I ran the Philadelphia Marathon last Sunday. This was significant for a number of reasons — the least of them being that it was my 12th marathon.
A few months back, Strand had, on a whim, asked me if I wanted to run Philly with her. This was long before Hurricane Sandy. I’m not sure why I agreed to it, because it would’ve meant running three marathons in less than ten weeks if NYC hadn’t been cancelled.
I didn’t think. I just paid my US$130, and I jumped in with both feet. But someone must’ve been looking out for me to have created a situation where I’d have had a “spare” marathon entry in the event NYC was cancelled.
During the week leading up to the race, I had been in London. I had had meetings, meetings, meetings. I had flown home on the Wednesday night prior to the race to head directly to a very fancy event.
The point being: I was exhausted before I ever hit the start line.
As a side note: I never stop marvelling that this is my life. And I don’t recount these experiences because I think I’m fancy — I’m telling you about them because these are the things that are actually happening in mylife. They simply ARE. To leave out the bits about the airports, and the travel, and the events, would leave me with very little to recount except confidential conversations, and some doctors appointments.
So I chuckled on the night of my fancy event, as I stood (incoherently exhausted) on the stand-and-repeat with some of the celebrity guests. I giggled about the fact that, at its heart, my life was still unwashed hair, and black wool dresses, and Red Delicious shoes that someone else had picked out for me.
After the glitter faded that night, my group and I trudged to a pub around the corner from the event venue. There, an old drunk was singing Alone Again, Naturally, on the karaoke machine. Obviously, I knew all the words to the song.
All of us — a bunch of serious women with intimidating roles and crazy lifestyles — sat and drank whisky and beer, and listened to seventies angst tunes being butchered. We laughed, and talked about crafting and knitting and The State of the World and travel, and The Things That Mattered and The Things That Did Not.
I thought: How am I so blessed?
But then I also thought: How nice it is to be met exactly where I am!
Where I was, sometimes, was fresh off a flight, in a black dress and a pair of red heels that didn’t really match the outfit, with a pint of beer in hand, and with the next destination in mind…
…In the company of people to whom all this seemed completely normal. And who did not think me an asshole for living this life.
That said, on that night, my next destination was Philadelphia for the marathon.
Like all my recent races, the Philadelphia Marathon began well, and then I crumbled. And I knew that was going to happen, and for once, I thought I was okay with that.
Bethany and Brez met me in Philly last Sunday — Strand had had to bow out, and couldn’t run. As to Bethany and Brez, though, I wouldn’t have made it through without their support. A lingering foot injury had me near collapse at the end of the race, and I was leaning on Bethany to get me across the finish line. Recovering from injury herself after a lifetime of competitive running, B’s two longest runs of late had been with me.
The thing is this: marathons are not easy. But neither is being a professional, or a friend, or being in any kind of relationship — romantic or otherwise. It’s not easy to be a sister, or a daughter, or even a dog owner. There is no instruction manual for being in your thirties or being a divorcee.
Up until very recently, I was constantly looking for answers; constantly looking to properly follow a path. What I am learning is that it is much more important to be who you are, where you are. The road is likely to be painful, but if you’re open to it, the right people will help get you to where you need to go.
In Philly, they had started us by playing “New York, New York,” like they play at the base of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, at the beginning of the New York City Marathon. And I had sobbed my broken little heart out — because it then occurred to me that none of this was about a race at all. It was about being open, and being present, and accepting love from other people. It was about looking down at my body and saying, I hurt, and holding on to Bethany’s shoulder to cross the finish line.
It was about choosing to let go. And accept myself for where I was.
Being met where you are is a powerful thing. Be it at Mile 24 of a marathon, when then tendons in your foot are hurting you too much to carry on alone; be it at baggage claim at JFK; be it in a midtown dive bar or on a group iMessage in any time zone, anywhere in the world.
I am just so glad to be Here.