I have a speedy running friend who thinks he is always right. Usually I just let it go. He is, however, wise. Last Friday he sent me this quote: ‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.’
That was Eddie’s way of encouraging us. He knew about a wild plan I had hatched with Gordon, our even speedier running friend. Another spring Sunday, another marathon.
Gordon got sick last month, and he had to miss the Boston Marathon. Two days earlier I had failed myself at the Gansett Marathon, where I aimed high, fell short dramatically, achieved a mark I just couldn’t be happy about, and felt miserable as a result. Seeking revenge, even redemption, we decided on a whim to take on the Long Island Marathon.
The good kind of runner’s nerves filled the car as we sped east down the highway toward the start. We just made it for the gun and as soon as we got going at a strong, steady pace, a nice little pack formed around us. Five or six runners, some chatting and laughter, a fun race.
Long Island turned out to be a fast, pretty flat course. The sun and cool temperatures made it a perfect day for running. I kept up with Gordon until mile 18, when I had to slow down. No stomach issues, just a deep tiredness in the legs. I smiled at my own boldness –I know people who would say stupidity— as I realized that Gansett was just two weeks ago. No wonder I was tired.
I kept bringing up my legs, minding my form, immediately resulting in a better pace and feel for the road. The day after this marathon I read true words on ProRun, the Dutch running website I write for. ‘Ignoring the “stop” signals in your mind is something you can train for.’ That was what I was doing. It was what I had been training for al through this brutal winter.
During two brief walking breaks I did not panick or drop my head. This is just a moment, to eat, drink, breathe and focus, I told myself. It worked. Finally I finished in 3:09, my fourt consecutive sub 3:10 in seven months. No PR, no sub-3. But no self-flaggelation either. I ran well, I had fun, and this was what I had in me today. I liked this marathon.
I come from a culture where aiming low –at the gray middle– sometimes seems to be the ideal. But an embrace of mediocrity has never suited me. Life becomes so much more interesting and worthwhile when ambition and drive are give free rein.
Aiming high is good for you. Often you fall short, it’s true. Sometimes, on a perfect May morning on the Long Island roads surrounded by speedy friends, the mark is right there. And even though you don’t quite hit it, the pursuit was just an excellent way to spend a gorgeous May morning.