Over the past seventeen weeks -- the duration of the entire spring semester -- I've been training for a half marathon, keeping a brief record of each training run on a single sheet of paper to hold myself accountable and stay on schedule. I'll have logged 475 miles before pinning on my bib this Sunday morning in Cleveland.
The paper documents runs spanning from bitter winter to spring, runs when I flew and runs when my legs felt like lead, and runs on a treadmill when my greatest challenge was overcoming boredom and not succumbing to OCD-ticks, like obsessively counting my steps, or thinking about my breathing, or wondering why any sane person would voluntarily choose to run long distances when they could be, I don't know, lying on a couch and watching back-to-back episodes of Fixer Upper instead.
It's a single sheet of paper, one that's folded and marked, but I already value it more than the complimentary race shirt and finisher's medal I'll receive. It shows the process. It tracks the days when I wanted to quit, but didn't, like the afternoon when I didn't feel well but gritted through a seven-mile tempo run on a treadmill while an elderly gentleman slowly walked on the treadmill beside me. He repeatedly looked over and finally said, "That race you're going to run? I think you're going to win."
I had laughed and thanked him, dismissing the compliment immediately in my mind.
But looking back, I accept his words. Clearly, I won't finish first, but there's a certain type of winning that takes place when you approach the starting line, knowing that you've done the work to reach that point. Yes, I've set a goal time. And yes, I'm competitive and want to set a personal best. But today I'm replaying one thing in my mind: the man's assurance that I would win.
He's right. One step at a time over these past few months, I've already won. I've already had many small victories. 475 of them, in fact.
Now it's time to add 13.1 more.