Each sport has its own pinnacle: for football, it’s the Super Bowl; for baseball, it’s the World Series; for hockey, it’s the Stanley Cup; for basketball, it’s the
“watch LeBron flop and the refs call everything his way” show NBA Finals. For sports outside of the “big four” (I feel like it’s appropriate to include hockey with the big three), it becomes a little harder to define what the highest achievement becomes. Is The Masters a larger spectacle than the British Open? Is Wimbledon more prestigious than the French Open? Would you rather win the Daytona 500 or the Sprint Cup?
For one subsection of sports, however, there is a clear event that supersedes everything else. Nothing else can even come close, and some people try their whole lives to participate. An entire city shuts down their streets and cancels work to celebrate this race; hell, it’s held on the anniversary of the beginning of the Revolutionary War every year because it’s that huge of an event. Over 30,000 people come from nearly every country in the world just to run it. To watch this event is a sight to behold, and it’s what hundreds of thousands of people try to get into every year.
This event is the Boston Marathon, taking place on Patriots Day every year on the streets from Hopkinton to Boston. It’s been happening since the end of the 19th century, and people for over a hundred years have talked about what it’s like to turn “left on Boylston” Street (named after the guy who invented the smallpox vaccine). As I grew up in Massachusetts (just in case you couldn’t tell from how much I love Touchdown Tommy), the Boston Marathon was always an incredible thing. Mostly, it was because we would get school off for it, but it was also cool to be able to see tens of thousands of people all looking like they were going to keel over and die for three hours.
This past weekend, I was able to run in my first Boston Marathon. I was beyond stoked; this was literally a dream come true. I thought that I had done everything that I could to prepare for it. I ate well, I tried to make sure that my legs were ready, and I told myself that I was going to have as much fun as I could (aka make sure that I didn’t pass up the opportunity to get a smooch from one of the Wellesley girls). Unfortunately, that did not happen (except for the kiss; there’s no feeling like thousands of college girls screaming in deafening shrieks for you to kiss them, so how was I to resist?)
My legs felt like rubber almost from the very beginning, and even before the halfway point, I just knew that it was going to be a terrible day. It was perfect day and I was in great shape; I just shit my pants (figuratively, but almost literally). It was terrible. I had expected to run half an hour faster than I did, and I was nowhere close to even my lowest expectations. It seemed like all of my friends did better than they thought, and I was the one there at the finish line feeling like crap and like I was just punched in the stomach. I made every mental error that I could have, and just sucked.
And during my long drive back home after the marathon, I had lots of time to reflect on my terrible performance. Was I really that bad at marathons? Should I stick to races that I’m better at? Maybe I’ve just already passed my running peak and I’m burned out. But as I continued my drive, I realized that that was just me trying to place the blame on something other than myself. No, it was completely my fault. Nobody or nothing else had anything to do with my piss-poor performance. I was beaten. I simply lost.
It was a tough realization to have, but it was necessary. Deep down, I knew that I was the only one responsible for what I did, but I had to consciously accept that before I could move on. And this is the way that I find works the best to deal with any sort of set-back. I didn’t get that job? It’s because I wasn’t good enough or I didn’t interview well enough. That girl wouldn’t go home with me from the bar? It’s because my puns weren’t funny (almost always that case), or I simply wasn’t the dude she was looking for. Chill deBreeze didn’t publish my article? It’s because it wasn’t near as edgy as the ones that he’s started writing. These are not the cliche “humbling” experiences; I do not feel liberated or humbled that I blew chunks (again, figuratively but almost literally) at arguably the most prestigious marathon in the world. No, these things are borderline depressing, and make me realize that the vast majority of the things that go wrong in my life are 100%, unequivocally, undeniably my fault.
And honestly, taking full responsibility for the marathon has helped me get over it. I’ve been able to look at exactly what went wrong and know how to improve it next time. I know what I can and cannot do before and during the race. It’s much easier to compartmentalize my issues when they are my issues and no one else’s. If it’s my fault, it’s my job to get over it. This helps me in work, this helps in relationships, and now this can help in my hobby. It’s just too bad that it took 15 hours of driving and three hours of pain and what seems like a lifetime of regret to tell me of this. .