A week went by, and Sunday November 11th arrived with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever. The weather was perfect – 50 degrees, no humidity, and just enough sun to start a person’s day with an air of positivity. The game plan for the morning was simple: grab my iPhone and my running watch, throw on the most comfortable running clothes, head to Central Park and just run. Run along the outer loop and then change over to the Bridal Path when I felt monotony setting in and a change of scenery required. The road to perdition, however, is paved with good intentions.
I set out along the outer loop of the park, bright and early that Sunday morning. I coasted along the west side hills. Harlem Hill was greeted warmly and I traversed to the northeast portion of the park without difficulty. The music became white noise as I hit the downslope of Cat Hill for the first time. I completed a full loop with a smile on my face. 10 kilometers down and I was feeling groovy. You know the saying “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is?”…well the next hour would further validate that hypothesis.
As I began my second full loop and waddled along the west side drive once more, the music morphed from motivational background noise – from the type of subtle sounds played during a feature film enhancing the emotional intensity of the moment – to distracting chatter. The slight headwind began to make my eyes tear up, adding to my growing irritability. These two stupid little things signaled a swift change in my mood from focused and positive to distracted and rudderless in mere minutes. And once my mood changed, there was no way to right the ship – this boat was going down by the head, and there would be no stopping the cascade of negativity as it made it’s way past one emotional bulkhead after another. Since this was a solo marathon, there were no other ships at sea to pick up my S. O. S.
As I began to climb Harlem Hill for the second time, The Tool made an appearance, firmly perching himself on my left shoulder. Now I understood the situation: he had taken over the helm of this ship and quickly turned the bow toward the rocks. The little four centimeter bastard snuck up on me. I didn’t foresee this complication and was ill prepared to defend myself mentally.
At 11 miles into my run, I completely lost focus on what I was doing. I began thinking about what this effort would do to my performance the following week in Philly. I thought about how hungry I was. How thirsty. How sore. How no one would know if I failed – so the option to call it a day would be easy to take advantage of. Just quit. Save your legs for next Sunday. Just quit. Today just isn’t your day.
I have dealt with this negativity all year long. And all year I have fought the tiny bastard and delivered him a good old’ down-home Mississippi ass-kicking. Well today The Tool finally got that one haymaker in…and it landed flush on my chin. I began to slow down…….and then I switched to walking….and then I stopped near the Boathouse the second time around.
I had failed for the first time ever to complete the marathon distance on a day that this form of challenge was presented. I failed, and it messed with my confidence. I mean – I can deal with the pain. I embrace it – I welcome the soreness and uncomfortable ache that lingers post-race for days at a time. I feel like the pain is the price you pay for the accomplishment. It’s a badge of courage. My confidence was shot for Philly. My motivation to attain my goal of 12 marathons in a year was at risk.
This was a good, hard failure.
Walt Disney once said that “I think it’s important to have a good, hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid.”. Well I am not young – but I am afraid. I am afraid of failing. I am afraid of not keeping my promise to my daughter. I am afraid of failing to do all I can to help the charity I believe in. All of a sudden, I was afraid of a lot of things – and that’s not normal for me.
I need to get out from under the dark clouds that just planted themselves firmly above my thick noggin. And I need to do it quick.
S. O. S.
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