Perspective is a beautiful thing. Ten years ago I ran the Steamtown Marathon with my eye on the clock, calculating splits, rationing gels, taking every conceivable measure to qualify for Boston. I cramped up the final miles, and ran to the finish stressed I wouldn’t make the cut.
There was a time I wouldn’t register for a marathon if I didn’t think I’d finish in less than four hours. Some years I’d over-train and line up injured before the starting gun even sounded. I’m not saying that the competitive gene has vanished from my system completely, but it bites me less often and running has become a lot more fun.
My goal for Steamtown this year was to not finish last. Along with more than twenty-five hundred of my running brethren, I savored every step in the sparkling sunshine, trees turning to Autumn that made the forest look ablaze. My strategy was to not look at a clock until I got to the finish line. I didn’t consider all of the banks and city hall towers I’d pass in small towns along the route. I inadvertently caught the time on a few occasions, but refrained from doing the calculations in my head to estimate my finishing time.
As I ran down the final stretch on Washington Avenue there was one runner in front of me the entire way. The last hundred feet or so he appeared to be fighting leg cramps and I held back so I wouldn’t pass him. He must have caught me out of the corner of his eye because he gestured for me to pass him. I lightly placed my hand on his back and said, “You go, I’m in no hurry.” He reached out, we grasped hands and crossed the finish line together at 4:25, my happiest four-plus hour marathon ever.