss on my lips before taking off again, much to the delight of  fellow spectators.  He also carried his cell phone with him on the race, and asked me to call him along the way to chat (which I did once around mile 20).  I never doubted he would finish strong, and I was right.  He crossed the finish at four hours, eleven minutes – way under what he wanted to do and 35 minutes faster than the marathon he ran five years ago.

What struck me about both Dave and Lee was this:  They both ran their own race, the one that suited them best, and that is why, I believe, they succeeded.

Others were not so fortunate.  As Lisa and I stood by the finish line waiting for our husbands to cross, we saw a good number of runners who needed immediate assistance to make it to the medical tent, their legs giving out the moment they stopped running.  Others looked disoriented, dehydrated, or seriously in pain.  For whatever reason, they erred along the way, under trained or over ran, and suffered for it.

I can’t resist the metaphor here, dear readers. So often in life we run someone else’s race, and this never turns out well.  We go too far, we run too fast, we race for reasons that make little sense.  We let others around us choose the course, set the pace, and tell us when it is okay to stop. With a marathon, one is encouraged to choose an approach (among many) that best meets their needs and brings the best chance for success.  The same should hold true for life.

While my approach to life is more like Lee’s approach to the marathon – disciplined, intense, unyielding, I was completely drawn to Dave’s approach to this race.  He ran this marathon with a level of chillness that has been the cause of many head spinning hissy fits from yours truly at home when things don’t get done  and (worse) he doesn’t seem to care if they ever do.  It may not be the approach for me but damn, it works for him.  Had Dave run Lee’s (or my) race on Sunday, it would not have ended well for him.  But he stuck to his own pace, his own rhythm, and looked great doing it.  It is this truth that I will tell myself the next time I am tempted to nag suggest that he (or our sons who tend to take after him) get moving, pick it up, or FOR THE LAST GODDAMN TIME please (insert priority here)!!!  I may even remind myself of the need to slow down every now again so that when it is time to step on the gas, I have enough energy to do so.  Jeff Galloway Method of Life?  Perhaps there is something here.

Congratulations to all of the runners and spectators throughout this marathon season.  May you all continue to run your own race and succeed wildly in doing so.

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