This time of year makes me feel a little nostalgic. For the better part of two decades, I was training for and running the Chicago Marathon. I’d spend the bulk of summer days running Piles of Miles with an almost religious adherence to a training schedule. It meant getting up at the ButtCrack of Dawn on Saturday mornings to get in a Long Run (LR) before the summer heat kicked into high gear.
Unfortunately, a combination of too many back-to-back marathons, a shredded meniscus and simply getting older have taken its toll on me. I can no longer run fast or far. I use to be able to throw on my running clothes and knock out 5 miles in 50 minutes or even less. Now I can barely run 3 miles nonstop.
I’ve made my peace with it for the most part. I certainly don’t miss being married to a training schedule or getting up at the wee hours of dawn for an LR. Or the Post Labor Day Blues. And after 22 marathons, not ever qualifying for Boston got a little old. You spent 18 Fridays going to bed at a decent hour during the socially active summer for one shot on a Sunday morning. If you have a bad 5K, you can make it up next week, but your garden variety marathoner needs at least a month to fully recover before running another race competitively.
This time of year makes me feel a little nostalgic. But it also makes me feel a little sad. I think what is making me gloomy is that I didn’t have Facebook to humblebrag on back in the day. All summer long my FB feed was filled with friends sharing their runs and their training tales and their marathon dreams. A few weekends ago was the big 20 miler, followed by the Taper. Good times that I remember so well.
Back in the day, I didn’t have this outlet. I sent my marathon story to
people I thought were friends via email. Some of these people were good-natured and wrote back, using it as an excuse to reconnect, even if just for the afternoon. Others just wrote back congrats, which is the coded language of I’m only maintaining this relationship on the off chance I need something from you in the future. Still, others never replied. Which is a cacophonous dialect of go fuck yourself.
Let me be clear, I miss the ability to run these races in the first place, especially at the pace I use to (8 min/mile for marathons, sub 8s for most other races). But I also feel I missed out on the social media aspect of all that. As narcissistic as it was, I only sent out Marathon Stories. I didn’t bother with great Shamrock Shuffle runs or amazing half marathon times. Now I see all my FB connections sharing their marathon and other race results and getting a slew of comments and likes and I think, wow, I peaked too early. Surely my breaking the 4-hour marathon mark would have gotten some ego-boosting Attaboys. And when I finally set my Personal Best in ST Louis, coming within 15 minutes of Boston Qualifying, surely everyone would have encouraged me to keep on trying.
Was it pure narcissism or something else? I think we all crave attention deep down inside, just perhaps in different forms. Getting a response from the handful of friends who did write back made me feel successful for a few minutes at times when other areas of life were not as rewarding.
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