I was excited for the Umineko Half Marathon in Hachinohe mid-way through May, but a combination of a cold and lack of training had me a little worried that perhaps this would be the first race I would have to bow out of. But, hah! I said. I’ve felt this way before, and I’ve crushed all those puny kilometers (in this case, crush means that I finished, barely). I’m not scared of the distance any more either – 21 kilometers?! Child’s play! I figured as long as I went slowly I’d be fine.
It was a gorgeous race too; the course ran by the famed Kabushima Shrine on the water, surrounded by umineko seagulls, and then proceeded down a coastal road, with the sea and the wind a few meters away to the left. I don’t mind running when I’m surrounded by a beautiful coastal vista, you know? So I knew I would be alright if I just took it slow. Besides, with all the seagulls flying around, you didn’t want to stand in one place for too long, if you know I mean.
So I ran slowly but surely. So slowly, in fact, that I ended up running out of time around the 18km mark. Three kilometers left to go! Three! That’s like…a mile. That’s it. They couldn’t just let me go? It wasn’t even that I was any slower than running Sendai last year – I think they were just actually enforcing the time limit. So I had to take the bus back, sweaty and upset and gross. It kind of sucked, and I was pretty humbled by my first non-finish. I know I’m not a fast runner, and I don’t think I’ll ever be. I just wasn’t too cool about being the slowest runner. And it just really burned that I didn’t get to finish. However slow I lumber along, I pride myself on always lumbering past that finish line.
But I regrouped – even if I had made a poor showing, my friend had run his best half marathon ever, which is pretty awesome. That’s the joy of running – the only person you’re competing against is yourself. Everyone else is just smiles and encouragement. (The other joy would be those fleeting glimpses of the Most Beautiful Man). Running is a pretty cool way to spend your time, as long as you don’t go down the rabbit hole and post a status update after every single practice run. (“YEAH! I ran 2 kilometers in 20 minutes tonight!”)
The only person beating myself up for not finishing was myself. I realized that I hadn’t really failed at running before, but that’s because I haven’t really let myself fail. I’ve made such a slow progression in distance because I don’t want to have to give up halfway. But it’s gotta happen once in a while – failing, I mean. In fact, getting upset about it would just prevent me from trying again – it would be a defense against the pain of failing, of growth. This is getting pretty deep for a blog about running, but hating myself for running 18 kilometers on a beautiful course is just plain dumb. I mean, so what? Am I going to give up on running now? Ridiculous. That was a thought I actually had, too, for a few seconds on the bus. That’s how ridiculous I am, as a human.
So, yesterday, I ran a 10k, and though I was humbled by my recent defeat in Hachinohe, I knew I could use this to get back on the proverbial horse. It was a course I’d run before, it was a distance that I was very comfortable with, and I was feeling damn good. And I ended up shaving ten seconds off my best 10k time. I may yet fail again, but that’s just another opportunity to grow. I guess you just have to lose against yourself time and again.
And, anyway. Even if you reached a state of perfection, you’d have no where else to go but down.