#RunPhD: Stand by Me

Two weeks ago I went to Bend, Oregon for my 13th marathon. I arrived the day before, after a three-hour drive, to get my race number, shirt, and hopefully a good night’s sleep before the 26.2 miles planned for Saturday morning.

Wandering around downtown Bend, I found myself lonely and regretting not asking a friend to join me in this adventure (even someone who would have slept in while I went and ran for a long long ways). I got lost and unlost, seeing what was beyond different shop corners and inside the next doorway. With time to spare before my Airbnb was available, I drove over to the starting line area and walked a pathway by the water, again wishing I had someone to walk and talk with. The statue of an adorable, and solo, sea otter matched my own emotions about feeling just a bit out of place.

Skip to the next morning, when the rain was pouring down, the sun was not awake yet, and 26.2 miles lay between the starting line and the finish line. I stood shivering, with occasional bounces to shake off the water, with a small crowd of about 250 marathoners. I didn’t know any of their names or stories. I didn’t know how fast, strong, confident, or prepared they were. But I did know that we all had the same goal: finish.

Standing in that starting chute, I wasn’t lonely anymore. And I wouldn’t be again for the rest of the trip. I was among my people. And after the race, I’d have a medal around my neck (and later in my bag) to remind me of our journey together.

Sitting at a coffee shop the next morning, I watched crowds come in and out while I worked on grading papers. Warm sunshine came in through the window, while a breeze drifted through the open front and back doors. The yard outside the window slanted down toward the diver, and a dozen or more colorful chairs were scattered on the lawn, inviting customers and guests. With a sip of my locally made chai, I could imagine living in this place. I could imagine knowing people and being known here. Amazing how a run can make a city feel like home.

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.

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