Monday, December 8, 2014

After a Half Marathon Walk: Mulling What Matters

The meaning I am finding in the life I've been given isn't going to come from extravagant gestures. It comes, the way grace comes, every day, step by step, ordinary moment by ordinary moment. That is the lesson I learned over the weekend, when my husband and I participated in a half marathon in San Antonio, Texas.

We had trained for this race for months, spending our Saturday and Sunday mornings together, walking and running through parks by the river in our neighborhood. The plan was to meet up with dear old friends in San Antonio for the Rock and Roll series' half marathon. My friend Meredith is a diehard half marathon walker and the weekend was a way to join her and to celebrate her husband's fiftieth birthday. She and her husband, whom we met as engaged couples in Raleigh, NC, are raising their children  outside Indianapolis. They walk much faster than we do and were several corrals ahead of us.

My apologies in advance to anyone who likes a loud and showy corporate-sponsored sporting event,  such as the one the Rock and Roll company puts on, but my husband and I thought the event was disorganized and demoralizing. The expo was loud and the salespeople were brash; one even tried to shove earphones onto my husband's head, insisting he buy them.

We had heard that part of the fun of participating in such a hyped-up event was the energy from the participants, the bands at each mile marker and from the throngs of volunteers along the way cheering us on. This is why I didn't bother turning on my runtastic app; I figured the crowds and the energy would propel me forward.

That might be the case if you are racing in the front or middle of the pack. The experience, however, from the last corral is different. We walked our warmup first mile, at a very modest 18 minutes,  and yet the mile-one neon sign said more than an hour had already passed. That's when we realized the  race organizers were keeping official time from when the first corral left - 45 minutes before we did.

By the time we hit the halfway mark at Trinity University, our pace had improved but the bands had largely disappeared; from then on  the volunteers did not glance up at us as they folded up their tables and swept empty water cups in the streets. The whole thing felt lonely. We were walking and running on hard concrete residential roads and on cobbled stone streets instead of the pedestrian paths we were accustomed to in our county parks. My feet felt blistered, though they were not. Also, water was not always available in the second half of the race because some of water stations had been packed up. Still, we were pacing pretty well. I'm not clear why the bands and the water were gone. We clocked in past the race's four hour limit; it appears the organizers started the clock when the first, not last corral began.

I also had several different physical issues during the walk that you do not want to know about; suffice to say I threw out my walking pants in our hotel room trash can after finishing the race.

Introverts that we are, Greg and I realized we much prefer our walks through our local parks, just the two of us, his fitbit, my runtastic app and our conversations. Including the race and the walk through various airports to get home after midnight, we walked 17.5 miles Sunday and we are creaky but not sore. That is an accomplishment I don't need a fancy, faraway and expensive race to give me.

I am thrilled we got to see our friends, worship with them at deeply transcendent Mass at Cathedral San Fernando, and experience the magic of downtown San Antonio at Advent.

Mostly, I am grateful to realize the best things in my life are right in front of me: my husband, our sons, and walks waiting just out the door of our  home.

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