By Jenna Schifferle
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon recently released a video of the race course featuring a red line that zigzags through the city multiple times before wrapping back to its original point at Grant Park. The clip takes only minutes to paint the picture; in real life, that path will take hours.
I’m just weeks away from race day, and I would be misleading you if I said I wasn’t a little — um, a lot — afraid. Questions circulate in my head as to why I’m doing this, as do fears about not finishing. Somedays, a voice in my head tells me I’m not strong enough or that I’m foolish for trying. After all, my training has been far from perfect. While battling a month-long, nagging injury, I had to resort to countless bike-a-thons and spin classes. I went to physical therapy and worked closely with a running specialist to rehab my injury, and finally, I started running again … slow, short miles at first, then right back to distance. My pace has suffered greatly, and those last miles can feel unbearable.
Yet somehow through the achy muscles, fatigue and uncertainty, there’s a little pride. Despite it all, I keep showing up. I’m putting in the work, and I’m trying. Maybe it’s foolish to keep moving forward when I have every reason not to do so. But then again, maybe life’s greatest adventures come from being a bit foolhardy. After all, the very definition of the word is “recklessly bold or rash.” While nothing about this decision has been “rash,” I embrace the designation of “recklessly bold.”
A close friend and running mentor recently told me that leading up to Chicago, I should focus on getting in the right head space. Marathons require a fierce relentlessness honed by unwavering mental discipline. As part of my bid for resilience, I’ve set forth several goals for myself for race day:
1. Run until it hurts — then keep going. I know it’s going to be painful, but my hope is that when the pain comes, I can lean in and embrace it.
2. Walk when necessary. While I plan to minimize walk breaks, I aim to accept them when I need them as opposed to getting upset or frustrated.
3. Crawl if I must. If my body does happen to give out — and let’s be honest, it might — I will do whatever I can to get across the finish line.
4. Practice gratitude. I haven’t had a long running career; I’ve been in this game for only five years. During that time, I’ve experienced two injuries that kept me sidelined for months. When the miles get tough, I hope I can remember how lucky I am to be running in the first place. To be healthy and able-bodied is a gift that should never be taken for granted.
5. Count my blessings, every mile. I intend to dedicate every mile of my race to someone or something I’m grateful for in my life. From the members of my family to my career, dreams and everything in between — there is always, always a reason to keep going.
6. Be compassionate. No matter what happens at the finish line, be it embracing a medal or a worst-case scenario, I intend to be good to myself. That means I will forgive any shortcomings and accept the outcome.
7. Make one new friend along the way. I strongly believe that as a community, we are stronger together. As I traverse the 26.2 miles through Chicago, I hope that somewhere along the way, I’ll meet someone and hear their story. I can’t think of anything that would make this adventure more worthwhile.
There you have it: my seven goals. You might have noticed that not a single one has to do with me finishing. Yes, finishing the race is on the list, but it’s not the goal. There’s more to this experience than a medal. What I hope to gain is a stronger appreciation for myself and the journey.
So, cheers to the foolhardy. May our recklessly bold hearts always lead us to new adventures. Talk to you all on the flipside of the Chicago Marathon!
• Thoughts, questions, and words of encouragement are always welcome. Please email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Writer on the Run” is a monthly column written by Jenna Schifferle of Cheektowaga. She chronicles her experience training for the Chicago Marathon in October.