Keep Your Pace

It’s ironic what the man on the speaker had jokingly said to the crowd right before the national anthem played. “If you get lost, just follow the person in front of you.”

Fast forward. Haven’t ran this type of half marathon before, I thought. Potholes, grass, dirt, rocks, poles…we’re pretty close to that water…fishermen!? No. This is wrong. We did as the man had suggested and just followed the person in front of us. We knew this couldn’t be right but we kept our pace.

Up and over a hill, there stood mile marker 2. “Mile marker 2,” looking at our watches, “but we already ran 3.5!” We were furious and complained, for at least the next half-mile. Some disappointed because they were shooting for their personal record. Others, now, just wanting the head of the person responsible for this. To those nearby talking about demanding refunds I joked, “well, at least you’re getting your money’s worth as far as mileage…” they didn’t think that was too funny. A lot of cuss words in the air but we kept our pace.

Voices in my head. Should I stop? Should I even care now? Maybe I’ll take it easy the rest of the way. I could just run the whole damn thing. Call it my own record, longest half marathon ever ran. All I knew, at that time, was that I had to keep my pace.

Fast forward. We decided we were going to hit a U-turn at the appropriate mile marker to get us close to the correct distance. At this point, I was unsure about how many remained behind. I couldn’t look because I promised myself I would not lose sight of those pacers. It would’ve been hard to identify amongst the crowd anyway, being that we passed and dodged hundreds of people that had started after us. All I knew were those of us that stuck close together.

We were approaching the U-turn. The pacers warned us that our times might not officially register since we were going off course (…again). That didn’t matter much at this point. All that mattered to me was that I didn’t let those pacers leave my sight and that I kept my pace.

Running along the lake shore now and, wow, what a beautiful day. I remember it’s October and how lucky we are to have such nice weather. How lucky to be alive and well. What had happened several miles ago was a blur. The only things that mattered in this moment were the trees, the lake, the fresh air, Chicago off in the distance and, of course, the pacers…I kept my pace.

Fast forward. I’m feeling pretty good. The crowd has dispersed but I still have my eyes on the pacers. Now they also have their eyes on me. I’m running with them. We just passed 10.5 miles and pride had me ask the pacer if I could hold the time-sign for 5 seconds. He replied, “you can hold it across the finish line.” Funny how quickly doubt can slap you in the face. Oh shit, I thought, that means I must stick with them for the remainder of the race! Why did I even ask that stupid question in the first place? My legs suddenly felt heavier. My breaths started to lose rhythm. Doubt was messing with me. It was trying to slow me down but I couldn’t let it. Fortunately, I had a supporter there with me…his reply, the pacer, he knew I could do it…I know I can do it.

Fast Forward. I see the 12 mile mark and I…feel…great? Whoa. I have all of this energy I could exert, however, I choose not to. I just keep my pace.

We were approaching the finish line. The pacer told me to slow down and handed me the sign. Usually the roar of the crowd ignites my afterburners and I exhaust every ounce of fuel until I cross the finish line. It was different this time. I had already crossed that line in my head and was already thinking about my next race. I realized my goal didn’t matter anymore because I was capable of more. All I did was keep my pace.

In life, whenever you’re shooting for a goal, there will be challenges along the way. If there are not, you’re not setting big enough goals. Sometimes you will get off-course and you’ll look for excuses to quit but you can’t. You must keep pushing forward. Focus on what you can control; your effort is one of those things. Before you know it, even though you may not be exactly where you want to be, you’ll find your way back on track. Keep your eye on the prize but remember to enjoy the moment. When those voices start speaking in your head, when doubt arises, shut them up. Regain your focus.

What I won’t forget, was that feeling and power of pacing myself. Beating my last personal record was expected, but raising the bar on a goal I had not even yet attained was not. If I…if you…if we can just remember to keep our pace towards whatever we’re yearning for, we can achieve it. The joy is when we realize we’re capable of even more.