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Countdown

April 12, 2006

A few days before each of the marathons I’ve run, I have performed a kind of ritual which was suggested in the bible. On the Wednesday or Thursday before the Big Day, I’d do a kind of ‘dress rehearsal’– put on the exact clothes and shoes and socks and watch and everything, run a couple miles for warmup, then run exactly three miles at my intended race pace. After cruising back home, I’d launder everything and pack it for race day.

I’m sure it looked a little ridiculous, with me running past commuters in my short shorts and bright yellow tank top with cloth gloves and clean white shoes, ignoring the (usually) cold weather and its effect on my bare arms and legs. If they stared, I just told myself that they were jealous, and concentrated on the task at hand.

Which should have been easy, but never was. These little rehearsals weren’t predictable or predictive, but they always contained the same elements. One of the miles would always go by in too little time, one would take far too long, and one of them would take way, way too long. But all of them felt slow and heavy, like I was running in some kind of thick cloud which abated my breath and slowed my legs. Like there was a gorilla named ‘Doubt’ gripping me around the chest as I ran.

Now I never took these returns to be entirely negative: I never thought, “I should not run this race”. By this time, I had so thoroughly propagandized myself that I could not consider not running. But I would always think: “there’s no way I’m going to be able to go as fast as I’ve planned.” I could never imagine executing the plan, exactly, but I had to somehow trust in my physical preparation and have faith in myself that I’d be able to run over 8 times as far in just a few days. Somewhere between ‘fateful’ and ‘faith-filled’, I’d resolve to get to the starting line and give it everything I could.

With Boston approaching in a couple of days, my thoughts have been on my friends and on this final, nervous week of anticipation. The miles are already in the bank; there’s nothing to do now but eat and relax and not worry. But that’s a lot harder to do than it might sound, and requires its own kind of energy and expertise.

I’ve got my own race to run in a few days, only I’m not sure exactly when (maybe on Patriot’s Day?). I can’t imagine how I’ll face this, the biggest day of my life: the birth of my daughter, the birth of my son, the very possible death of my son, maybe a life-and-death decision for miraculous intervention of heart surgery, along with all of the usual emotion and adjustment to a new and exciting and demanding way of life. In any case– and whatever comes– I am who I am, I’m where I am, and I’m as prepared as I am. I have a very real relationship with a very gracious and capable God, and many friends gathered around me. It remains to me now to rest and ready myself; to relax and not worry. To face The Day, to apply my whole self to it, and to allow it to run its course. God help me.

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2 Responses to “Countdown”

  1. kate says:

    You said it, Mike. Not much to be added to that!
    We’re all here for you — your own personal cloud of witnesses as you run the race. If there are any bindings or entanglements we can help you throw off, let us know. Otherwise, we’ll just be cheering (and praying) our heads off.
    By the way — I love “the Bible.” I fully expected to follow that link to a Bible verse of some kind on being prepared. HA! You got me.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mike:

    Thanks for sharing your Countdown ritual. As it was beneficial in the past so it will be as you anticipate the birth of your children Dad

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