24 September 2011

i'm gonna make it after all

Here's a little secret: about 8 miles in to the Air Force Half-marathon last Saturday, I wanted to quit.

Running is pointless, I thought as I shoved one foot in front of the other and glanced around for something, anything to distract me.

Who cares if I make my time goal? Who cares if I run the whole way? Who cares if I stop right now?

But as I've written about before, running is full of life lessons.

It teaches, for instance, that hard work is its own reward—but that sometimes, even with all your hard work, you won't get what you want. You can be disappointed. You can kick and pout. You can rage about the unfairness of it all.

Or you can keep putting one foot in front of the other, and extrapolate this one lesson from the running path to your career path or your lovers' lane or any other kind of path you find yourself on.

Running also teaches you that you're worthy of a goal. No, no one else would've cared if I'd stopped on Saturday. Maybe the guy behind me if I didn't do the nice runner thing and check around me before pulling off the side of the road. He probably would've cared if I'd run into him or broken his stride.

The goal was mine. The challenge was mine. And the reward would be all mine, too.

Once we leave school, we stop getting our gold stars—our extrinsic rewards that can make us feel good and well-liked and smart and like we're on the right path.

Used to this kind of reward system, we can—or I did, at least, maybe I shouldn't speak for you—start to feel like we're on a falling star, one that's fading and at the end of importance. Where's my reward for being a grown-up? Is there a trophy for making my bed every day for the last six years? {Will I get a bigger trophy when I get to ten years?}

Instead of grades and diplomas, we get paychecks and the satisfaction that we have done our work well. After school, how you understand "goal" and "achievement" does shift towards this idea that people will not always applaud what you've done—but that doesn't mean you haven't done well.

Running cements this lesson, this idea that even if no one else notices what you're up to, there will be satisfaction in a job well done. You set a goal, and your sense of achievement is worth it to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Last Saturday, the lesson running taught me at mile 8 was: You are like Mary Tyler Moore.

You may be familiar with my obsession with Mary Tyler Moore. If you aren't, you should read this. It may illuminate a lot about me, so if you don't want that illumination, maybe don't bother with the link.

Saturday at mile 8, I pulled on one of my mantras, my phrases that keep me running even when I think it's a silly thing to be doing instead of drinking coffee.

"You're gonna make it after all."

This is, by the way, a line from the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song, sung while she tosses her hat in the air in a gesture that clearly says, "Yes, I know I'm gonna make it! I know it so much that I don't care about this hat or the fact that I'm standing in the middle of a street and people are looking at me funny! I'm gonna make it!"

Sometimes, this mantra gets shortened to: after all, which sounds a little more fatalistic and sad. It makes me think of people saying, "After all, at least we still have our health" or "After all, he still has the one good arm."

But I have to go with what works with my breathing and gait at that moment the mantra is needed, so last Saturday, it became make it after all, make it after all, make it after all, make it after all.

I know it sounds a tad ridiculous, but my mantra makes me think: Mary Richards wouldn't give up! No! Mary Richards would smile and wave at the people along the way! Mary Richards would finish this race and then later, she'd whip up dinner for herself and Rhoda and she'd use the good china and put some flowers in a vase—but she was worth it and she'd made it.

I needed that chant for about a quarter of a mile, and then we rounded a bend and this bright red and orange tree came into focus. With a view like that, even Mary fades and frays a little.

I'm gonna make it after all.


  1. Inspiring! I think I need a mantra for doing the dishes...

  2. I love this! Some days I'd really like a chart with some shiny gold stars on it! Or a trophy that says, "You changed 10,000 poopy diapers!" Great post!

  3. Val, we'll come up with one for you this week at work.

    Although, I'm a huge proponent of Mary. She can get you through so much. You can borrow her, if you need to, for your mantra.

  4. And Jenny, I see you've come back to the world of blogging with a post today: welcome back :) Maybe you can get a trophy for that, too!



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