Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Detaching from Expectation

In 2008 I fumbled my way through the Boston marathon with an undiagnosed and uncared for crippling knee injury. The days leading up to the race I could barely walk, but I was determined to cross that finish line on marathon Monday with little concern as to what the numbers on the clock said. I wasn't running for time that year, instead I was running to overcome all of the adversity I had faced in the months leading up to race day that seemed to prevent me from a comfortable arrival at the destination that I was so adamantly pursuing. Rather then allowing myself to become drunk with expectation, I allowed myself the rare chance to be vulnerable and cumbersome for the sake of living out a lesser then desired life experience. 

I finished in 4:09, which is by far my slowest marathon to date and my most painful. But the numbers have become so irrelevant in my mind over the years that I rarely think about them. Instead, my mind has held onto different memories of that day; how much my knee ached on the hills, how I considered several times of pulling out but instead decided that I'm not a quitter so I pressed on, how as I climbed heartbreak hill tears streamed down my face, how as I turned onto Boylston St. I was overcome with sentiment about the pain and anguish that I somehow overcame in those 26.2 miles and felt like I had won. The numbers are the last thing that cross my mind when I think about Boston but always the first thing I'm asked by others when discussing the experience. Curious.

This Monday's race brought back a lot of unexpected emotion for me as I sat in the silent solitude of my home nearly 1,000 miles away from athletes village tracking some of the strongest and most inspiring runners I have ever come into contact with. I could feel their fears as their dreams of race day glory slowly slipped out of their reach and they all turned into survival mode. 

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We all set out in life with great expectations, with whom we've found a deep attachment towards, for ourselves. As the course of life events begin to unfold leading up to our unfulfilled hopes and dreams, sometimes it can be difficult for us to cut that cord of attachment when the road begins to throw us for a loop and can often lead to self-induced heartache and disregard for the value in the lesson before us. Blindly losing faith and sinking into a deep pool of despair becomes so easy when we have found such a deeply rooted attachment to our expectation and don't allow ourselves a bit of wiggle room for the sake of an unexpected valuable life lesson.

Please ignore the grammar error in the last sentence.
I'm not perfect and rarely proofread.
Value isn't always in the achievement of the goal, the number that reads on the clock as we cross the finish line, or the feeling we get when we've accomplished an extraordinary task. It has taken me nearly my entire lifetime to realize that control and expectation are simply overrated and sometimes surrender is much much sweeter.

19 comments:

  1. Wow. Very well said (er, written). It's completely true! Finish times do not tell the whole story. Especially in instances like your Boston Marathon and in Monday's race. Such an eloquent post, as always, Britt.

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  2. Wonderful post! As someone who learned a big lesson in adjusting expectations on Monday, this really rang true. I was so happy just to finish those 26.2 miles - my actual time meant very little.

    Thanks!

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  3. You have wrapped up a lot of the feelings I had after my Boston race last year- and I didn't even have the heat!
    We can get SO caught up in our own expectations and then have huge let-downs, especially when you spend months preparing for one day. I am starting to see races as ONE opportunity to shine- and if it doesn't pan out, it can be a step towards a second, hopefully better, race.
    I love the photo of Korir. He is just an incredible man, not just an incredible runner.

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  4. I truly look forward to the day that I can say I've completed a full marathon - whether it's just surviving it and finishing or running a great race. Looking forward to being able to call myself a marathoner! :)

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  5. I strongly believe that God gives us a nudge when something is out in the world that we need to see. Your post was it for me today! I had my first 20 miler last week for my first marathon. I set out with high hopes that it would be tough but that I would annihilate it. I was that one that was annihilated though. Since that run I have doubted myself as a runner and if I can even finish this 26.2 mile journey. For some reason I feel that if I can’t cross the finish line sub 4 hours then why even start it. Ridiculous I know! Reading your post made me realize that it doesn’t matter the time on the clock. It’s the fact that I had the courage and the faith to start the journey and it will be my heart and sheer determination not to quit. Thank you for reminding me that I used to love to run and it all started pre Garmin’s and compression gear.

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  6. Great post! It reminded me of my first marathon this past fall. After I finished I focused on clock time way too much. I tried not to have expectations going in, but I did. It ended up just not being my day and I struggled the entire race. I was entirely caught up in how "bad" I was doing instead of the fact that I was doing it!

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  7. Ah, this is soooo true! I went through this experience during my marathon where I was so focused on a time that I let it consume me and defeat me. The 2011 Chicago Marathon was much warmer than I bargained for and I didn't adjust the way I should have. It isn't always about the time, it is about the finish! :)

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  8. I wish everyone who ran Boston could read this :) (and those who deferred too)

    I have had too many expectations lately and I have a feeling if I let go of them they would come naturally.

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  9. WOW such an inspiring post!! thank you!
    I can't even imagine the pain & suffering an 80+ degree marathon entails, I think everyone who finished is a champion!
    I know this year is going to be strong for you Britt, keep on being amazing! :)
    xoxo!

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  10. Very well written! This is probably one of the best posts I've read. You are so right about the clock not defining us.

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  11. You couldn't have said it any better! I'm amazed that I am really not bothered by my horrible time at Boston on Monday. The day meant SO much more to me--finding the strength to gut it out counts for so much more. It's a lesson you clearly learned back then and have held onto--well done!

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  12. Very well said. It's hard not to get caught up with the numbers game and try to make each race a personal best. But, once we can let go of the magical time, I found a whole new world opens up. Miami marathon was like this for me- training hard then got injured 2 weeks before and had to run in 80+ degrees and 100% humidity. I could have bailed on it, but Ran with my friend and it was such an amazing experience that I pretty much forgot about how bummed I was to not get a PR.

    I think we sometimes forget the "spirit" of why we do these events in the first place. :)

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  13. I was there Monday and DNF'd and was just thinking this morning that the theme of this year is releasing expectations. They're killers! It really is about the journey. This is the first time I've been to your blog and look forward to reading more. :)

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  14. great post! i was there monday and supposed to run but i ended up deferring to next yr. im 5 months pregnant and decided it was not a good idea to put me or the baby at risk just so i could run a race ive been thinking about for yrs. it was really hard..but ultimately the right decision. next yr will be just as cool!

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    1. My pregnant friend mad the same decision, which I think is smart. Good luck next year!!

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  15. Thank you for this Britt. YOu capture my feelings so well. I feel like you wrote this just for me.

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  16. Well said, as always. Thanks for the inspiring post.

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  17. I needed to read that after a fun but disappointing finish time for my first marathon (Nashville). Just like Boston for many, the heat got the worst of me. But this post grounds me and reminds me what is important in completing marathons!

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