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Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Tortoise and the Hare

The Tortoise and the Hare

A couple of months ago my son came home from kindergarten with a picture of a tortoise and a hare.  They had obviously discussed the famous fable in school that day.  He said he couldn't draw either a tortoise or a hare so he had some friends draw those for him.  He draws owls :-)  This is his picture.  He drew the road.

Matthew has been obsessed with the story of the tortoise and the hare ever since.  I thought a lot about the Tortoise and the Hare right after I ran my first marathon.  Slow and steady.  How appropriate.  Of course in the case of the marathon slow and steady doesn't necessarily win the race (unless of course you are over 65 and you are running with me :) but -- wait a second! -- I'm getting ahead of the story.  Slow and steady doesn't necessarily win the race but slow and steady can finish the race!  And in the marathon of life, amidst chronic illness etc., that can be just as important as winning, eh?  That's what I discovered once I started marathon running.

How does a person go from extremely loathing running to running a marathon?  Pride.  Inspiration and pride.  My sister Marianne ran a marathon last year.  Those of you who follow this blog have probably read her blog post about her training and the actual event.  She ran the St. George marathon and she did it in just over 6 hours.  I was so impressed.  Here was my sister, my younger sister, my sister with multiple sclerosis, running in the heat of St. George.  Running a marathon of all things.  I remember the day of the marathon as we waited to cheer her on.  I remember getting really worried around noon.  It was a hot day.  A really really hot day.  People with MS don't do well with heat.  I know it affects my sister.  Where was she?  The route is closed to spectators up until about mile 23.  We all waited anxiously and then we saw her.  She was running.  Seriously.  Now that I've run/walked a marathon I appreciate that so much more.  She was running, in the heat of the day, in St. George, after having gone 23 miles.  Wow.  And she didn't stop!  She kept going and ran every step of the last 3 miles.  Amazing.  I was inspired.  Slowly and steadily she got the job done.  And because she did it I had to try.  And because I tried I came to meet some of the coolest and most inspirational tortoises I've ever known.

In September Marianne and I ran the Top of Utah marathon.  My first marathon.  I wasn't thinking about time.  I was only thinking about finishing.  I figured that I could run at least a 4mph average over the 26.2 miles.  I was able to average a little over 4mph on my long training runs so I figured it wouldn't be a problem.  I guessed I could be done no later than 6 hours 30 minutes.  Marianne, the seasoned marathoner was aiming a little higher.  She figured we could do it under 6 hours.  An average of 4.4mph or better.  It was downhill.  It was marathon day.  I decided maybe we could beat the 6 hour mark.  When we got to the half-way point of the marathon though we had our first jolt of reality.  3 hrs. 5min. is what the clock read.  Uh oh!  Wait a minute!  That clock must be wrong!  Reminds me of the denial I had when I first saw pictures after the marathon (Those pictures can't be right!  My hips aren't that wide!  My form isn't that bad! LOL :-)  Were we going to make it under six hours?  

Now we needed to run a faster second half in order to make our 6 hour goal.  The ominous negative split.  Ugh!  Just then a lady spoke up.  Grandma.  Sixty-nine year old woman in a bright pink running shirt.  She told us not to worry.  We would make the next half in 3 hours.  Marianne felt confident that we would.  Neither of us thought Grandma would.  She was going awfully slow.  Slower than even us and we are really really slow! LOL

Well, as you have probably already guessed, Grandma ran with us for about five miles and then we lost her.  Gone.  She left us in her dust at mile 18!  We didn't see her again until the finish line.  I can still see her bright pink running shirt way off in the distance ahead of us.  I wanted to catch her but I couldn't.  It just wasn't happening.  Of course it's not about the time, right?  It's not about beating elderly ladies in pink running shirts.  It's about running your own race and finishing strong.  Still it would have been nice to have finished around the time that grandma did :-)

We finally did finish.  One foot in front of the other.  Slowly and steadily.  6 hours 55 minutes give or take a minute.  

What was grandma's time you ask?

Afterwards I became obsessed.  I wished I had asked grandma what her time was.  Why didn't I take note of her bib number or ask her name?  Then I realized that we did know a couple of key facts.  She was 69 and she probably finished between 6 hours and 7 hours.  With those few facts I was able to find someone I believed to be her in the results.  Zazoosh photography confirmed it.  I found grandma!  6 hours 33 minutes.  Almost a perfect average of 4mph.  Slow and steady.  

I've run a couple of long races and in both of them I've been passed up by elderly runners who slowly and steadily run their race.  One foot in front of the other.  And they win.  They finish.  They get the job done.  I'm grateful for their examples.  

I love the story of the Tortoise and the Hare -- not only for marathons but also for life.  Now when things start to get hard I will think of grandma in her bright pink running shirt.  And I'll think of the Tortoise and the Hare.  Slow and Steady.  Winning the race one step at a time!  Go Grandma!

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