Caren Ware's Blog

April 5, 2010

LA Marathon 2010

Filed under: A Runner's Story,Marathon Running,Women Running — Caren Ware @ 3:26 am

So I am here on race day.  There are so many people.  Heads and bibs and bodies.  I feel oddly stoic.  No fear.  But just wondering how I will handle these long, long miles.  This is so very foreign to the intensity of  track & field: the warming up, walking out to your sole lane on a track, with all the people perched in the stands.  Surprisingly, I feel more alone corralled tightly with all these 25,000 people than in my quiet lane on a track. There is a sadness in me that I want to ignore.  I stuff it down and it wells in my eyes.  The past six months have been so crushingly hard.  I am separated and divorcing after 25 years of marriage. I am concerned about how this will affect my beautiful and talented teenage daughter and my ‘man of character” son.  He is off to college and the “mom” years are ending.   There is the success of our business, PRIME TIME, with its full calendar. I timed so many of the races these people trained on to be ready for this marathon.  The racing event business forces me to be on the road almost every weekend and be  up starting at 3am most Saturdays and Sundays.   I am the one that makes all these bibs have data attached to them at a lot of your races….names, ages, stats.  I am the one that makes sure your chip reads and you get a time at the finish.  It is so more complicated and demanding than you think, especially when one of you wears his wife’s chip and bib or the event director sends us wrong data.  I stop and remember there are a name, and a person, and a story, and a life behind every one of these bibs.  People.  And I am one of them. That is enough to celebrate. 

       But the sadness settles in like unwanted fog.  It drearies.  None of my family are celebrating that I am running a marathon.   Instead, they have written letters of condemnation reminding me that God hates divorce.  I believe He does.  I hate it.  The letters don’t understand that I stayed committed to the commitment. That I tried the submissive wife thing and, no, everything didn’t end up rosy because I was allowing him to lead.  They did not consider that there was a very real mechanical problem.  That is was not a spiritual or relational problem.   All the pat answers and piety drove me arms length away from Christianity and the values I hold dear.  They did not heal my brokenness nor grow missing skills from my past. They made me yearn for a true God, not some expecting God of rules and regulations that ‘good people” followed. 

      Why am I writing all this personal stuff?  Because this is what comes up while I am running.  My mind rolls in and out of life and gets a chance to soak some of it in.  I have no choice as agonies and treasures surge in and out like easy going surf.  Every once in a while big wave crashes in. Big situation this past year was how touched I had been by a personal trainer. He had been a gentle place for me.  It is chapters in the book!  Despite the trouble and harm it all caused, I was thankful for him unlocking my womanhood.  It brought out girlish play in me and was so much more about the friendship and training than anything.  He worked with me long enough to recognize my guardedness and how I would flinch when touched.  He said he would like to put his fist through my dad’s f..ing face and I wondered why.

 But my comfort with him got caught on tape and I think people thought they then had a right to know why I would accept affection from another man.  Rightfully so.  We were both married at the time.  The trainer drank.  I didn’t know what that meant until I  attended AA and Al-anon meetings. Great experience of going to AA, I found a pretty messed up bunch of people I liked. I didn’t even drink. But they accepted me and they accepted they had a lot of work to do. They gave themselves permission to work at it, and seemed true in their relationships, and were getting healthy.  They had no reason to pretend.  The churched people looked great on the outside, but I questioned if they were hurting just as much or more than I.  There was little room for real problems.   I was being accused of being the biggest of pretenders.  Rightfully so.  I had come from a childhood of training in covering up, denying reality, over compensating, denying self.   I quested to grow.  Those letters didn’t understand how much it hurt that I couldn’t get better in their church.  But did the sadness on this day have much to do with all these. For this day.  Not really. I was bothered.  I had come to love and dearly respect the man that let me run some miles with him.  Now there’s a problem.

 We had to leave a vehicle on the receiving end near Santa Monica and be dropped off at the start at Dodger Stadium.  It was cold and I ditched a nice Nike jacket in the trees.  I was so thankful for the coaching.  I almost glued myself next to Mr. Marathon man like a kid does to a parent on his first day of kindergarten.  Don’t leave my sight!  Side!  Since we trained some miles together that was easy. I knew the pace.  I constantly elbowed him to frustration because my years of running on the track taught me to run  right on the shoulder of the lead runner.  Bam. Bam. Bam.  Not the typical marathon strategy to run bumping the shoulder of the other runner.  Sorry. He was being such a gentleman. Patience is a virtue.  He pumped my confidence, coached my pace, slowed down my race horse engines, and weaved me through an effortless first half.  The miles flew by, but he warned me of what could pounce at any moment on the remaining half.  I already knew.  I had run LA Marathon as a first timer in 1990.  The monkey more than crawled on my back on that first attempt.  I think it was more like 10 miles carrying an elephant.   I had not known to hydrate and feed my body that first one.

Veterans, we both knew to take in Gatorade, goo, and water.  Since I am around the running crowd I am getting feedback that so many that normally do not, bonked on this year’s LA Marathon.  Was it the  new course that had a lot of turns and some hills?  I wanted to run in under 4 hours because that sounded ‘runnerish’ and would qualify me for Boston.  It was to be 4:03 and change.  Oh, well.  I did it. 

What is it about me that rises up to the occasion and falls apart afterward.  I threw a smile for the finish line photographer than was utterly overwhelmed.  Where in this mass of humanity was I to find my ride back and my dear running buddy. Now, these weren’t mood tears.  I was in no condition to wander around and a grapefruit size lump landed in my throat.  Oh, no. I waddle my stiff muscles down the street, on to the pier, down torturous stairs, across a huge parking lot to the family reunion tent and just hoped.

And I ran smack into him.  Oh, so beautiful. I am so very glad. So fully thankful.  Salt stained his shirt. My hair was sweat caked.  All didn’t matter.  He looked and sounded like the most wonderful thing that could ever happen.  He sat back on the asphalt and we waited for our other running comrade. Whew.  He said something I hope to carry for a lifetime.  He didn’t get the Boston qualifying time he wanted.  I waited for the typical competitive runner to whip himself for not pulling it off. Instead, he complimented himself and gave himself permission to have a ‘marathon day’ meaning it was whatever his body was able to do for that day.  Mission accomplished.  Grace.  Enormous amounts of grace.  That is what I need to learn to give myself. I think the True God does. I think He invented it.

It’s not the medal around the neck.  It was the miles.  The hard hills I learned to finally climb.  The long run through city streets.  The runs I am going to share and journal.  It is about the self serve yogurt rewards and the healthy restaurant choices.  It is about learning to rest when needed and play more often.  It is about learning to be who we were meant to be.  I have cried more in the past months than any time in my life. I got to push past all that and just live for today.  And so I finished  my first marathon on my home continent. The sadness still warns me I am about to learn more about this jungle they call Los Angeles than I want to.

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