Friday, October 23, 2015

Not how I dreamed it would be

I'm up early, anxious to get to the Marine Corps Marathon expo to pick up my race packet.

I expected this kind of anticipation when I dreamed of this journey a year ago, when I stood in NYC's Penn Station and counted the number of days till the race on my iPhone screen -- whispering as I tapped my finger on the tiny calendar boxes, 12 months' worth.

I thought of this day when I set out on my 40th birthday for a 3-mile walk, determined to make every day matter, to make this year THE year. The year I finally ran the MCM.

I imagined this moment when I dragged myself to the gym at midnight after a long shift at work, just to get in that one mile so I could continue the walking streak that would be my MCM motivator.

I pictured today during those many trips to the Pacers running store to get new shoes, new inserts, more Gu and the $90 Camelbak that would allow me to carry as much water as I needed on those hot, double-digit runs.

... and when I sat on the Georgetown waterfront after completing 14 miles, sticky with sweat and bug spray but beaming at my accomplishment.

... and when I cut out this quote from the newspaper after Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky set a very unexpected world record: "I just wasn't afraid to fail tonight .. Yes, it did hurt a lot, but I got through it, and it feels really, really good right now."

All along, I imaged what today would be like: My heart racing, like little butterflies fluttering in my chest and trying to burst out, I'd walk into the large expanse of the expo and beeline for the bib-number table. If he was able to pry it out of my hands, a Marine would then scan the bib and direct me to the T-shirt area, where all the butterflies would be zipping and zooming inside me and I'd likely tear up. (Oh hell, I'd probably have already teared up when I walked into the convention center and saw my first Marine.) The shirts, though: I love the MCM shirts. I've proudly worn my past 10K shirts with their high collars and sturdy fabric, and getting the actual MARATHON shirt would send me into a state of euphoria. Then I'd turn to the actual expo, my eyes darting all around and my ears picking up the nervous energy coming from the other runners. I wouldn't buy any official merchandise -- I'd be so afraid of jinxing myself -- but I'd leave with my goody bag tightly grasped in my hand and a smile on my face.

Yes, I'm up early today, anxious to get to the Marine Corps Marathon expo to pick up my race packet. But not for the reasons I had dreamed of.

I'm going early to avoid the marathon excitement. To avoid seeing all the fit and happy runners. To get in, grab my 10K packet and get out -- as quickly as possible.

My job in Rosslyn already has bombarded me with reminders of this weekend's race: The street has been renamed Marine Corps Marathon Drive for weeks now, and when I left work last night, I saw two of the stories-high signs marking Bag Check and Family Meet-up. There will surely be more banners up today.

So, selfishly, I don't want to spend much time in Pre-Marathon City. It's a reminder of the hope I had and the hope that was lost when I dropped out -- again. But on Marathon Day? My new dream for Oct. 25, 2015, is to enjoy the sights along the 10K route (including my nemesis, the 14th Street Bridge) and to spend the rest of the morning cheering on those whose dreams are in the making.

And maybe from them I'll find the courage to continue toward mine.