My favorite kind of race course is also the most rare: the point-to-point. And it’s just as complicated as the name sounds: you start at one point, and end at a different point. Due to logistics like water stations, course markers, and road barriers, loop courses are far more common. And most races include at least one out-and-back section, or even the entire course is one long out-and-back. Which means your starting line is your ending line. And every step you take forward is one you will, minutes or hours later, take in reverse.
Instead of the constant progress of a point-to-point, these out-and-back routes feel like a forced repetition of the same exact spaces and places. Only the second time you are sweatier, tired-er, and more likely to be using language that you would not want your grandmother to overhear. And sometimes, through some act of demonic intervention, the course is somehow uphill both ways. If only I was in the snow with no shoes and a bookbag full of dictionaries, then I could be part of a Little House on the Prairie story.
When I get to the halfway point on one of these out-and-backs, be it in a race or just a regular run, it can be hard to remember how good that finish line will be. I often think of lines from “Yorktown” in Hamilton:
Hamilton: After a week of fighting, a young man in a red coat stands on a parapet
Lafayette: We lower our guns as he frantically waves a white handkerchief
Mulligan: And just like that, it’s over. We tend to our wounded, we count our dead
Laurens: Black and white soldiers wonder alike if this really means freedom
Washington: Not yet
A major battle has be completed. It might be a mile, 5 miles, or 13 miles. But the war is not over yet. Freedom is not here yet.
It can be tempting to just give up at halfway. It’s not like nothing was accomplished. That mile, 5 miles, or 13 miles is more than would have been achieved from the couch. But we can’t live in the halfway places. The halfway point of my run last Thursday was the waterfront near Hawthorne Bridge. A nice view for a picture, but not a place to call home. And I wasn’t sure of the address so not a place to call Uber either.
Halfway is someplace you can be, but its not somewhere you can stay. I mean even Jesus doesn’t want us to be halfway:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)
We’re not meant for halfway, for limbo, for waiting rooms. We’re made to step up to starting lines and push all the way to finish lines. If there is some part of your life that has you stuck in the halfway, maybe some other part has room for action while you’re waiting. Submit the job application. Upload some new pics. Swipe right with hope. Crack open the cover to learning something new. Take one step forward. That’s one less step between you and a finish line.
I’ve survived 12 marathons and one Ph.D. program. So…now what? I’ve learned through the journeys that it’s not about intelligence, speed, magic beans, or waiting for it to get easy. It’s about strength and perseverance. This year’s blog series will be about #WhatsNext after crossing some major finish lines, and preparing for new starting lines as a runner and a (not that kind of) doctor. I am #RunPhD.