Running Toward Goals: A Holy Half Marathon Tale
Marisa Iati | Monday, March 31, 2014
Three weeks ago, I was making plans to run away for this past weekend.
I knew the Holy Half Marathon was Saturday, and I had decided that, despite several weeks of preparing, I was not going to run it. I had spent most of those weeks unwilling to train in the freezing temperatures, unable to bring myself to run inside and discouraged by on-and-off shin pain.
When I wasn’t running, I was frustrated. When I was running, I was still frustrated. Upon realizing that I grimaced every time someone mentioned running, the Holy Half or anything even tangentially related to athleticism, I decided to take a step back. The race had transformed from a fun and challenging goal to a source of feelings of inadequacy, and so it had become no longer worth it.
In accordance with my tendency to be too hard on myself, I was not-so-secretly bitter about the situation. Until four days beforehand, I was so determined to escape the entire event that I looked into flights home to New Jersey for the weekend.
My dad, however, was having none of it. As parents are wont to do, he reminded me that running away from my problems (no pun intended) would solve nothing.
“What is it that will really define your success on this project?” he asked me.
Angsty 20-something that I am, I reacted by refusing to speak to him for several days. It wasn’t until I learned that the Holy Half committee was looking for volunteers that I returned to his question.
What would define my success on this project?
As I had known deep down all along, planning my escape from South Bend certainly wouldn’t do it. But maybe giving of myself in another way could.
I signed myself up to volunteer at the race, and for an hour and a half Saturday morning, I stood about a quarter of a mile from the finish line, pointing runners toward the end and cheering louder than I knew possible.
I watched hundreds of people run by: classmates, coworkers at this newspaper, roommates of past and present, former dorm-mates and people who looked vaguely familiar — some of my closest friends and many other people whom I may never meet.
I smiled as people in costumes passed me — shout-out to the guy in the pig suit; you were my favorite. I laughed when people reacted to my “You’re almost there!” with “Thank God!” And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tear up a bit when a man and two little boys started running alongside a woman whom I presume was their wife and mom for the last leg of the race. At some point, I started to equate their success with my own.
I didn’t run a single step Saturday morning, unless you count the part of volunteering when I skipped around in circles to keep warm. (I refuse to be ashamed about that.)
Still, the half marathon proved valuable for me in ways I couldn’t have predicted.
I recognized how much good comes from urging other people on as they pursue their goals and ambitions.
I learned that sometimes we are meant to be the runners and other times, we are meant to be the cheerleaders yelling until we lose our voices.
I realized that there’s nothing wrong with deciding that one aspiration no longer serves you and pursuing another instead.
As it turns out, what ultimately matters is that instead of running away from things, we run toward them.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.