Last night as I was volunteering for packet pickup I was with a girl who was pretty much an elite athlete. Honestly I'm not even sure what kind of marathon time you have to pull out to be considered elite but her PR was 2:56. Her MARATHON PR is 5 minutes from my first half marathon time. Jesus. Her half marathon PR is 1:20. She gets free elite entries into races.
She was talking about her training. This girl (I'm not going to use her name) lives and trains in my neighborhood. I'll probably end up seeing her someday. On a regular week she is running 90+ miles. This week her coach told her to run 65 because she was running the half on Sunday and something else today and she was devastated. When I told her I only ran 6 miles this week she looked shocked.
I do want to clarify that I may be painting a picture of someone that we all love to hate. That's not at all how it was. She was very matter of fact and also had a dry sense of humor to boot that I vibbed with, but who couldn't help but to feel intimidated just a little? Especially when she nonchalantly mentioned that she didn't understand why people planned to walk in a marathon, why not put in the hours and train to run it? For some reason I felt defensive. I stood up for myself and said, I'm not walker but I sure as shit am going to likely be walking some of those steep hills tomorrow so hopefully you don't think I shouldn't be running. She assured me she wasn't talking about me but it's tough to tell what she thinks. This person is in a completely different head space than me. She asked if I had a goal time and I felt sheepish when I told her I was hoping to cross the line by 5:30 but I'd be over the moon with 5 hours. But I have no idea what to expect. I just want to finish.
The dumb part is that if I had no idea of her background I would have proudly told her my goal. So why did her background matter that much to me? It didn't mean that I wasn't a runner. All those hours of running and training this summer still count, whether it's at a 7 minute pace or an 11. She even said that people need to understand that you have to build up to the mileage that she is doing. There are people that are mentally there but physically they can't do it yet and that is okay. She told me that if I keep on this route that I still have the next 10 years of my life to peak as middle to long distance women runners peak in their 30's. I knew this but it felt good to hear.
I went into packet pick-up thinking that I would be on air all night and instead I started off feeling inadequate. After about an hour I decided that there were two ways I could take this encounter. I could continue to feel inadequate, overweight, slow, and like a big fat newbie, or I could embrace the fact that I was standing next to someone with so much experience and glean from it. She had been training for at least 8 years. We were both about the same age but this girl had been eating and breathing training for almost all of her 20's. She works at Nike and wakes up and runs 10 miles for breakfast. She has worked hard and gotten to where she is by hours and hours of training. So instead of feeling bashful I asked her for advice and started to feed off her past. I felt lucky to have met such a strong, bad-ass woman who truly has found her calling. Running isn't her "job" but her job allows her to clock those miles.
The point is, I didn't let her psych me out. She wasn't even there to psyche me out but as a painfully new runner I am always humbled and used to playing the role of the slower one. I was in a relationship where my ex was a lot faster and while he claims to be supportive he would say the damnest things that certainly were not supportive. I think when something has affected you like that for awhile it's tough to fully crawl out of that place.
This girl and I were essentially polar opposites. She's the type that would drop out if the race isn't going well because she doesn't want a shit time on her record. I'm the opposite. Unless I'm injured I am going to keep going and I don't care that much about my time. I will crawl to that finish line if I have to. I care about the experience and I care about finishing. We live in very different worlds. I respect and admire her tenacity and dedication but that doesn't mean I'm any less of a runner.
We parted ways and she wished me luck. I came home and reflected a bit and then it really started to hit me, I'm running a marathon TOMORROW! Holy shit! I have running friends, non-running friends, and family that are supportive. I've trained my little butt off all season and I'm ready to go out there and make myself proud. This is about me. It's not about the girl I met last night who will likely pass me even though they start 3 miles and 30 minutes behind us. I'm running my own race and I'm going to run it smart. I've made it this far, and I have so many more years to keep on doing what I've grown to love to do! Wish me luck!!