The effort to get to the starting line starts months before the actual day of the event. And as I started into yesterday, even the morning of the “race” has challenges to work through:
- Travel – The Columbia Gorge Marathon on Sunday began in Hood River, which meant an hour drive to (and sigh, afterward from) the event. Plus the starting line for my group was different than the half marathoners, so we took a school bus to shuttle over to our space. In my eight years as a runner, I’ve never had a race start at my front door. They are always miles, states, or once an ocean away. Distance, just like cost, can be a barrier to imagining being at that starting line. And it can be a barrier the actual day to getting there. Hitting snooze one more time might mean missing the shuttle. Being low on gas might mean an unexpected stop alongside freeway. And Siri, Alexa, or Google might steer you the wrong way when trying to find the parking lot. Starting lines might never be at our front doors, but we have to start somewhere to get somewhere.
- “Health” – I was trying to think of a more general way to explain this category but I can’t so…Basically there’s reasons there are a lot of porta-potties at the starting line of a race. And if you can’t imagine why, just imagine getting ready for a long road trip where the first rest stop is two hours away (“Because Dad says so that’s why”). For all of our sakes, I’m just going to leave it there. We’re Welcome.
- Supplies – What do you need to climb Mt. Everest? And how much can you physically carry while climbing Mt. Everest? That balance is true when preparing for other starting lines too. For this race I knew that the morning temperatures would be around 50 degrees, but climb into the 60s by the time I was done. And there were aid stations throughout the course, but without real food at them (just Gummie Bears and Gu’s). And that I shouldn’t leave my car key with my drop bag, but I didn’t want to carry anything I didn’t haveto. When I was back at the house, the decisions were easy: Throw everything in the trunk and decide later. And when parking it was pretty easy too: Put it in the drop bag and decide later. Bummer when “later” arrived and I had five minutes until start time. I found a quieter corner to make my final decisions, closing my eyes to imagine what Future Meg would really want and need when it was 20 miles and 10 degrees later. I wore the long-sleeve shirt, knowing I’d tie it on my waist later on, and carried the fruit bars, water bottle, and car key. It turns out I didn’t need all of the bars but was glad to have the security. I regretted some life choices that morning (like signing up for a marathon) but not the supplies I had with me. I view that its good to keep your options open for as long as possible.
- Location, Location, Location – What’s true in real estate is also true in running and other challenges. While in the queue before the start, where you stand impacts the first steps beyond the starting line and possibly your mindset for much of the race. Standing in the front declares that you are out to win this thing, or if you get passed by 90% of the runners in the first 5 minutes that you had no idea what you were doing. Standing in the very back is a place of humility as you believe others will be faster, or major frustration if you have to try weaving among them. I tend to go for about 2/3rds the way back, finding a spot in front of anyone with fanny packs or backpacks that would be much better to walk than run with. From that space I get to pass a few folks in the first mile, which is a nice confidence boost, and there is enough energy around me to feel engaged. No preparation space is perfect. It has to be the place that gives you space to move and presence to engage.
- One Last Choice– Once the horn goes off, you have to make one final, and significant decision: Go. Once you step across the starting line, onto the stage, into the room, or up to the plate, the decision to turn back changes. Instead of DNS (did not start), its DNF (did not finish). You made hundreds of little choices and steps to get to this place. Now you have to make one choice a hundred (or more) times to the finish line: Go.
So what’s your next starting line? Let me share a message on behalf of your future self: “Go”.